After Mary and Jim married and moved into their first apartment, they decided to set aside a room in which to host others. I became a beneficiary of their warm hospitality on a teaching trip. They welcomed me, a stranger, into their home and showered me with love.
A ministry leader once tried an interesting communication experiment. Holding giant whiteboards and some markers, he engaged passersby on his city’s streets. On one whiteboard, people were asked to write what they wanted to tell the church. The messages weren’t very kind. On the other board, people were asked to write, “What do you want to say to Jesus?” To Him they wrote surprisingly tender messages such as, “I miss you,” “I’m sorry,” and “I love you.”
Julie Stroyne, a trauma nurse, had just gotten married and immediately after the reception was walking with her wedding party in downtown Pittsburgh. Suddenly she spotted an unconscious woman on a bench. Still in her wedding dress, Stroyne kicked off her shoes and jumped into action in an effort to save the woman’s life. It didn’t matter that she was celebrating her wedding. As a nurse, she was ready to serve.
My friend was overjoyed. Following years of failed procedures, she was going to give birth to a daughter. With only weeks to go, however, my friend discovered her husband was having an affair. The weight of pain threatened to drown all hope of happiness.
This morning, I was out jogging when I decided to walk a bit. Just then a trim runner sprinted toward me, glancing at his watch as he passed. “This is embarrassing,” I thought. “What must he think of me?” Five minutes later he passed me going in the other direction. It looked like he was running wind sprints back and forth while I ambled along. I got out of there as fast as I could (which wasn’t very!).
The trailer for the epic World War II movie Saving Private Ryan contains these words: “In the last great invasion of the last great war, the greatest challenge for eight men was saving . . . one.” Jesus similarly told a parable about a shepherd who searched for one lost lamb. “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4). Christ told the story to illustrate how God won’t stop searching until He finds “the one” who’s lost, but I normally don’t see myself as “the one” needing to be found. I’m among those in the fold who think they are doing “just fine.” I’m the trained counselor who helps people, armed with the mission as a believer in Jesus to help and serve others who are lost.
When Robert Edmiston lost his job in the early 1970s, he used the money he received in severance pay to start International Motors. Edmiston went on to become one of the wealthiest business owners in the UK and one of the country’s most generous philanthropists. As a believer in Jesus, he felt compelled to use his wealth to start religious and educational charities that to this day bring hope to people around the world. With offices in Europe, Africa, North America, Latin America, and Asia Pacific, Robert Edmiston has donated hundreds of millions of dollars since 1988.
As a Bible teacher, I’ve traveled to many different countries to share the Scriptures. On many of those trips, I haven’t stayed in hotels but in people’s homes. Believers in Jesus opened their homes, providing me with food and lodging. Although we were strangers before I arrived, my hosts welcomed me, showering me with love and hospitality.
The Swedish writer Fredrick Backman’s 2012 debut novel A Man Called Ove is the tale of a man who sees no reason to live. After the death of his wife (the one person who brought him laughter, intimacy, and joy) and after losing his job, Ove plots his suicide. But then he’s drawn into the larger story around him: There’s a pregnant woman who needs his support, a neighbor in conflict with authorities who are trying to force him into a nursing home, and a young man estranged from his father. Ove discovers reasons to live as he moves beyond himself and toward others.
One summer I spent a month in Bolivia, living with missionaries at a fledgling Bible school. Different jobs awaited me each day. Sometimes I cooked, cleaned, or did laundry. But every day I worked on construction projects. I loved learning all of the different tasks (okay, not the laundry!). One day, a pair of missionaries from another religion came to the school to tell us about their beliefs and to challenge ours. The thought of answering their questions intimidated me. I put my head down and kept working while a friend talked with them. I remember thinking, “I’m glad I don’t have to do that job!”
During a political election year, a tow truck driver was called to assist a woman who was stranded with a broken-down vehicle. But the truck driver, upon seeing a bumper sticker on the car for a candidate he disliked, informed the motorist that he wouldn’t help her and drove away. His actions remind me how we sometimes choose to ignore those who need our help.
One morning, I was surprised to see my mail carrier lugging his heavy bag. I asked him why he was delivering mail on Sunday, and he curtly responded with a single word: “Amazon.” The online retailer had started offering Sunday delivery, so it was no longer a day of rest for postal workers.
In 2005 Dean Karnazes ran 350 miles in eighty hours—setting the world record for distance running without sleep. Ten years later, Rob Young, nicknamed the “Marathon Man,” broke the record by covering nearly 374 miles in eighty-eight hours. Young, who had endured abuse by his father as a child, said he ran with two goals in mind: to test the limits of human endurance and to help the world become a better place for kids.
Lilias Trotter had an unusual talent for painting landscapes. Born mid-nineteenth century, she acquired famous artist John Ruskin as a mentor. Ruskin believed her talent could dominate the art world. But as Lily’s art matured, so did her devotion to God. She began frequenting dangerous areas to help women in need, a practice Ruskin discouraged because he felt it kept her from perfecting her artwork. Eventually, Lily decided to spend her life serving others in Algeria.
A pastor friend told my husband and me that he’s considering leaving the ministry because he feels as if his efforts haven’t resulted in heart change for any of his congregants—that their priorities remained out of step with God’s. After my husband and I prayed for him, he told us that we had encouraged him. Even so, I’m not confident that he’ll remain in fulltime pastoral ministry.