I have a good friend in Louisiana. I like to call him “Big D.” He is a very kind-hearted guy with an interesting philosophy on life. He once taught me an important lesson.
Years ago while visiting the third world in Louisiana, Big D offered to take me for a boat ride. I quickly agreed, not understanding all I was in for. It seems he is famous for his boat rides. On this particular day in February it was cold on Lake Pontchartrain. I was unfamiliar with the bogs and curious about housing I was seeing and found it to be fascinating.
After a couple of hours we pulled into a beat up looking joint for lunch. I was unsure if the place met the sanitary codes, even in Louisiana. He assured me it was ok, even for people from “up north.”
I was inwardly shocked as he ordered us a bucket of crawdads for lunch. I remember catching crawdads in the creek when I was a kid but had never considered eating them. My friend was patient showing me how to eat the crawdads. I have to admit they were excellent. He even showed me how to suck the juice, and whatever else might be there, out of the heads. To my surprise this was the best part of the whole affair.
With our bellies full, and the restaurant customers at a greater ease with yankees, we pulled off the dock. The waves were rough on the lake. The sun was shining but the chill in the air remained, creating the perfect day. As I was enjoying all of this, my host let me in on his philosophy of life. “David”, he said, “life is really a series of moments; moments just all kind of strung together.” I swear to you with a belly full of crawdads staring into the setting sun as we scooted across the lake, I knew exactly what he was talking about. I’m not sure it it’s good or bad but I think something fundamentally changed in my perspective on life that day. I have never forgotten it and seem to even live it whether I want to or not. The philosophy has a power of its own that stands independent.
It seems to me that on most every mission excursion I am on, there comes a moment. It is a moment that seems to define in some microcosmic-sort-of-way the entire trip. After many mission endeavors, I have in my head, and I think even in my spirit, a lot of “moments” that are like a string of pearls displaying God’s movement across the world. I had a moment recently while in Asia.
We had been teaching in an underground setting for days but it felt like weeks. The schedule was more demanding than my soft western work ethic was accustomed to. We were teaching several hours each day and preaching each evening. We were in our last session of the meetings. I was tired and could barely stay awake.
The teaching was on the Beatitudes. Extensive time had been spent on this with about an hour devoted to each one of them. My friend was teaching on the last one, “Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” As my friend read this verse she began to get choked up. Her crying was enough that she could no longer continue.
This sort of public display of emotion in Asia is very uncommon, if not altogether inappropriate. She tried to gain control but was unable. I awoke from my daydreaming to see what was happening. Her emotion was being met by only stoic faces. What they could not understand I recognized immediately. As she read this passage aloud to a people who had been imprisoned and beaten for their faith, the truth of it was overwhelming.
I stood to help her. Honestly, I was overcome with the same emotion and was having some difficulty myself. I told them why we were emotional. I then shared that it is very difficult for us to stand before them and teach about persecution. I told them that while we don’t talk about it we knew what they had experienced. I told them it was not only us who knew they had been jailed and beaten, it was known by the whole world. I encouraged them by saying we were not their teachers at this point, but rather, they had taught the entire world the truth of the passage in front of us.
As I spoke, the stoic faces began to break and tears began to flow. They began to explain that they were unaware that anyone knew of their suffering. Their weeping was from a knowledge that not only did we know, but God had obviously seen their suffering. As they embraced us on the way out, I thought that perhaps that day, at that moment, they received the kingdom in a whole new way just as the scripture has promised. It was indeed a moment. I will never forget it.