Toby's Story

There's a book titled, "If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat", by John Ortberg.  There's a story in the book about a high school student named Toby.

Toby was interested in the plight of the people in Ethiopia and was asked to write a paper on the same subject. His teacher saw how good the paper was and entered it into a contest. Lo and behold, Toby's paper won! The prize was a 3-week mission trip to Ethiopia to serve on a team to help feed the hungry.

During the trip, the team loaded their truck with supplies and headed out to the outskirts in order to deliver food. Just as they were winding up their days work and fixing to head back to their camp, Toby felt a tug on his t-shirt. He turned around and saw a filthy boy standing there, his only question to Toby was, "can I have your t-shirt?"

The boy's shirt was full of holes and torn, he was obviously emaciated, his eyes were yellow, and he hadn't taken a bath in days. Toby could not answer, they are too many children, Toby had only one t-shirt, and all he could do was tell the boy he was out of food and had to get back to their base.

Why didn't Toby just give him his shirt?  Think about the situation -- Toby was performing a task, feeding the hungry, you know put an apple, a piece of bread, a scoop of rice and water into the dish and move to the next person, and then this boy asks him for his shirt.

That night Toby could not think about anything except that boy asking for a t-shirt, and Toby could not do a thing about it. When he got back home, all he could think about was the boy in Ethiopia, so Toby began collecting t-shirts from his friends. A couple of the local convenience stores let Toby put out boxes for collections, and then one of the local TV stations got word of the t-shirt drive and let every one in town know what Toby was doing.

When all was said and done, Toby had collected 10,000 t-shirts, now what did he do with them?  He started calling around to relief agencies to see if they would take them over, but no luck. He called UPS; they would do it for $65,000. Finally, Toby received a phone call from an agency he had not ever heard of telling him they would take the t-shirts to Africa for him, but there was one catch, they could only go to Ethiopia!

Toby never knew if the young boy received one of the t-shirts, he was just trying to make a difference in the lives of the people he had helped feed. This is where my conversations with myself start, conversations about judging.

Think how a person of Toby's age judges other people, how he judges his friends, his parents.  Then think about how we judge someone of Toby's age. What do we think about when we see some high school kids, how they dress, how they look, how they comb their hair, the music they listen to?

Toby didn't judge that boy based on his clothes, his hair, his cleanliness, his skin color, or his culture. Toby judged him out of God's love, he didn't see a kid from Ethiopia standing there, he saw a child of God.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wes Johnson is a certified lay speaker in Epworth United Methodist Church in Toledo. Epworth is an exciting, growing, and dynamic church with a heart for missions and a passion to grow in its faith in Christ and service to the world. If you are looking for a church where people are friendly and welcoming, we invite you to try Epworth.

Epworth offers three Sunday morning services: at 8:30 a.m., our blended worship service brings together a traditional worship style and a contemporary flair. Our traditional worship service begins at 9:45 a.m., followed by the contemporary worship service at 11.

We are located at the corner of Valleyview and Central Avenue in Toledo, across from Wildwood Metropark.

Click here to find out more about Epworth!

Epworth United Methodist Church
3077 Valleyview Drive
Toledo, OH 43615-2237
Telephone : 419-531-4236
FAX : 419-531-7487

Corner of Valleyview and Central Ave, across from Wildwood Metropark