A generous tithe results in joyful celebration across urban marginalized communities around the world
As Servant Partners interns between 1995 and 2000, Bree and Tom Hsieh studied God’s economy in the Book of Deuteronomy, which compelled them to rethink the practice of tithing. Their application of the tithe has resulted in joyful celebration for hundreds of people in urban marginalized communities around the world.
“Sometimes there’s a Bible teaching that reframes a general topic not only in a refreshing, but a wholly re-calibrating way: parsing through Deuteronomy on economics was that for us,” they wrote in an email to Servant Partners staff. “The original tithe was especially fascinating–more dynamic than just the 10% into the offering plate, it was commanded as a celebration of God’s goodness two years out of the three, with the third year’s amount stored up as food for any who didn’t have income or wealth.”
The Hsiehs are longtime friends of and former staff with Servant Partners, and Tom currently serves on the SP Board of Directors. Based on Deuteronomy 14:22-29, Tom and Bree have practiced a “celebration tithe” for many years–and this year, they extended it to their SP family around the world. They gave money for every one of our teams to use to celebrate God’s goodness in our lives and communities. “It’s always God’s provision, not our own, that starts the party in the first place!” they said.
Through the Hsieh’s generosity, 15 Servant Partners teams celebrated with their communities in memorable dinners, beach retreats, posadas, sightseeing, and more. For some community members, it was a first time experiencing forms of leisure like water parks and lavish dining. Read about a few of these celebrations below.
The SP Middle East community center organizes self-funded recreational trips once or twice a year. “These are especially prized by the local refugee community, who rarely get chances to relax together in public (they face racism and scrutiny in the streets), enjoy nature (there aren’t parks or even yards in homes or schools), and to play (most recreation options are priced out of their reach),” SP Site Leader James Williams wrote. “This time, we were able to do something special because of the generous celebration tithe we had been given.”
The group organized a trip to the country’s only full-fledged amusement park, complete with roller coasters, grass and water features, and plenty for children to enjoy. A total of 85 center members piled into two large buses and had a blast at the park, sharing plenty of smiles and laughter. On the bus ride home, they shared pictures and gushed about the day: “I would like to thank God for his greatness–He has been with us since our trip started.” “It was such a wonderful day, I was surprised by how amazing it was.” “It was one of the best days of my whole life, I won’t forget it. I felt that I was among my family.”
“The trip was an expression of beauty, gratitude, and deepening community,” James wrote. “These trips stand out, I think, not just because they are chances to enjoy material pleasure–but because they are tastes of the Kingdom of God, where African refugees are free to celebrate, play, and laugh alongside local Arabs and foreign Westerners, bound together by joy, momentarily free of divisions and daily worries, enjoying God’s shalom.”
Manila, The Philippines
To celebrate, nearly 30 community members joined a four-day retreat at a beach resort operated by a partner ministry. SP Site Leaders Aaron and Ema Smith led the group in engaging scripture and processing traumas of the 2018 Botocan fire and the COVID-19 pandemic. Each day brought joyful experiences like a sand art competition and swimming–and most of all, an ocean baptism for Reyna*, a community member who received Christ during the pandemic. She was overjoyed to receive Jesus and be a part of the church.
“Being able to have a retreat like this is precious for our church members who are unable to do something like that on their own,” Aaron said. “I very gently hinted to the person in charge of the meals that some ingredients (like meat and out-of-season mangos) were a bit extravagant, but she replied that at home, they rarely eat meat and fruit, so in keeping with the spirit of celebration, we should enjoy celebratory foods. I agreed and was thankful that she helped me realize how special this time was!”
Lincoln Heights, California, USA
“The past couple years have been harder than we could have imagined,” SP Lincoln Heights Site Leader David Kitani wrote. After facing COVID-19 lockdowns, reckoning with upticks in racism and violence, and enduring extreme COVID-19 death rates in the Latino-majority community of East Los Angeles, a number of churchgoers left and leaders began to burn out. “It felt like a spiritual famine in our midst,” David said.
Things turned in 2021, as three local churches (SP partner churches New Life Community Church and Hope Community Church, and Epicentre West LA) hosted a vaccine clinic and revitalized connections within the community. The church returned to indoor service, a joint Discipleship School started, and “there was new energy, hope, and vision reviving,” David said.
The celebration tithe was used to celebrate this renewal with a joint worship service between New Life and Epicentre West LA: “New Life was more full than we had seen in years,” David said. “The old and the new, the Eastside and the Westside came together to worship God together and commission our joint D-School on their mission trip to the Dominican Republic.” In true East Los Angeles fashion, the church gathering culminated with tacos prepared by a beloved immigrant family in the church. The community experienced shared joy and passion for their city.
Mexico City, Mexico
The SP team in Mexico City used the celebration tithe for Posada–a Christmas tradition and celebration in Mexico–and a year-end celebration for four house churches and their communities. To celebrate Posada, the kids’ club gathered to pray, sing, and dance before participating in a walk that followed the story of Jesus’ birth and death. Returning from the walk, the 50 children wrote down things they wanted Jesus to take care of; there were requests like: “Jesus, help my father to stop drinking alcohol… heal my grandmother… help my family to be united… heal me.”
After praying for these, the children enjoyed bubbles and snowballs, hojaldras and ponche (punch), and of course, piñatas. Some of the families were so curious to learn about God, that they stayed afterward for the year-end church celebration–turning the party from 60 to 110 people! There, SP staff shared about ‘The Reason for Christmas’ before sharing a meal together.
“For the first time, we had a Taquiza at our community center and ate tacos straight from the tacos stand,” SP Mexico City Site Leader Beauty Ndoro said. “We saw joy and the love of God in people’s eyes as they were being fed with tacos. We are so thankful that God increased the tacos in His own ways because everyone was served (despite the group almost doubling in number) and had a chance to ask for second servings. And at the end of it all, there was still a little bit left.”
Many other teams and communities gathered for sweet times of feasting, refreshment, and bonding. We are so thankful for God’s goodness and his provision to celebrate!
*Names have been changed for security reasons.