One man bought a bus. Another man didn’t buy a boat and put off retirement. One man is a mechanic, the other an attorney. They were separately featured on national media this past week and I was intrigued with their stories.*
Ghafoor Hussain is from Britain and was born in Pakistan. For years he offered his time to help feed and clothe the needy, even traveling last year to migrant camps in Europe. In Austria he saw refugees given cold sandwiches, “and he decided they needed hot food—and that he would be the one to deliver.”
So Ghafoor bought a bus! Taking it to his garage, he turned it into a professional mobile kitchen with sinks, prep tables, stoves and a 260-gallon water tank. The project cost him about $9,000 but as word spread of his efforts, donations of money and goods came rolling in.
Since early January Mr. Hussain and the bus have been in northern France where he supplies about 3,000 hot meals per day, healthy vegetarian food to avoid buying expensive Halal meat (i.e., “kosher,” approved for people of the Muslim faith). “We do about 5,000 cups of tea in the morning; then another 5,000 in the evening.”
The garage back home is run by his son. What does his family think? “They think I’m a bit mad,” he says with a laugh, “but I have (their) full support.” In fact, Hussain just bought a second bus, soon to be another fully-equipped kitchen, in order to meet the growing demand at the camps for hot meals.
The man without a new boat is 51-year-old Marty Burbank from Fullerton, California. He and his wife were set on buying a new boat and had their search down to two choices. Then he heard a sermon about charity and sacrifice and changed his mind.
Burbank met kindergarten teacher, Tessa Ashton, at church a few years ago, and after hearing her description of the children in her classroom, he began donating time, money and supplies to the elementary school. But as a consequence of hearing the sermon, “I (decided) that buying a boat at that point would be a selfish thing.” So Marty and his wife, Seon—both the first in their families to go to college—pledged to fund each kindergarten student’s tuition for two years at community college and two years at a California state school—or the equivalent if they want to attend elsewhere. All they have to do is draw a picture or write an essay each year about what going to college will mean for them and their families. All 26 students in the kindergarten class speak Spanish at home, arriving at school the first day knowing little English or ever hearing much about college. On the internet I watched their parents weep while hugging their children, expressing their gratitude (in Spanish!) to Burbank for this unbelievable—and now attainable—dream.
Marty and Seon estimate the tuition will cost about $1 million by 2032 and have set up a private foundation where he will contribute funds each year until there’s enough. Burbank plans to delay retirement and keep driving his truck for a few more years than expected. “They say give until it hurts a little, and this hurts. But we feel it’s the best investment we could make.”
Neither Hussain nor the Burbanks paraded their faith for media attention. In fact, they all were surprised at the scrutiny, but the first words that popped into my mind were from a parable Jesus told: “… Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant [they seemed], you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
*National Public Radio and CNN