Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Two goats and a gift


By Bishop Jimmy Nunn

One of the bishops from the Congo shared the story of how he met and married his wife. He believed that God had a purpose for his life. So, he studied the Bible every day. He met a young lady and quickly fell in love. He became her Bible teacher. He was always quoting scripture, praying, encouraging her to be more godly. It was the perfect match. Or so he thought. One day she informed him that she did not want to marry the Bible.

He did not give up so easily, however. He began to pray and felt God was pulling the two of them together. He learned to relate better and things progressed. When he asked her father for the hand of his bride, the price was set. It was $200, some food, and two goats.

It was a high price to pay in that context, but he began the task. He secured the money for the $200 gift and to purchase the food. He placed his brother in charge of finding and purchasing the goats.

The brother found two goats. They were skinny, scrawny little things. The father-in-law had not specified what kind of goats. So, he set out for the journey. He knocked at the door, presented the money, the food, and the underwhelming goats.

The response was swift. “You want to marry my daughter and you bring me skinny goats? She is worth more than that.”

He left feeling dejected. And as he left he prayed. “God, I feel I have heard your voice telling me that this woman is to be my wife. Show me the goats.”

To make a much longer story short, he found two goats that were well fed, plump goats, worthy of being part of a dowry. And he married his wife.

At first glance, this story reveals the deep cultural differences of United Methodists around the world. But it is also a story of faith, with insights that bridge cultural divides.

This season of Advent, it is easy to focus on the “skinny goats.” Jesus gave us a mission to make disciples of all people. We have received a wonderful inheritance through our Methodist tradition. Yet, we worry about personal and family problems, rising costs, division within the church, and the increasing secular society around us. Those worries are skinny goats not worthy of our calling.

The word Advent means “coming.” Our job is to prepare for that coming of Jesus Christ. The essential ingredient of preparation is hope.

When my colleague left his future father in law, he left dejected. But he had depended on someone else to find the goats. This was really his job. And when he shook off dejection and began to look around, he found what he needed.

Have we sent someone else to look for our “goats”? Are we dejected because others have failed to do what we were tasked to do?

We are people of hope! Now let’s find the worthy goats!


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