In India I worshiped among leprosy patients. Most of the medical advances in the treatment of leprosy came about as a result of missionary doctors, who were willing to live among patients and risk exposure to the dreaded disease. As a result, churches thrive in most major leprosy centers. In Myanmar I visited homes for AIDS orphans, where Christian volunteers try to replace parental affection the disease has stolen away. The most rousing church services I have attended took place in Chile and Peru, in the bowels of a federal prison. Among the lowly, the wretched, the downtrodden—the rejected of this world—God’s kingdom takes root.
A friend once spent a day installing large stone steps in his backyard. When his 5-year-old daughter begged to help, he suggested she just sing to encourage him in his work. She said no. She wanted to help. Carefully, when it would not endanger her, he let her place her hands on the rocks as he moved them.
Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake of Jamaica made history when they finished first and second respectively in both the men’s 100-meter and 200-meter race in the 2012 London Olympics. Despite their rivalry on the track, Bolt paid tribute to Blake as a training partner: “Over the years, Yohan has made me a better athlete. He really pushed me and kept me on my toes.” It’s clear that the two spurred each other on to greatness on the track.
In April 1937, Mussolini’s invading armies forced all the missionaries serving in the Wallamo region to flee Ethiopia. They left behind just 48 Christian converts, who had little more than the gospel of Mark to feed their growth. Few even knew how to read. But when the missionaries returned 4 years later, the church had not just survived; it numbered 10,000!
The Roman paganism of Jesus’ day taught that the actions of gods in the heavens above affected the earth below. If Zeus got angry, thunderbolts shot out. “As above, so below,” went the ancient formula.
At her birthday celebration, the honored guest turned the tables by giving everyone at the party a gift. Kriste gave each of us a personal note expressing what we mean to her, along with encouraging words about the person God made us to be. Enclosed with every note was one piece of a jigsaw puzzle as a reminder that each of us is unique and important in God’s plan.
My wife, Shirley, and I enjoyed a cruise along the fjords of Norway in celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary. As we journeyed northward, we stopped in numerous towns and villages, often visiting churches. Among them was a 12th-century church that our guide described proudly as “still a working church.” I asked, “What do you mean?” She referred to the days of the state church, when the state-appointed pastors simply collected their paychecks but no one attended the services. But this church had been faithfully holding worship services and actively serving the Lord for almost 1,000 years!
My friend Anna often has people stop her on the street and ask for directions. This has happened to her even in countries where she is a foreigner. She wonders if it’s because she has an honest face and looks trustworthy. I suggested that perhaps it’s because she looks as if she knows where she’s going. Another friend said that maybe she attracts the lost.
As my kids were discarding their trash at the local mall food court, my oldest son was almost run into by a man who was clearly on a mission. My younger son jokingly remarked, “Maybe he stole something.” Thinking I might be able to use this as a teachable moment, I said, “That’s what the Bible calls judging.” He then asked with a smile: “Why are you always ‘pastoring’ me?” After I finished laughing, I told my sons that I could never take a vacation from shepherding them.