More than a dozen families had committed to share life together in a local community. They were so devoted to one another that they bought houses in the same neighborhood. Eventually, one of the men in this group received an excellent job offer in a large city hundreds of miles away. He didn’t, however, immediately take the new position. Instead, he went to his community to seek their wisdom, advice, and prayer about the move. Within a matter of days, all of them sensed he should take the job. But, to his delight, the consensus was that if he moved, five to six of the families would also move with him.
For the past decade, I’ve served in East Africa and have gained far more understanding of my heart, motives, and attitudes than I would have had I not taken the step of faith to live and work in a foreign land. Among the more humbling insights has been my occasional tendency to assume that my knowledge and resources are superior to those in the developing nation where I’m serving.
If you get to know Lilian, you’ll soon discover that she has a contagious love for Jesus. After much prayer and counsel, Lilian and her husband left their careers to share the love of Jesus with college students in India and later in the United States. Even after her husband’s passing, Lilian continues to mentor and pray with young people who need direction in their lives. Her favorite time of the day is any time she gets to talk with Jesus and hand Him all her worries and problems.
In a previous ministry position, I was responsible for directing pastoral care at a church. My job was to remind people of God’s presence through my presence and prayers as well as to oversee those offering care to others. When someone was sick or dying, a family was going through a crisis, or a newborn baby was brought home, I was there to offer care, as well as discover if and how our church family could help further.
In the Disney movie Inside Out, the internal emotions of Riley, the protagonist, are personified as distinct characters. Everyone loves Joy, who is given every opportunity to be the dominant emotion. Joy attempts to shun Sadness and even make her nonexistent. Unfortunately, Joy’s efforts to prevent Sadness from being expressed result in a near total shutdown of Riley’s feelings, for Sadness had a vital role to play in Riley’s overall well-being.
While dying of cancer, a seven-year-old Ugandan child named Okello Dikens became a leader. Though he wasn’t at the helm of a company, he exercised a profound influence through his example of faith, kindness, and service.
The 1986 film The Mission narrates the story of Father Gabriel and Rodrigo Mendoza, a former slave trader, who served together in the jungle bordering Argentina and Paraguay. The two moved into this remote country to befriend a tribe with little contact to the outside world. When powerful slavers descended on the village, Gabriel and Mendoza determined to stay. They were called to suffer with—rather than escape from—the tribe’s agonies and violence. Mendoza and Gabriel lost their lives, though their witness echoed with resounding force.
It’s been said that more is caught than taught. That was true for my siblings and I as we witnessed our parents caring for their parents. My grandmothers, both widows, lived in homes adjacent to our own—purchased by my father and mother. And in time, a grandmother’s sister-in-law also came to live in our little community. All three were doted on by Mom and Dad.
After an appointment, I reached for my phone to see the messages I had missed. “Do you have a minute to pray over me?” The text was simple, but knowing the season of life my friend was in, I quickly dialed her number. Our relationship had been built over many years, and though there were moments invested when I was uncertain of the outcome in her life, she was now not only walking in truth but, in turn, using her God-given gifts to reach out to others.
“Though mentoring is not a biblical word, it is a way of life,” wrote author Andi Ashworth. “In essence, mentoring is showing and telling, a lifestyle of receiving God’s gifts, learning to know, love, and live what is good, and passing on that knowledge to others.”
In recent years, the refugee crisis has shocked the world over. Images like that of three-year-old Kurdish boy Alan Kurdi, his lifeless body washed onto the shore after the refugees’ inflatable rubber boat capsized, horrified us. Too often, however, outrage has yielded little action. A year after his son’s death, Alan’s father told reporters: “Everyone claimed they wanted to do something because of the photo that touched them so much. But what is happening now? People are still dying and nobody is doing anything about it.”
When people were engaged in a political spat on my friend’s Facebook page, my friend decided to turn the debate into something uplifting by suggesting that everyone who commented make a donation to the Uganda-based ministry I direct. What began as a contentious debate transformed into a collective act of generosity. In the process, hearts softened and—though political differences remained—those involved began speaking more kindly to one another.
Joni Eareckson Tada, a world-renowned artist, author, and speaker, became a quadriplegic as the result of an accident in 1967. She admits that every morning she wakes up tired and convinced that she can’t face another day with quadriplegia. But she takes her weakness to God, seeking His grace, and continues to serve others—her joy in Jesus radiating through her smile.