Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On Volunteering

Dr Paul Brand wrote a wonderful book thirty years ago; I enjoyed it enough to keep it. I picked it up again the other day and read this story I thought worth repeating.

Brand wrote about not all of us being called to the front lines, then mentioned some who were called to a more public stage: Mother Teresa, Corrie ten Boom, Billy Graham. He offered a paragraph about the Christian heroes found in Hebrews 11, then recognized that Christians [1980] were under “oppressive regimes are being persecuted for their faith.”

His quote from Alexander Solzhenitsyn regarding the “reservoir of suffering” in Russia at that time reminded me that today “Christians under oppressive regimes are being persecuted for their faith.” Stories from Nigeria, Sudan, China, Pakistan, India, and Indonesia daily confirm this "reservoir of suffering" as a fact of 2010.

Then Dr. Brand told this wonderful story out of his own home. I quote him in italics:

I think of my own mother, from a society home in suburban London, who went to India as a missionary. When Granny Brand reached sixty-nine she was told by her mission to retire, and she did … until she found a new range of mountains where no missionary had ever visited. Without her mission’s support she climbed those mountains, built a little wooden shack, and worked another twenty-six years.

Because of a broken hip and creeping paralysis she could only walk with the aid of two bamboo sticks, but on the back of an old horse she rode all over the mountains, a medicine box strapped behind her. She sought out the unwanted and the unlovely, the sick, the maimed, the blind, and brought greatment to them. When she came to settlements who knew her, a great crowd of people would burst out to greet her.

My mother died in 1974 at the age of ninety-five. Poor nutrition and failing health had swollen her joints and made her gaunt and fragile. She had stopped caring about her personal appearance long ago, even refusing to look in a mirror lest she see the effects of her grueling life. She was part of the advance guard, the front line presenting God’s love to deprived people (Fearfully & Wonderfully Made/Brand & Yancey/Zondervan/1980/155-56)

Granny Brand reminds me of my friend Les. Dr. Ratzlaff retired as founding Dean of Florida’s Warner Southern College (now Warner University) in 1983. He died Labor Day 2010, 27 years later. He spent those 27 years as a “professional volunteer” and I deeply admire that.

Sometimes Les could be difficult, like the day down at Lake Wales when he got on the tractor and spent the day pulling stumps, in spite of the protests of younger friends. From the classroom to the grubby, Les could be found helping others. He had already lived a lifetime preaching and teaching, at home and abroad, as a doctor of the church.

The Granny Brand’s and the Leslie Ratzlaff’s along my pathway remind me that when I come to the end of my days here, I want to have invested my life in something far bigger than my own self, my career, and my comfort. Since I’m only going through this reservoir of suffering once, I'm going to do what I can do to make it better for both of us. I believe God put us here to help each other.

Do you remember what Jesus told the lawyer who wanted to know who his neighbor was? He told the Good Samaritan story, then said, "go and do the same" (Luke 10:37).

From Warner’s World, I am

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