If you asked me to draw a picture of true friendship, I would take up a pencil and sketch you this scene. I’d have to start with the background, of course, before you would see the main characters begin to take shape.

First I’d outline how we came to be in such a state — my husband and me, that is. We’d been married no more than a year, doing campus ministry together at a college in Cape Town, raising our own financial support. The Lord blessed us with faithful supporters and sustained our work through their generosity. A donation came on a monthly basis via international transfer, from a gracious couple in the United States. We depended on those funds for our basic needs.

Then one month, there was a glitch in the banking transaction. I don’t remember all the details exactly, except that we knew we weren’t going to get “paid” that month. The deficit was significant, and we were sure the next several weeks would be a struggle.

Other supporters of ours heard about our conundrum. They lived near us in Cape Town and had become dear friends. Without hesitation the wife announced to me, “I’d like to take you grocery shopping.” I must admit, I was rather dumbstruck.

She hadn’t asked the typical question, “Is there anything we can do for you?” and given me the opportunity to give my typical response: “Oh, thanks for asking, but we’ll be okay.” She hadn’t even made the generic offer, “Let us know if we can help in any way!” If that had been the case, I could’ve easily skirted around the offer and avoided inconveniencing them.

No, she just put it right out there: “I’d like to buy groceries for you. Let’s go together so you can get exactly what you need.”

I hummed and hawed a little, but truth be told, we really did need groceries, and I didn’t see any other way we’d manage to purchase food. I couldn’t deny this was direct provision from the Lord. Our friends had seen our need, and they had willingly sacrificed their time and money in obedience and service to God in order to be a blessing.

I’ll never forget it.

I can still see the grocery store aisles — my friend and I strolling side by side, each with our own squeaky cart (or trolley, as they say in South Africa). At first I was conscientious and somewhat embarrassed by the things I placed in my cart. I tried to keep to the bare minimum, not wanting to look like I was abusing her generosity.

But she kept prodding me, “Don’t you need this? Here, you can use this to make something with that. Oh, I cook this all the time — here, take some for yourself, too.”

Aisle by aisle, we filled our carts with enough food to last for weeks. Not just milk, bread, and eggs. She wasn’t there to ensure we ate toast and beans for the next month. She abundantly blessed us with more than we needed, out of love for us and love for God.

This story has stayed with me for several reasons.

For one, it was a living example of the generosity of God. Of His faithful provision, and how He is able to do abundantly more than all we ask or imagine {Ephesians 3:20}. Of how we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow, for He feeds the birds of the field, and we are worth more than many sparrows {Matthew 6:25-34}.

More than that, our friends showed us what true friendship looks like. Prayer helps, and prayer is powerful, but when our friends saw the need, they didn’t just say, “Oh, we’re so sorry you’re struggling. We’ll pray for you.” Instead they put hands and feet to their love, and became the hands and feet of Christ.

And we’ll always be grateful.

Related: Has someone blessed you with a generous act of kindness? One fun way to say “thank you” is to give them this 5×7 print: We Change the World When We Simply Meet the Needs of Another by Kristen Welch

  • Tami

    After our ‘final’ baby, number 2, I gave away every single baby thing we had…and got pregnant again the next year!!! A friend gave me a whole minivan load of baby things–much nicer than the things I’d given away! It has helped to learn to be generous…if someone else needs this now, it is very possible that if I need it later, then something (maybe even nicer!) will show up!

    • Kate

      Isn’t it amazing how God does that, Tami? It’s happened to me, too, and I never cease to be amazed by His faithfulness! Thank you for sharing this testimony of His goodness to you and your family!

  • Katie

    Thank you for sharing this powerful story Kate! What an example your friend was in offering tangible help to others.

    • Kate

      This happened years ago, Katie, and I’ll never forget it. Meant so, so much to us — and still does today.

  • Adeola Odutola

    Debra Chidakwa, you took me shopping for blinds when we had just moved into our apartment, you are a child of God you told me, you deserve the best, you said. For that grace you so freely shared. Thankyou.
    Bunmi Fawenhimi for months you faithfully got groceries any time you went shopping, for your kindness, I am deeply thankful.

    • Kate

      So special to have such wonderful friends! Thanking God with you for His provision!

  • Audrey Hackett

    We have been through tough times too and we have never gone without a meal because of lack of food for our family of six. The key is to be willing to give. When you do God knows and he remembers if and when we are in need ourselves. I have proved it over and over again. How often do we get the opportunity to give to someone? Well my advice is to take it. Not because you want something in return but because God is a generous giver and He is our example.

    • Kate

      Good words, Audrey! Thanks for sharing!

  • Beth Williams

    I had moved to a new town for college and was spending my first night alone. Some neighbors brought a complete supper to me including dessert. During that year they would feed me, even taking me out to eat with them. I never got to repay them, but since then I feel compelled to help others.
    When our neighbor lost her son last year and some dear friends had both parents in the hospital I didn’t think twice, but got food for both. I wanted them to feel loved and see God in action. My philosophy is don’t ask just do. I love cooking meals for those sick, or who have family in hospital. Also I give clothes away all the time. Periodically I go through my closet and take what I don’t like, or doesn’t fit and give it to some organization. Others may be able to use them and be blessed just the same!
    Blessings this Easter weekend! :)

    • Kate

      “My philosophy is don’t ask, just do.” Love that, Beth! It can be so hard to accept an offer sometimes — best just to go ahead and be a blessing! Good for you! Thanks for the comment, and have a wonderful Easter!

  • Vanessia

    My parents divorced while I was in college and my mom had a low paying job. We scrimped and saved just to make do. Our refrigerator went out and a man at church who owned a local appliance store gave us a refrigerator that someone was getting rid of. He fixed it up and it was the best gift. My mom used that refrigerator for many years and it didn’t quit working until she was in a much better financial situation. During that same time – over 30 years ago – someone gave us an anonymous gift of $100 which was huge for us. God does see us in our needy state and provides. I have tried to learn from this and pay it forward.

    • Kate

      What a testimony, Vanessia! My parents divorced when I was seven, and I can think of a number of occasions on which the Lord provided exactly what we needed at precisely the right time. Thank you for sharing this story of His provision! Blessings to you!

  • Loved As If

    The “doesn’t matter if you deserve it/doesn’t matter if you expect it/doesn’t matter that you’ll probably never be able to repay it” generosity and love from friends brought healing I never imagined. I love the way your friend just said, “I’d like to take you grocery shopping.” That’s one of the many things friends have done for me. And when I can, I give to those who need because it’s not really mine. It’s all gift and all God’s to do with as He pleases — He’s just letting me help.

    • Kate

      Great perspective! Keep using His gifts to His glory!

  • http://www.jenniferfrisbie.com/ Jennifer Frisbie

    This story brought me to tears. I, too, remember those in my life who also refrained from the questions that would make it easy for me to avoid accepting that helping hand. I am grateful for friends who don’t wait for the request. Who know the need and simply provide. I pray that God uses me for just as many opportunities to provide for a need as He delivered those who have for me.

    • Kate

      Amen! Praise God for those kind of people .. and may we go and do likewise! Thanks for the comment, Jennifer!

  • http://genuflected.com/ Jenni DeWitt

    What a beautiful story of generosity, Kate! You have touched on one thing I’ve learned, especially with people who have a hard time accepting help, offer something specific. Then just do it! Grateful for your words today!

    • Kate

      Great advice! Thanks for stopping by!