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WORLDVIEW: Everyday heroes

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — “A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said.

Those who have survived military combat or risked their lives for others will understand Emerson’s meaning. For the everyday rest of us, what is heroism?

My answer: faithfulness. The one who honors a commitment, stays at a task or keeps a promise has become increasingly rare in our culture. People like to keep their options open. They might show up, if something better doesn’t come along. They might do what they say they will do, unless they change their mind. Every belief, principle or relationship seems negotiable. In such times, loyalty shines like a star in the darkness, even if few ever see it.

“[T]he bravest things we do in our lives are usually known only to ourselves,” columnist Peggy Noonan write. “No one throws ticker tape on the man who chose to be faithful to his wife, on the lawyer who didn’t take the drug money, or the daughter who held her tongue again and again. All this [is] anonymous heroism.”

It might go uncelebrated by the world, but God notices.

IMB missionary journalist Susie Rain wrote a piece earlier this year called “13 things mission-minded people do differently that sets them apart.” My favorite is #4: “Mission-minded people hear the voice of God and obey. God will tell you if He wants you to go across the street, to another town, state or country to share about His redeeming love.”

I’ve had the privilege of meeting many faithful missionaries over the years. But when I think of simple, humble obedience, I think of Tom Thurman (now retired). He often called himself a “barefoot boy from Mississippi.” But Tom and his wife Gloria spent more than 30 years loving and serving the people of Bangladesh — years that included massive cyclones, famine, civil war and more human suffering than most can imagine.

“One of the beautiful things is the resilience of the people here,” Tom once told me, looking out over the Ganges at dusk. “They just keep trying, against all kinds of odds — winds, storms, cyclones, floods. A farmer will lose everything he has and say, ‘Well, maybe it will be better next year,’ and plant again. … We’ve just walked along the road with them and helped them carry their burdens.”

He did much more than that, including helping start a major movement to Christ among a large unreached people group. But he loved to walk alongside them, literally and figuratively. A close Bangladeshi friend once walked with Tom for many hours on a ministry errand. Looking down, he noticed the missionary’s shoes were bloody. Tom just kept walking.

There are many Tom Thurmans among IMB missionaries. To keep walking with the people they serve, they need our support more than ever. As the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering season approaches, consider ways you can be faithful in giving to help them continue to be faithful in their ministry.

Then join them. God’s global mission awaits faithful walkers.

    About the Author

  • Erich Bridges