Dynamic Steward (DS): Pastor Ngwaru, can you describe the genesis of this project: Lerato and Her Money Questions?
Michael Ngwaru (MN): Just as my family and I had finished a leisurely drive in a lion park near Pretoria, South Africa, Pastor Aniel Barbe called me. I can still remember that it was on a sunny Sunday afternoon. He phoned from the venue at which he and Pastor Bomfim were conducting some stewardship seminars for the pastors of the two local conferences in Johannesburg. The call came as a
total surprise to me.
“I know it’s a surprise call, Mike,” Pastor Barbe said. “I just want to let you know that we are here in Midrand, South Africa, training pastors. Pastor Bomfim, the General Conference [GC] Stewardship director, and I are inviting you for a luncheon tomorrow over here. Are you available?”
“Invitation for lunch?” The invitation was an even bigger surprise than the call itself.
“Nothing big, Mike,” Pastor Barbe said. “We just want to discuss the book about money that you wrote for children. We found it intriguing and want to discuss some possibilities.”
The next day, Pastor Bomfim did not waste time sharing his proposal:
“Pastor Ngwaru, I’m particularly touched by the financial principles that you presented in this small book you wrote for children, Thabiso and His Money Secrets. It looks perfect for the secular mind. Aniel and I were wondering if you would adapt it to incorporate a wholistic approach to Adventist stewardship education for young people, with a special focus on money. That’s why we called you.”
I totally agreed with his observation that my Thabiso book was designed to reach secular children since there was no mention of God or any Bible texts in it. I’d planned to help the Children’s Ministries Department to use it as an entering wedge into highly secularized communities. Believe me, the plan worked. This book and the other ones I wrote for this same purpose became keys to unlock doors for child evangelism in Pretoria and Johannesburg. “Pastor Mike, this is the kind of stuff we need for our children,” said the owner of one of the pre-primary schools in Pretoria North. “Parents are extremely happy, and they are wondering if you could write on other topics such as nutrition and bullying.” The principles in my books were Bible-based, however, even though there was no mention of God in them.
To cut a long story short, I accepted the challenge to rewrite my money book for church-going children.
DS: How did you proceed from there?
MN: I must admit that I struggled to conceptualize the kind of theme that would really bring freshness into stewardship education since money is a widely discussed topic in both church and society. What is it I should write about? What are the pressing needs as far as our young people are concerned? How is the book going to contribute toward the broader objectives of the church? These were some of the questions that ran wild in my mind. Finally, I experienced a breakthrough that can be summarized in two lines: “Catch them young. Life may begin at 40, but disciple-making begins at birth.”
After this reflection, there was no doubt in my mind that the book has to train young people about spiritual growth and money. Hence the title and content of the ebook, which is now ready for distribution worldwide: Lerato and Her Money Que$tions: making child disciples who understand God and money.
DS: How do you conceptualize the purposes and goals of your book?
MN: I consider this book a disciplemaking tool. It is designed to help its readers make sense of God and also of money in a world that is tilted toward secularism and materialism. The big question, though, is “How do you become a true disciple in a world like that?” It’s a challenging question, and this book doesn’t have all the answers, but it has done its best to suggest a more wholistic approach. Here is how it does that:
- It helps its readers understand God and money in the context of the great controversy. We all know that the world is full of crime, corruption, pleasure seeking, and many other vices related to money. So how does God make sense in a world that glorifies money above worship?
It seeks to develop a deep relationship between the reader and Christ. The rationale is that proper ways of obtaining and using money should be biproducts of spiritual transformation and growth in grace just as Ephesians 2:8-10 and 2 Peter 3:18 demonstrate. This book contains not just facts about God and money. It is about developing and/or enhancing a spiritual relationship with God that positively influences behavior across all aspects of life.
It promotes principles of financial planningin a child-friendly manner. How do you budget? How do you raise money to support your budget? How do you remain within your budget? How do you save or invest? What are some best practices for shopping? How does the lordship of Christ—including the Godfirst principle—influence our understanding of tithing and planned giving? These and many more questions are covered in this book.
It is comprehensive and integrated in its approach to discipleship. What I mean is that it embraces many major themes of discipleship, such as salvation, mission, health, nurture and retention, dailydevotionals and Bible study, stewardship education and practice, community communityservice, financial intelligence, etc. Imagine all this in one book.
DS: Can you describe your own spiritual journey with regard to stewardship?
MN: I was 12 in 1970 when I got baptized. Before baptism, the elders took us through some teachings on faith and obedience. So we were expected to start tithing before we could be baptized. For a 12-year-old, obviously I had to start practicing tithing from my pocket money. Sounds old-fashioned, doesn’t it? But it really worked then. The church wanted to see a clear demonstration of spiritual growth before rushing raw converts through baptism. They were not in a hurry at all. People would remain in the pre-baptismal class sometimes for a year in order to gain spiritual skills such as Sabbathkeeping and tithing, to mention just a few. This culture has largely changed over the years, and some things that used to be clear as crystal are now debatable. Well, I’m now 63, and that childhood teaching and practice is still part of my DNA. Again, in 1978 I was 20. The then-Trans-Africa Division introduced stewardship education on systematic giving as a way of life. Again, I’m now 63, and this has remained my lifestyle.
DS: Describe your assessment of the importance of stewardship in the development of Christian discipleship.
MN: Stewardship principles pervade everything that goes on in the disciplemaking of members, apart from just tithe and offerings. The point I’m making in this book, however, is that disciple-making is a developmental issue and should be treated as such by all Adventist entities and members. We can’t wait until members have to struggle to unlearn bad stewardship habits. This is why this book is such a valuable tool to implement disciple- making across all the stages of life. And the best time to learn new habits is during the formative stages of childhood (see Prov. 22:6 and Deut. 6:6-9), and also when one is a new convert, as this book demonstrates.
DS: How can we use the book effectively?
MN: It is suitable for family reading, since the characters in the story cut across age groups, and they are all going through learning, discovery, and transformation. As suggested by Pastor Bomfim, it can be used during family worship, helping children and parents to learn together. It can also serve as resource material for Stewardship Ministries, Sabbath School, Children’s Ministries, Pathfinders, and Education, including small-group ministries in Personal Ministries.
DS: Any final word?
MN: Many thanks to GC Stewardship Ministries for assisting in the development, editing, and publishing of the English ebook version. Please feel free to contact me at ngwarum@ sid.adventist.org or +27834607527 for more information on the hard copies, including licensing in languages other than English.