I told a friend that if I were to die today, I'd have no complaints because I have lived what I think is like a whole lifetime a long time ago - maybe several of them. The Lord's been very, very good to me in terms of opportunities.
The Greek ferry boat was loaded with more than 500 passengers, and a lot were visitors from other countries. Suddenly, that ship plowed into a rocky outcropping, and in minutes the ferry went down two miles from shore, claiming the lives of 66 people. But you know what? It was a tragedy that never had to happen. Those rock outcroppings are clearly marked on navigational charts, and the ferry had passed by them countless times, and there's even a light atop them that's visible for seven miles. But the captain and three key crew members were not at their posts that night; they were reportedly down below watching a soccer match on television. A Greek newspaper headline proclaimed, "A blind course on autopilot." So as the ship was on a collision course, the captain was not on the bridge.
Four boys in a house on fire; that's what happened to my friend's nephews. Thankfully, the Fire Department got the call early and they were there in minutes. It was clear there was no way they could go into that blaze to bring the boys out. But all four of them were huddled around a second floor window, which meant they could be saved. So, the firefighters quickly prepared to catch the boys. They yelled to them to jump into the waiting net below. The oldest boy jumped; he was safe. A second boy, then a third brother jumped to their rescue below. Their ten-year-old brother was the last one left at the upstairs window. He hesitated. Again and again the firefighters were begging him to jump. Every time, he refused..every time. Sadly, it cost him his life.
A dear friend of this ministry donated the car he was about to trade in. It was a whole lot more car than I was used to driving, and it was a wonderful gift. It was pretty much fully loaded. One of its nice features was a compass that was mounted on the rear view mirror. At any given moment, it was showing an "N" for north, or an "S" for south...you get the idea. Now, why is that such a big deal? You don't know my sense of direction. Did I say "sense"? That compass is a real boon. I have no excuse now for not knowing where I'm going. Just consult the compass, right?
It might happen to a community once in a lifetime, or maybe even just once in a century. But sometimes there are those disasters that define and redefine a town for years to come. The Johnstown, PA, flood would be one of the most famous historic examples. You've probably never heard of the flood that swept into my wife's hometown years ago, but it was a major defining event for that town. She was a teenager when, with just a brief warning from upstream, the local creek burst out of its banks into this massive flash flood. While there was major damage done to the community, thankfully, only a few lives were lost. They actually were some older folks who lived on the south side of town. Rescuers actually came by their creek-side house before that wall of water hit. They offered them a place in the lifeboat. They refused to get in. They said, "Hey, we've lived here a long time, we've seen a lot. We've been fine this far. We'll be fine this time." They weren't. They died in that flood.
Every time I hear anyone mention the first Gulf War, it brings back to my memory an interview with a soldier who was there as they were about to go to war from Kuwait and into Iraq. She said, "You know, we've gotten training when we were in boot camp about chemical warfare. We kind of dozed off, you know, and didn't take notes, It was boring, threw paper wads, whatever. It was just boring stuff." She said, "Now they're covering chemical warfare again, because we're about to go into Iraq where they have them." She said, "We're taking notes, we're asking questions this time, we're staying late after class." I thought, "Wow! What a big difference; same material, same information." What was different? All of a sudden soldiers knew that their life could depend on what they were learning, and they were going to need it, not just know it.
When you go to a church potluck dinner, you never know what kind of luck you're going to have in your pot. Friends of ours were at one of those dinners with their granddaughter, and someone there had baked what they called a Jesus cake. That raises the obvious question, "What is a Jesus cake?" They were told that someone had actually baked a very small plastic baby toy into the cake, and they called it Baby Jesus. (Okay, do not try this at home.) I'm just telling you what happened. If anyone found the baby in their piece of cake, they would win a prize. Well, crazy, but our friends' granddaughter became obsessed with finding the baby - to the point of downing five pieces of cake - the ultimate "sugar high." She was desperately trying to find what she thought was baby Jesus, and she did. And when she found the baby, the little girl said, "Finding Baby Jesus changes everything."
I was at the end of seven weeks of ministry travel and, believe me, I was really anxious to be home. Delays, of course, are just a part of air travel and I'm used to them, and I'm usually patient with them. But when they announced that the very last leg of my journey home was going to be significantly delayed, that was a test of my patience. Every half hour, they would tell us that they would get another update in another half hour. I knew the plane was there, the crew was there, all those passengers were sure there, but the flight just kept getting postponed. My homing instinct was going crazy.
He's a noted surgeon who wants to make a difference in the world. So once a year, he dedicates a month to going to Central America to do volunteer medical work. Well, I heard on the news he was in an emergency medical clinic one year performing urgent surgery on a young boy in a really remote location. The boy started losing blood faster than expected, and he clearly needed blood. The problem was he had a rare blood type that only 2% of the population carries. And this village clinic certainly didn't have anything that rare. In that critical moment, the doctor suddenly put down his scalpel and went to another room - where he gave blood. He, too, had that rare blood. The boy got the blood he needed, the surgeon returned to finish the operation, and that boy came through just fine.
Okay, it's no secret. I am technically challenged. When it comes to computers, I know just the basics, you know, just enough to get by. Even I know enough to appreciate some things God provided for our ministry, like new computers that worked much faster than our old ones. We were able to upgrade some of our software. And the new software had capabilities that made a lot of things possible that weren't possible before. When it comes to the computers that make such a difference in our lives, a software upgrade can take you to a whole new level.