View of Sydney

 'View of the Town of Sydney in the Colony of New South Wales', by unknown (after Thomas Watling), c 1799 (Art Gallery of South Australia). PICTURE: Art Gallery of South Australia (public domain).

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” - II Corinthians 9:7

Nestled in the boughs of my family tree is a man by the name of John Lees. He arrived in Australia in 1797 as a private in the infamous NSW Corps, nicknamed the Rum Corps - and John certainly drank his share. He had an amazing transformation, however, when he was bitten by a snake and thought he was going to die.

With the help of a nearby pastor, he survived the poison and also felt the healing of God’s hand on his addiction and sinfulness. He was a changed man. Suddenly his family was experiencing a sober husband and father and the early community saw an industrious farmer.

"John’s dedication to his new faith saw him donate an acre of his land to the embryonic Wesleyan church, but it didn’t stop there. He also built a small chapel on the land and the crops he grew on it, were sold with the money going to the upkeep of the building. Anecdotally it was said John’s ‘sacred acre’ bore more abundant crops than many of the farmers around."

John’s dedication to his new faith saw him donate an acre of his land to the embryonic Wesleyan church, but it didn’t stop there. He also built a small chapel on the land and the crops he grew on it, were sold with the money going to the upkeep of the building. Anecdotally it was said John’s ‘sacred acre’ bore more abundant crops than many of the farmers around. 

His generous giving did not end there. At the first missionary meeting held in the colony in Sydney, John endured 56 kilometres in a jolting cart to join the gathering. He arrived in time to join the list of subscribers who had donated to the cause. He stood to say in a booming voice, “Mr Secretary. Put me down for six guineas!!”

This was a small fortune for the struggling farmer with a large family and everyone at the meeting was astonished. The secretary even found it difficult to write such a sum, knowing John’s circumstances but the farmer explained that his heart was full at the thought of God’s love to him and his family. John managed to come good on his pledge.

The giving didn’t stop as the following year John pledged his six guineas again and another three for his wife, and two of his sons. A drought hit him the following year and it broke John’s heart to be unable to fulfill his annual subscription. Then again the next year the rains came followed by abundant crops. As John was leaving for the annual missionary meeting his wife, Mary, reminded him that he had not paid the previous year’s commitment, so he had to pay double this year, which he did.

John’s generosity has always been an inspiration to me. As a family we have had our droughts and our abundances and we’ve always tried to give what we believed was fair to our church and causes we believe in. I won’t lie, there were times it was tough to transfer that money, but I’ve noticed that when we’ve put others, and by default God, first, all our needs are met and our love tanks are full. That alone encourages us to be cheerful givers.