Dear Marketplace Friend,
Most of these weekly columns - my Point of View - are, intentionally, more about your world than about mine. How so?
I try to connect with your life, this week ... rather than my life, last week. My objective is to zero-in on something that may have been on page A7 of your Monday morning paper - read over coffee, first thing up, the first day of your new week - and put a "spin" on it from a biblical frame of reference. That is - and remains - my normal intent.
All to say that today isn't normal. I want to tell you a story that could have been on Paul Harvey's radio segment, if he'd known about it. It is "fresh;" it just happened, "down under," where I'm spending two weeks with Franklin Graham's team. We're doing two evangelistic multi-night weekend events, first in Hobart, Tasmania (under way right now) and next weekend in Melbourne, Victoria.
Hobart has its roots as an English prison outpost, from 200 years ago. The island is - roughly - 200 miles by 200 miles, heart shaped. About 400,000 call it "home," with 140,000 in the capital, Hobart. Any given Sunday, they count less than 4000 people in church in Hobart. Everyone is white, English speaking ... and, with very rare exception, lost.
We had our last get-ready/rehearsal night on Thursday, then launched the event on Friday night. After two nights (I'm writing on Sunday), we've had nearly 7000 people in attendance ... with over 400 who have responded to the invitation to come to faith (with one night to go). The church leaders are thrilled.
On Thursday - during the insider meeting, with a few hundred local folks at the Event Center - they were receiving an offering toward the expenses of the Festival. An older lady came running (literally) to Ross Rhoads, one of our team from America, who had just led a dedicatory devotional. She bee lined to Ross ... and then told Ross her story.
She told Ross that she had no money with her for the offering and he - graciously - reached in his pocket to "loan" her some. "No, that's not what I'm after," she told him ... as she took off her wedding ring. "My husband died about five years ago and I don't need this ring any more. It's just 'stuff,'" she said. "I want you to use this to help with the costs of the Festival." It was a modest gold band with a miniscule diamond ... but it was her most precious possession. Ross resisted ... but took it and thanked Dorothy for her sacrifice.
He led the team devotions the next morning and retold this story ... as he taught from Mark 12. "... Many rich people threw in large amounts, but a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny... Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others..." (v. 41-43). What a powerful contemporary picture of a Bible story ...
It didn't end there. Franklin challenged the team with a great response: from within our group, we "bought" the ring (over $3500 was raised). That amount was put in the offering last night ... and Dorothy was invited to meet Franklin before the event.
She hugged Franklin (out of character, for him!) and told him that, in the first night, her adult daughter (a struggling alcoholic) had responded to the invitation and given her life to Christ along with her friend who had come with her. She was ecstatic. Then, Franklin told her that the team had purchased her ring, given the money to the Festival ... and now wanted to give the ring back to her, for "safekeeping."
She was overwhelmed. She gave up her most precious remembrance of her late husband ("it's just stuff," was her comment!); she brought her daughter, who had grieved her heart. God had great outcomes in mind for her: she got her ring back ... she stimulated a significant financial return, for the Kingdom ... and, she got what mattered most: her daughter's move into a saving faith, that will reconnect her family, in Eternity.
Thanks for indulging me; what a great story ... that you'll not find on page A7 in today's paper (but, it's front-page news in heaven, as we speak!).