EDITOR’S NOTE: Visit “WorldView Conversation,” the blog related to this column, at http://worldviewconversation.blogspot.com/ Listen to an audio version at http://media1.imbresources.org/files/120/12056/12056-66753.mp3.
RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Gratitude is the memory of the heart, says a proverb.
If that is true, my heart will gratefully remember some of God’s servants as Thanksgiving 2010 approaches:
— The Christian workers and volunteers who ministered — and continue to minister — to the survivors of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, the flooding in Pakistan and other disasters this year. Volunteers like Tim Dortch, a bivocational pastor from Mississippi. He contacted the International Mission Board the morning after the devastating Haiti quake and offered his help. He was on the ground there within days, helping distribute water, food and medicine. “God’s given me a heart for Haiti,” Dortch said.
— The Southern Baptists who dug deep in tough economic times to give nearly $149 million to the 2009 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions — and who will faithfully give again this year.
— Student missionary Jeremiah Johnson, 21, and mission volunteer Bob Finck, 51, who gave their lives in God’s service this year. Johnson, from Arizona, was killed April 12 in a motorcycle accident in Mozambique while devoting a college semester to work in the African nation. “We’re very proud of Jeremiah,” said his pastor. “He was serving the Lord to reach people who were unreached with the Gospel.” Finck, from Virginia, died Aug. 9 in a car accident during his third trip to Zambia, where he was working with other volunteers to lead a Bible conference and minister to young people. “He was very passionate about Zambia,” said the director of missions at Finck’s church.
— The 60 retiring IMB missionaries honored in May for 1,730 combined years of mission service. Don and Edith Kennedy, for example, worked among university students in Mexico for 31 years. Hundreds of young Christians they mentored now serve as church leaders in Mexico and missionaries around the world. “Change the university and you change the world,” Don said.
— The more than 200 new IMB missionaries appointed this year, including Michael Kim,* who grew up in South Korea. As the eldest son, he held the role of family priest, responsible for leading ancestor worship rituals. But he became a Christian believer at age 16, the first in 38 generations of his family. His enraged parents beat him, threatened to disown him and threw his Bibles into the fire. Kim eventually smuggled a Bible into his bedroom and read it while hiding under the sheets. Now an American, he plans to return to Asia to tell other hungry souls about Christ. “In order for me to hear the Gospel, there was a long flow of blood, sweat and tears of Western missionaries to Korea,” Kim said when he was appointed earlier this year. “As a debtor of the Gospel, I am … heading to Southeast Asia to share the Good News of Jesus.”
— Doris Kelley, colleague, friend and substitute mom to IMB communication staff members for the past 48 — count ’em, 48 — years. In the days before personal computers and e-mail, she typed our edited news and feature stories into a hulking teletype machine to send to Baptist Press in Nashville. Many reporters got to know her during her more than 25 years of service in the newsrooms of annual Southern Baptist Convention meetings. She rarely missed a day of work, always greeted people with a smile, watched over her co-workers with love and took care of business without complaint. She retires in December. Without servants like Doris, many churches and ministries would quickly collapse. I hope we can make it without her; I’m not looking forward to trying.
Someone reminded me recently that God’s grace is His unmerited favor toward us. We sinners deserve judgment, but we receive the riches of His goodness and mercy at Christ’s expense. We also receive the great gift of people who model for us what it means to live in gratitude to God by loving and serving Him. Examples are all around us.
We, too, can live in gratitude to Him — by modeling that kind of love for others.
*Name changed. Erich Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board (imb.org).