I met Michael while working at a Christian drug rehab center in Cleveland, Ohio. He was a coworker of mine, and he has one of those testimonies you’ll never forget. But there was one part of it that has especially stuck with me.
Twenty-six letters . . . who would have thought that twenty-six letters could be as powerful as they are?
With twenty-six letters wars have been started, treaties have been made, great cures have been passed on to the next generation, history has been recorded, identities are given, order is made possible, and the ability to connect with another human being is achieved.
I certainly don’t agree with everything the Amish believe. Their extreme legalism and shunning practices are not a reflection of God’s grace. But some Amish communities do have a practice which I find beautiful.
The Medal of Honor is the highest military award in all the US Armed Forces. It is only given to those soldiers who have displayed the utmost gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty.
One such recipient was Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez for his heroics in the Vietnam War. On the morning of May 2, 1968, a 12-man Special Forces Reconnaissance Team was inserted by helicopters into a dense jungle area west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam. Their mission was to gather intelligence information in an area heavily patrolled by the North Vietnam Army (NVA). The highly trained team began taking heavy fire, became pinned down, and called for an extraction. The only way out was by helicopter, and after three attempts by pilots, the plight of these 12 men seemed more hopeless by the minute.
Sequels are usually not nearly as good as the original film or book in a series. Most sequels fail to live up to the greatness of the original story because they are trying to recreate the magic that happened the first time rather than building on the story. They try to go through the same plot progression as the first story, the characters end getting into the same trouble, and the whole point of the movie is simply to redo the first one under a different title.
Do you know that we can do that in our lives too? It’s good to look back at our past with fond memories. But there are countless dangers that come with idolizing our past.
By God’s grace I have had the opportunity to do missionary work in Liberia, West Africa. During my time there I had the privilege of visiting a lot of orphanages, some on a weekly basis.
I saw hundreds of orphan children. Babies, toddlers, children, teenagers. Some well fed, some not so well fed. Some with beds to sleep in and roofs over their heads, some without. Some of these orphans were in the city, some were way out in the African bush. Some were healthy and loved to play, some were crippled and lame.
I remember one boy named Francis. He was probably around fourteen, but he didn’t know his true birth date because his parents died when he was young and no one was there to share the details of his early life, a common problem amongst orphan children. Francis was a free spirit and did not like the rules and expectations of an orphanage, so he lived in a shipping container in the port, wheeling and dealing with the sailors to provide food for himself. Just from talking to all the sailors from different countries he had learned multiple languages: English, Russian, Ukrainian, French . . . Francis could speak them all. He was a genius.
In 2006 I was living in Liberia doing missionary work. This West African country was rebuilding from a civil war which lasted over a decade. There was still a somber feeling in the air. It felt like everywhere you went the local people where internally recovering from the atrocities they witnessed firsthand on the very ground we stood.
It was a hot, sticky day just last summer. It was my day off from work and I had a rare few hours to myself as my wife and kids were out with friends. So despite the sun being at its hottest point, I decided to head up to the outdoor basketball courts to get some exercise. Hoping to play a few pickup games, I was disappointed to find no one at the courts. I guess most people are too smart to play basketball at this time of day during the hottest point of the year . . . .