The 2010 French film Of Gods and Men recounts the inspiring and tragic story of nine Trappist monks who lived in the small Algerian monastery of Tibhirine. For years, the various religious communities lived in friendship. As the political climate deteriorated, however, radical elements took advantage and gained power. The Brothers debated whether they should escape Algeria, but eventually they determined that God would not have them abandon their village. Then, after midnight on March 27, 1996, militants overwhelmed the monastery and captured seven of the Brothers, all of whom lost their lives.
God has given me new things to treasure and value since I left the US for Uganda 6 years ago. Some of the interests and things that I truly enjoyed before moving to my new ministry have, to my surprise, been replaced. I haven’t even missed American football—my favorite sport! Nor have I missed many things that my birth country’s culture suggests are necessary for fulfillment, significance, and happiness.
In 1915, Dr. Frank Laubach’s church commissioned him to serve as a missionary in Manila, Philippines, and as a professor at Union Theological Seminary (Manila). When he and another man were being considered for the office of seminary president, a vote was held to determine which candidate would win. Dr. Laubach did what he thought honorable; he voted for his opponent.Consequently, he lost the election by one vote—his own. He became disappointed, depressed, and even questioned God. Yet God used that incident to redirect his life. Eventually, Dr. Laubach developed a literacy program that taught an estimated 60 million people to read.
Years ago, God put it on the hearts of my wife and me that I should attend Bible college. We didn’t fully know why or how, but we trusted that He had a plan. Our problem was that we were in a tough financial condition. We were literally praying for food to feed our family week by week. Then the due date for the payment of the tuition fees arrived, and we didn’t have a penny to put toward the cost.
I took the day off from work to experience some much-needed silence and solitude. My life was brimming with good things: family, friends, and ministry in the church. I had much to be thankful for, but internally I was struggling with one thing—something I wanted to talk to God about it.
As I watched the news of a commercial flight that had been downed by a missile last year, my heart sank. Why would people wantonly take the lives of 298 people? Why? This small, three-letter word sits at the root of all our experiences with pain and suffering. It lingers, and sometimes even haunts to the point where faith and understanding collide in crisis.
Austin Hatch survived two plane crashes before his 20th birthday! In 2003, a private plane went down, killing his mother and siblings. In 2011, another small plane crashed, and he lost his father and stepmother. After this second tragedy, Austin was in a coma for 2 months.
My cousin Tracy has the ability to make any destination feel like home. As a young single woman, I had moved to an apartment in England. I was there for a few months when Tracy arrived from Australia. Although I’d been given furniture to fill my small rental, I was still sleeping on top of one of the beds in a sleeping bag. Tracy had been with me just a few days when I returned from work to find the house redecorated with proper bedding, a tablecloth for the dining room table, and a new vase filled with fresh cut flowers. She had transformed my sparse living space into a cozy home away from home.
When I went to Bible college, I had a wife, two daughters, and absolutely no money! We were confident that God had called me to attend college even though we weren’t sure exactly why. After we determined that we couldn’t afford a house near the college, we brought our need to Him.
Sitting on my back porch in the waning daylight, I enjoy watching as patches of gray, red, and blue flit through the air. Busy wings then grow still as the birds alight on my newly acquired feeder. A few years prior, thieving squirrels stymied my efforts to feed these feathered wonders. Moving its location and even oiling the pole was not enough to keep the wily rodents from robbing the birds of the seed. Then, a friend introduced me to a spring-loaded feeder that closes if anything heavier than a bird lands on its ledge.
Even as a child, I can remember coveting things that other people possessed. One day I was playing at my cousin’s house when one of his toys caught my eye. I begged to take it home, and when my parents refused me the pleasure, I cried and created quite a scene.
Glen, a longtime family friend, took a spill inside his home and fractured his neck. Fortunately, he didn’t need surgery. His doctor fitted him with a neck brace and instructed him not to bend, lift, or turn until his neck had healed. This meant that he had to move his entire body to see anything outside his direct line of sight. He could focus only on what was directly in front of him.
My vitamins come in three fruity flavors. Fortunately, someone designed them to look and taste more like candy than health aids. The contents include stuff like vitamin B-6, niacin, and folic acid. Each serving contains enough supplements to last for one day. Every morning I have to consume another dose because my body has been busy using up yesterday’s vitamin supply.
Recently I decided to renovate the living room of our old terrace house. I painted the ceiling and replaced the ugly and dated lights. I took down the faded curtains and put up roller blinds. I spent hours on the walls—sanding off flaking paint, filling the many dents and holes, resanding, then applying multiple coats of new paint. A cement slab in the corner was removed and new tiles were laid. The fireplace also needed to be replaced. Finally, I sanded back the skirting boards and repainted them with gloss. It was hard work, but I felt proud of the changes I saw each day.