Today I’d like to tell you the story of some of our friends from college days. Actually it’s about their boy, Peter, whom we only knew from Christmas letters and the like. Peter was born ahead of schedule at 26 weeks weighing in at only 1 lb and 13 oz (about 400 grams). That was back in 1978 when preemies didn’t have the care they have today, so he really was a miracle baby who survived nicely into early adulthood. His birth alone was one reason never to forget Peter, but it was his death that leaves us awestruck.
Peter was a free spirit who loved the Lord and the great outdoors, as well as his family and friends. His parents (our friends) became attached to the US embassy as doctor/nurse and as a result their kids were blessed with the opportunity to see the world from one end to the other, a life full of adventure. Peter’s favorite thing was climbing mountains with his dad in their free time.
In Peter’s 21st year, the deepest implications of the verse from Jeremiah 29:11 became real to him and his family, and to us all. “I know the plans I have for you….” His parents raised Peter with a love for God’s Word, and that verse always had a special significance for him, in light of his miraculous birth. Coincidentally, our own daughter had chosen that as her life verse as she considered her Russian orphan roots and God’s Divine Hand that brought her into our home at age three.
But back to Peter, for him to even survive his tiny birth with no damage just had to be proof to all of us that there was a very special plan for his life. That plan unfolded one day and it was NOT the one that any of us wanted, but nevertheless, in God’s sovereignty, it was the plan that defined his life. You see, on that fateful day, 21-year-old Peter held the rope for a friend who was climbing on the face of Yosemite. A huge boulder above them dislodged and fell straight toward Peter. In an instant, he had a decision to make: let go of the rope and run for safety, or stay and hold on. Choice number one would have saved his life, but doomed his friend to fall. Choice number two … well, Peter made the lightning fast decision to stay there and die.
The story itself is enough to fill me with so many emotions, from horror to unspeakable admiration, but over the years I can’t help but see so much more in that act of sacrifice. In many ways, YOU are holding the rope that keeps me here. Your emotional, tangible and most importantly, your spiritual support is priceless, and so very precious.
Since Easter, I’ve thought a lot about Jesus; how He could so easily have ‘thrown in the towel’ and headed back to the safety of Heaven. He could have chosen to look at the world, hanging in the grip of sin and let go and step away to save his own life….we know from Scripture, that he even asked His Father if that cup could pass from Him, but without even an answer, he in his heart, made the right decision. To stay the course, to save us from a certain death.
Remembering the great sacrifice of both of these men, Peter and Jesus, I wish you a good week in the Lord!
Happy Mother’s Day!
We’re back at home in Tokyo now, looking forward to getting back to some kind of daily routine again.
First of all let me say “Happy Mother’s Day” to all of you moms out there. I’m reminded that our very first Sunday in Japan 35 years ago was a “Mother’s Day” service, and when they made some unintelligible announcement, someone punched me in the back. Naturally we thought, “Oh, we’re visitors” and both stood up…… gave everybody a good laugh because they were asking for the mothers to stand.
On that note, I want to call out a special greeting to all those who want to be mothers but for some reason are not. I spent quite a few years yearning for another child after a particularly bad miscarriage had rendered me finished with childbearing. I can remember the loneliness I felt as other mothers were able to ooh and ahh about their kids. It’s hard to feel ‘passed over’ especially when this holiday hits. Today that child that we finally adopted called to say he loved me. Actually both of my adopted lovelies made that call……. reminding how much actual mothering they let me have…….I feel blessed.
Anyway, today I’d like to highlight a couple of things we saw in the disaster zone this last trip that might be worth noting.
Things are indeed returning to a ‘new normal’ we’ve been working for these past three years since the tsunami. The people we’re ministering to in the temporary housing units have organized quite a bit, complete with selecting people to be in charge, a “neighborhood watch” of sorts, designated parking slots, some flowers set around here and there …….everything you might expect to see in a small town.
We took our team of volunteers to the city offices, as we often do, to see the picture of the town of Ayukawahama that had been taken just before the earthquake/tsunami struck. It was poignant to see and be reminded that where once stood a vibrant community absolutely full of roofs without a space in between had been transformed in an instant to a huge debris field, then gradually into several acres of vacant lots, with just an occasional foundation remaining. Below the offices, further down the hill, a nursing home where all the residents were killed is now an empty space. But this time I was surprised to go into the city office and find the picture gone. I searched around and finally found it stuck back in a corner where almost no one could see it.
It’s almost as if no one wants to remember.
OK, I think I get that. We were confirming this with our friend Miyuki, whom I wrote so much about in the beginning. She and her husband lost 7 huge fishing boats out of their fleet, along with their house and all their possessions. As we visited her the other day, she told us that the next day they would be receiving their second new 1 million dollar boat. I’m happy for them.
But more than all this “moving on” we were amazed to see a few houses going up right back where the tsunami struck. It is forbidden to rebuild in a lot of places because not only did the tsunami strike there but the land mass of Japan itself has dropped by 6-8 feet (two meters) leaving those places lower than sea level! Still where they can, people are building right back where they lost everything. I wonder why?
I guess some people are just counting their losses and gambling that they’ll be safe for another 100+ years.
Have you seen this in other people’s life? I am (continually it seems) reading in the Old Testament. One of many recurring themes seems to be, “When are you guys going to GET IT?!” This morning I was reading in Deuteronomy where Moses went up the hill….. and the people forgot. After all those awesome miracles, they got shook and returned to their old ways, or made up new ways…….over and over.
Pray for the north of Japan. Pray that they won’t completely forget that moment when they opened their hearts to the Creator God and called to Him for help.
I hope you will all have a good day today and remember your Creator, who never forgets you!
Yesterday was one of those “unforgettable” days that come around every now and then. This particular day was prompted by our Hawaiian volunteers who we’ve been escorting through the tsunami zone. They’re a wonderful mix of seniors in their 70s and 80s, as well as a couple of 20-something “kids” who have been invaluable when it comes time to move luggage! This is the second time for the team to come to Japan, and they are truly veterans in every sense, bringing joy and hope everywhere they go. They’ve also brought a wide repertoire in their bag of tricks, so that they can always draw a crowd, whether it’s preschool kids at the local community center, fellow seniors at the temporary housing units up and down the coast, or at our own Taitomi Baptist Church in Sendai. If you’ve come to play, they have all the equipment for putt putt golf, fishing over a wall with a plastic bag instead of a hook, and some kind of outdoor bowling game using lava rock carved into little wheels. For crafts, they offer paper flowers, traditional Hawaiian leis and a not-so-traditional lei made from a nut that doubles as a bright-burning candle or, if necessary a powerful laxative. Musically, they can do the hula with the best of them, and I especially like their rendition of the “huki lau” (I think it involves food, so it’s gotta be good!).
Speaking of food, I have to mention the highlight of every gathering: an Hawaiian favorite called “spam musubi”: a unique concoction of rice, seaweed and yes, spam.
But at the end of the day, these folks share our passion for bringing hope to people who have none, and furthermore don’t know where to find it. One older lady yesterday told us, “I haven’t been this happy since I had to move here.” Of course it wasn’t long before she was hearing stories of love from people who knew first hand from Whom the love comes.
You might think this has all been a flash in the pan from a team of volunteers who are here this week and gone the next, but the beauty of their ministry is that they’ve been preparing for over a year now, making sure that the people they entertain will not be left alone. Jared and Tara, two of our folks here, have already arranged to continue meeting with the kids, not just from the one community center the Hawaiians visited, but to all six centers in the area which are connected. Taitomi Baptist, the church which was first on the scene after the tsunami out on the peninsula, are going with the Hawaiians wherever they go, assuring the people that these folks are okay. Next week, after the team has left, Taitomi will still be going out there, faithfully showing God’s love.
This is the Church at Work, with a capital “C” and a capital “W”. Where else but among God’s people can you find young and old, from Japanese fishermen to Hawaiian ukulele strummers coming together and finding peace, hope and love in the Name of the One Who called them together? It’s a great experience, and I’m glad to be a part of it. Thank you All for being of a part of this with me, through your prayers and all the concrete things you do to make things like this happen.
As I’m writing this blog, we are literally ‘back in the saddle’. We got home Tuesday night from a trip to Bangkok that became a trip to Bangkok AND Australia! I woke up the first morning back and thought, “I don’t know where I am, but this bed is sure comfortable!
Anyway, the saddle that we’re in now, after just 3 sleeps at home, is represented by two vans full of enthusiastic Hawaiians who have come to help us spread the salt and light in the Disaster zone. They arrived with boxes of stuff and piles of enthusiasm and are already running our socks off. Amazing since most are in their late 60’s and 70′S! Tony has found that he IS able to drive if he sorta leans into it and positions his left hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and then uses his right arm to drive like a New York cabbie, so that’s a big help.
These guys’ enthusiasm reminded me of a comment I heard while tearing around Bangkok with my best Japanese friend. With her I realized that having a good friend who shares your values as well as sense of humor, (in this case ditsy-ness) is a real gift. I don’t have that in any nationality while we live here in Japan and I realized that I really miss it. I have good ‘friends’ here, but because of their non-Christian status, everything I do is countered with the deep underlining thought of ‘how can I show Christ in this moment’. However, Kanae is a strong Christian who really ‘gets’ me. She speaks pretty good English, but occasionally her English sounds (I’m guessing) a little like my Japanese…..she gets the point across but often uses the wrong word.
So anyway, we were jabbering away in our strange language of broken English (her) and broken Japanese (me).
Upon arriving at her tailor’s to drop something off, she said, “ This lady is a really good tailor, but when I brought in 10 pairs of my husbands trousers in to be altered, she did it, but after that she refused me.”
“Oh?” I said a bit surprised, “Why”?
Then she replied with this funny answer.
“Because she said she does not find altering trousers fascinating”
I laughed in her face. There is the right word in Japanese, “omoshiori” that means ‘interesting’……I think that was what she was aiming for, but she overshot it in her English just a bit. I could picture a little old lady sitting in a dark corner under a single cobweb covered bulb, working a treadle machine and saying to herself, “Garsh, this job is just not giving me the buzz I was looking for!”
OK, here’s my point (you knew I had one somewhere, right?)
Is MY work “Fascinating”? Is YOUR work “Fascinating”? In fact, do we even have the right to fascination in our job?
I think that working for God is the most exciting/thrilling/exhilarating/fulfilling work on the planet………..except on the days (I won’t go into percentages here) where the work is dull/ depressing/ demoralizing/and just no fun.
Paul said many things in his letters to the churches, a lot of it about the ‘fascination’ of working with God. I like the one in Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, to die is Gain”
What could be more fascinating than that?
Next week a ‘disaster team’ update! Stay tuned,
Just a quick note on this Easter Morning to say “He is Risen!”
Tony and I have had a fantastic time with the kids and their famlies here at “Easterfest”, a 3-day Christian music event that takes over virtually the entire town of Toowoomba, Australia. Tomorrow we pack up and start the long journey back to Japan.
This time next week, we’ll be once again up in the tsunami zone, accompanying a lovely team of Hawaiian volunteers. My prayer request is for courage as I take on all the volunteer hauling responsibilities, since Tony’s arm is still in a sling. He says I’ll do fine, and he’ll be right there beside me, screaming enough for the both of us.
I heard a good passage in the sermon this morning, 1 Corinthians 15:14…..”If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”. Aren’t we THANKFUL that He is really risen!
I remember once going thru Europe on our way back to America for Stateside assignment (The nice thing about working halfway around the world is that any direction you go is the shortest route!). On this particular trip, our boy Trevor, was about 9 and Nathan had just turned 3. Looking back on that time, I wonder, “What was I thinking?” But we were young and energetic and the tickets were there, so what else could we do? Trevor was pretty easy to please, as long as we kept him full of food. Nathan on the other hand was still adjusting to the fact that the Woods family always kept on the move. The only way he could cope was to fix him up with a small backpack (which he called his “pacpac”). As the only consistent thing in his life while we were traveling, it always stayed within arm’s reach of him.
As we pottered here and there on a rail pass, every evening we’d start looking for a place to stay. That was 30 years ago, so there was no internet, and I’ll have to say we stumbled onto some pretty horrible places. But the wise advice of a friend carried us on: “All you need is clean sheets and a lock on the door.”
Each evening when we’d come into our digs for the night, Nathan would clutch his “pacpac”, and ask quietly, “This my home?”
These last two weeks have been a stretch even for US. It started as a simple trip to Bangkok for annual physicals, then morphed into shoulder replacement surgery and a longer than anticipated recovery time while Tony’s blood pressure got stabilized. That took us right up to the time we had already planned to begin a short vacation to see the kids in Australia, so we had to go straight from Bangkok rather than return home first to re-pack. While it’s been great to meet up with so many old friends, and to have the time to touch base with Tony’s discipleship translation team from the Japanese church in Brisbane, we’ve been on the phone for hours changing travel plans, rerouting our trip, checking with authorities (our mission) to make sure we stay within the lines, worrying about the work back home and the doctorate studies that are screaming for attention………..The Thai Orthopedic surgeon who is so lovely even offered us two nights in a 5 star hotel because he has a coupon or something and needs to get rid of it. Those of you who know us would understand that’s like gasoline on a flame, but we had to hang our heads and say, “No, we’ll just go to the mission guest house because we understand that better, and can’t do any more transfers.” At this point, we’ve lost our ‘mojo’ for intrepid traveling.
At the end of each day lately, I’ve been feeling like little Nathan, looking up to my Heavenly Father and asking, “This my home”? I sometimes wonder if Jesus would have identified with Nathan’s angst when He said in Luke 9:58, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
But then, I realize, Jesus never had any real doubt about where His home was. And according to II Kings 19:27, neither is He in the dark about MY home. Granted, the context is way different, and His words were not meant to give His listeners any comfort, but what do you think when you hear God Himself saying, “I know where you live”? Those words are most often heard today from the lips of bullies and gangsters who want to remind their victims that there is no place to hide. But just imagine it from the standpoint of a Child of God, looking for peace and safety in a world lacking in both. “I know where you live.” God knows where I am. He knows what we’re doing and where we’re headed. He knows where my home is, and when I’ll finally get back to it.
Today’s blog comes to you from Reedy Creek, Australia. Next Sunday, Lord willing, we’ll find a place to go online in the quaint town of Toowoomba. Then finally, from “home” back in Tokyo.
As we think together of Easter (this is Palm Sunday) I know Jesus faced some tough days as He entered Jerusalem. He KNEW where His home was, but He had a long road to walk before He reached it. He walked that road to His Heavenly Home so that you and I can one day lay our pakpaks down and declare, “This my home.”
The first twenty years we lived in Japan we had several missionary friends. One family had a bunch of kids that we traded off from time to time, and we watched them all grow up.
A few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of those kids had had a baby and given him a middle name of “Johan”. I commented to Daniel that it was such a coincidence because he might not have realized that Johan was our son Trevor’s middle name. They had been best friends all thru childhood in the city of Sendai, growing up where there were very few little white boys! Trevor died when he was 16 and Daniel struggled to understand the loss, sometimes even coming to our house to vent his frustrations about a God who would let his best friend die…….It’s a tough time to lose a friend to cancer when you’re only 16 and feel invincible.
Anyway, time passed, Daniel kept his childlike faith and grew up. He became a doctor and married a beautiful girl who is also a doctor! Now they explore the world with Samaritan’s Purse, that wonderful organization that really is all about being Christ to a lost world. We worked with SP (run by Billy Graham’s son Franklin) doing tsunami relief work. I especially respect this organization because they’re not ashamed to be doing what they do IN JESUS’ NAME. Somehow a lot of the other charity NPO’s seem to forget to tell the people why they are there which I think is a shame. Anyway, I digress.
The other day, I got a sweet letter in answer my answer to my ‘coincidence’ comment. Here’s what Eliel Johan’s mother, Priscilla, wrote;
Johan: meaning, “God is gracious.” In honor and memory of Trevor Johan Woods, Daniel’s best friend and a young man after God’s own heart… who was such a blessing and gift to Daniel growing up (and to so many more!)… who didn’t have a biological son but, we trust, many spiritual sons… now including Eliel. He died at the age of 16 from leukemia, loving Jesus. I never met him, but his picture hangs on our study wall and I think about him often – and I look forward to meeting him in Heaven someday – to thank him for what he was to Daniel and now to Eliel. Daniel said he would laugh at the thought of Eli’s name – what a joy!
Doesn’t it cause us pause when we think of the influence we can be on someone while not even knowing it? This morning as I was reading in my Bible, I came across the verse in John 12:24-26, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
When Trevor died, naturally we were devastated, but we selected an urn for his ashes that had a sheaf of wheat on it. We believe to this day that Trevor’s “untimely” death had meaning, even though we’ll never know it this side of Heaven.
Today we received word that some friends who are missionaries in China that their 10 yr old son has been diagnosed with leukemia. In an instant we’ve been transported back to that valley of despair with them. Please pray that they will have the strength to walk this road, still showing Christ through it all.
On a happier note, if you’re still reading this rather long blog, I can report that Tony went thru shoulder surgery with flying colors. Perhaps better than me, who worried when he didn’t show up for hours and hours. All I could get from the nurses was “Steer in sur-ja-lee.” A bit unnerving. As it turned out, they did some ligament repair and the like while there were in there anyway, making the 3 hour procedure a lot longer. He is recovering well ….. who wouldn’t in this 5 star Bangkok hospital with nurses flitting around in starched uniforms (and HATS), 5 choices of several things each on the menu, with categories like, “Oriental, Western, Vegetarian, Japanese and our personal favorite, Halal…..” Sigh, we check out today to move to our mission guest house for another 4 days, so that Tony can continue physical therapy. There will be no nurses, maids, menu selection……. Alas, I may actually have to take care of him! ha.
According to our adjusted schedule, this Thursday night we’re flying to Australia to pick up our long-ago-scheduled vacation with the kids and grandkids. We’re excited and just hope there aren’t too many crash tackles from little 4 yr old Isaac or 2 yr old Ezekiel!
Thanks for all your prayers and for being with us thru thick and thin. Remember you never know who you might be influencing right now
Tony has an aunt who is always saying, “At our age it’s just patch, patch, patch.” I quoted this cute phrase to a nurse as we walked Tony into shoulder replacement surgery a number of years ago (Australia, no gurneys there, you are tough and just walk yourselves into the ‘operating room’……….). When I said this, the nurse smiled and quipped back, “And add to that a couple of ‘dodges’ as well!”
As I’m writing you this tonight, I’m happy to report that we’ve both ‘dodged’ the bad stuff successfully for another year. Earlier in the year, I’d had a couple of week scare with the prospect of stomach cancer, but was told after extensive tests that while they didn’t know what was wrong, I was alright. Tremendous relief and praise to God.
We’ve just completed our annual physicals here in Bangkok where we chose to come for ‘vacation’. (you know you’re getting old when your vacation involves probes and needles) They examined the test results I brought with me and determined that they were illegible, but did everything over again and decided that I just have a ‘tricky valve on my parathyroid gland’ and that everything ’should be fine’, so I am once again grateful.
Now Tony wasn’t quite as fortunate. While he’s in robust health, he continues to battle with his inherited arthritis and it appears that the other shoulder will have to be replaced if he wants to go back to moving his arm.
To that end, he will have surgery about 12 hours after you read this. It’s in one of the best hospitals in the world so we’re confident both in the doctors and the care. We’ll let you know how it turns out. I will have another week to enjoy all my Japanese friends here in the city, while “rooming in” with the patient, at least until one of us can’t stand it. Our mission has a guest house that I may use if necessary, so I feel blessed.
We would certainly appreciate your prayers, for thanksgiving that we’re both healthy, and more specifically for surgeons wisdom as well as a speedy recovery. We NEED to be back in Japan as soon as he can travel so that we can again leave the 13th of April for a much anticipated visit to all of you (and especially our kids and grandkids) in Australia.
Talk to you soon, Marsha
This last week has been a busy one. When I sent out the blog last Sunday, we had just returned from several days in the north.
Probably an ‘unusual’ few days in that we visited the Oshika peninsula, showing my visiting sister some of that which was most hard hit by the tsunami. I commented to Tony that just ‘remembering’ what all had happened and everything that we’d been involved with made me tired again……….
Then we went from that sadness directly for that we perceive to be ‘one last visit’ with Noguchi Sensei, our friend who has the bad cancer. He will preach his last sermon to the combined churches of Sendai on March 30th and then return home to his roots and remaining family in southern Japan. His new bride also has family there, so while we understand the wisdom of the move, it still makes us sad to see him leave the place where he enjoyed so many fruitful years.
After that gut wrenching time, we visited two of the churches we had, over the years, some influence in starting, Taitomi and Yoshioka. Unfortunately Yoshioka will have to be ‘retired’ for some time because Noguchi Sensei was the pastor and there’s no one at present to fill his shoes. Taitomi, on the other hand is looking forward to calling a new pastor and starting a new chapter, as everything in Japan rotates around an April New Year.
Then we went on to Chomei ga Oka church where the pastor is the best friend of our son, Trevor. We all held Trevor’s urn, took some pictures, then after greeting several old friends, took one in particular to lunch.
Keiko and her husband were saved right after we got to Sendai 35 years ago. They’re about or age and some of the best lay leaders we know, and have always been good friends. Last October he was carrying some folding chairs upstairs in his home, lost his balance and he fell backwards the entire set of stairs. It was the same weekend Tony fell and broke his ribs, but Tsutomu wasn’t as lucky. He literally ‘broke his head’. Now after 5 months, his body is healthy but there’s nobody home. He doesn’t know his wife or kids……….nothing. Just sits and smiles. A few weeks ago he had a few dramatic enough seizures to land in a specialist hospital 70 miles away indefinitely. Our heart breaks for Keiko, his wife, who says she’ll be strong and doesn’t blame God…….Please pray for her.
So much sadness around us. So many things we don’t understand.
But on a ‘happier note” as you are reading this we’re boarding a plane for Bangkok for a week of catching up with friends from the Japanese church, and while we’re there checking in for an annual physical that’s worth going 5000 miles for. Unfortunately no one pays our way to go there, but since we’re both due for that little examination that civilized countries anesthetize you for……….(not Japan who considers pain to be character building)…..we’re happy to use our frequent flyer points! ha. The other reason we’re going so far to see a doctor is that Tony’s ‘other’ shoulder (he had the right one replaced years ago) is really acting up. One friend described the pain and immobility as ‘becoming a T-Rex”). Depending on what they find, he may have to have surgery, so I hope you’ll be praying about that as well.
After we get back from that trip, we’ll run around here getting Tony’s discipleship course up and running in several churches, and then in a few weeks head for 10 days in the “land down under”……again touching base with churches and Japanese friends but most importantly bouncing my baby boy grandsons on my knee. We haven’t seen them in the flesh for 14 months and that’s WAAAY tooo long.
Tony has just read this and said it’s ‘way too sad’…….But in my defense, as we think about this season of Lent, I wonder if some of our life isn’t a teeny bit similar to what Jesus went thru. I realize that’s a bit presumptuous to compare ourselves with Christ, because I don’t plan on dying on a cross or anything, but really…….How busy was Jesus in those days leading up to the Crucifixion and Easter? He must have been happy to fellowship with His disciples at the last supper, or perhaps was encouraged while explaining to them the future of things, etc. But on the other hand wouldn’t He have had a feeling of sadness as He knew they would betray him and run away, and of course this is not to mention the whole physical horror of dying on a cross. Such mixed emotions.
That’s the analogy I’m trying vainly to make. We are wracked with sadness over the eminent death of Noguchi. He is so ready it humbles us……Tony told him we are still expecting a miracle to which he laughed and replied, “If I live it’ll be a little awkward… I mean, everyone has said goodbye so thoroughly!” We also grieve in advance about the ‘death’ of our friend Tsutomu’s existence and happiness with his wife and family. Such heavy hearts we have.
But as a famous pastor from yesteryear once said, “Friday’s here but Sunday, she’s a comin!
Bless you all as we prepare to celebrate the joy of Easter, even though it may be busy and complicated right now.
Till next week, Marsha
I was reading a book the other day about tipping. Yeah, I should probably be reading more important things, but it’s something I picked up on Kindle for 99 cents, and hey, since there’s NO tipping in Japan, and not much in Australia, I figured I should be ‘informed.’
It was an interesting read, and one particular passage jumped out at me. The author (Steve Dublancia) is talking about a bartender he encountered in LA at a restaurant called “Musso.” Apparently it’s famous, catering to the rich and famous. Maybe that’s why I don’t know about it! ha
The bartender’s name is Manny, and he’s been working there for 25 years. Here’s what the author writes:
“As I sat there sipping my drink, I realized something: while Manny was talking to me, I was the only person in his universe. Even though I was fresh off the street, he was lavishing as much attention on me as he would have on any movie star. He had a great gift: the gift of being present. And this is an ability not too many people have.
“We’ve all talked to people who pretend to listen to us only so that they can think of what they will say next. They might be right in front of us but mentally they’re checked out. Not Manny, He was all there. Two men walked into the bar, and Manny went over to take care of them. For just a moment I was jealous that he was being taken away from me. But after he set them up with their drinks, he came back to me, fully present again. In the center of his world, I felt surrounded by a warm sense of well-being.”
Now don’t get worried, I’m not going to write anymore about bartenders, but Manny reminded me of two individuals that I know.
The first one was a missionary to Japan, Evelyn Owen. She died last year in her 80’s I believe. She had quite a story; from what I can piece together, she was a bit of a modern day “Lottie Moon” who left riches and a sweetheart to go board a boat for the mystery that was Japan. There she labored for 40+ years. Granted, she could be a bit spacey, as in the time she was driving on a Japanese freeway and forgot to bring any money. Having to deal with a foreigner in the first place was particularly daunting, then add to that the challenge of filling out all the forms required for such a situation, the poor toll taker was turning apoplexic. Seeing his shaking hands, Evelyn offered to collect the tolls for him while he did the paperwork, and before he could protest, she stepped up to the window and began taking money from the shocked drivers!
But her 65th birthday had to take the cake – literally. She had a simple retirement ceremony at the church she started, and the next day, with a different dress and flowers, she married her sweetheart from college (now a widower) who’d come to Japan for the occasion. They served together as missionaries for another 10 years before finally returning to the States.
Among her many talents, Evelyn had that gift that the bartender did. She was ALWAYS tuned in to you, and ALWAYS AVAILABLE. If you caught her in the middle of something, she’d drop everything and sit down with you and listen, as if you indeed were the only person in the universe. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons she left behind so many who had found the Lord when she finally retired.
The other “Individual” with that gift is (you guessed it) Jesus. Wasn’t it He who said, in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” And later in Matthew 28, “and surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
That’s what I’m thankful for today… people, and a Savior, who listen to me as if I matter. There is so much “healing” that takes place when you find a genuine listening ear. I pray that I can be that kind of friend to everyone God sends my way today.
And speaking of answered prayers, a good friend of ours who has been battling cancer has just gotten some encouraging reports. Good on ya, Babs! Good on You, God! Thank you both for your hearing ears.