In 1987, our family moved to California to take up the pastorate of a church in the Long Beach area. The day we flew into town, my secretary picked us up at the airport to take us to our house. As we pulled into traffic, the very first thing I saw was a bumper sticker that read: “Welcome To California . . . Now Go Home!” It was not exactly a warm and cheery welcome to sunny southern California!
As an umpire stood behind the plate at a girls’ softball game, he heard a player’s mother start chanting: “We want a new ump! We want a new ump!” Soon, other parents took up the chant. The ump smiled, then turned toward the crowd and yelled, “I want new parents! I want new parents!” The heckling died away.
In his book A Crack in the Edge of the World, Simon Winchester writes of the small earthquake-prone town of Parkfield, California. Seeking to attract tourists, a hotel sign reads: “Sleep Here When It Happens.” A local restaurant menu features a large steak called “The Big One,” and desserts are called “Aftershocks.” But all humor aside, a real earthquake can be a terrifying experience. I know. I’ve lived through California earthquakes.
While a friend and I walked along the path of the former Berlin Wall, he told me, “This is one of those ‘never say never’ places in my life.” He explained that during the years when the Wall divided the city, he had made a dozen trips through Checkpoint Charlie to encourage members of the church living under continuing surveillance and opposition in East Germany. More than once, he had been detained, questioned, and harassed by the border guards.
My Australian friend Graham wasn’t born blind. He was blinded by a freak accident at age 9. Yet he never felt sorry for himself. Wherever he went, he shared what Jesus Christ meant to him. His last trip was to Thailand as a practicing physiotherapist. Besides using his professional skills there, he wanted to share the gospel of Christ.
New York City. Easter Sunday, 7:30 a.m. I was the only customer at Jimmy’s Diner in East Harlem when a man entered and approached my table. He said, “Good morning, and God bless you,” left a gospel tract, and quickly walked out. I smiled, appreciating his witness and realizing that God has His people everywhere. That night I attended church with our daughter Debbie, joining an enthusiastic congregation of 300 people, most in their twenties and thirties. Their infectious love for Christ and others was a bright light in a city that is often considered spiritually dark.
The spotted owl has been disappearing in the US. Originally it was believed that old growth logging was its greatest threat. But research shows that one of the owl’s relatives may be the problem. For the past 15 years, the barred owl has been rapidly migrating westward. Barred owls, which used to live exclusively east of the Mississippi, compete for the same food as spotted owls but are more aggressive and adaptable.
Martie and I recently traveled to some major cities in several countries. We were struck with how lost our world is and grieved over the millions who have never heard the message of the saving grace of Jesus. The thought of reaching our world for Christ felt overwhelming.
During a trip to the Far East, I visited an unusual shrine made up of hundreds of statues. According to our guide, worshipers would pick the statue that looked the most like an ancestor and pray to it.
A friend of mine has the opportunity each winter to attend the Super Bowl as a journalist. His job is to garner interviews with Christian athletes and National Football League personnel for a faith-based radio program.
Imagine being a visitor in a foreign land, showing up unannounced at a gathering of people you have never met and who have never heard of you—and then being allowed to address that group just a few minutes later. That can happen only if something breaks down barriers— something like mutual friends.
Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, describes his life after a massive stroke left him with a condition called “Locked-In Syndrome.” Although he was almost completely paralyzed, Bauby was able to write his book by blinking his left eyelid. An aide would recite a coded alphabet, until Bauby blinked to choose the letter of a word he was dictating. The book required about 200,000 blinks to write. Bauby used the only physical ability left him to communicate with others.
A missionary and I were invited to lunch with David, a man in his late seventies who generously supported the missionary’s ministry. David was not able to visit the missionary’s country, but as he gave thanks for the food, he prayed with complete ease for the people, places, and situations there. Having prayed regularly for that ministry, he had no trouble mentioning specifics. David had a perspective on missions that extended beyond his own country of Singapore.
In our Bible-study class, we were reading Ephesians 4:17-24 out loud when Alyssa began to cry. Most of us were wondering why, when she quietly said, “I’m crying because hearing this passage read out loud makes me see the condition that lost people are in. They’re separated from God and are blind to it! That breaks my heart.”
Francis Asbury rode 6,000 miles a year on horseback for nearly half a century. Despite ill health, he drove himself tirelessly. He sustained himself with venison jerky—a food that wouldn’t spoil during his extended travels. Asbury is remembered for introducing the Methodist “circuit-riding preacher” as an effective way to capture the American frontier for Christ. Planting new churches in remote areas was central to his approach.
Recently our family was in Erie, Pennsylvania, visiting a relative. While there, we had a chance to swim in the community swimming pool. It was fun, but our host wanted to take us to Lake Erie to enjoy the sandy beaches, the cresting waves, and the beauty of the setting sun. My children protested because they wanted to swim in the pool. But I tried to get them to see that going to the beaches of Presque Isle would be a much greater plan.
An organizational consultant in New York says that his graduate students typically recall only 5 percent of the main ideas in a presentation of graphs and charts, while they generally remember half of the stories told in the same presentation. There is a growing consensus among communication experts about the power of the personal touch in relating an experience. While facts and figures often put listeners to sleep, an illustration from real life can motivate them to action. Author Annette Simmons says, “The missing ingredient in most failed communication is humanity.”
When E. Stanley Jones, well-known missionary to India, had the opportunity to meet with Mahatma Gandhi, he asked a searching question of India’s revered leader: “How can Christianity make a stronger impact on your country?” Gandhi very thoughtfully replied that three things would be required.