The previous day’s ride of 200 kilometers was painfully fresh in my mind when the alarm made its rude announcement. Time to get up came way, way too early. Just the day before we traveled a mountainous road riddled with craters-size potholes. I rode in the back seat of the small car feeling every hole before it happened, as it happened, and after it happened. Now we were to do the painful, arduously slow journey in reverse.
It was our privilege to visit numerous national conferences in our geographical area of responsibility in a concentrated period of time, but this commitment did not allow us the luxury of staying long in one place. We were constantly on the move. Today we would go from Ukraine to Romania, all in a day’s journey, beginning right here, right now.
Thus, the obnoxious noise of the alarm clock left no option but to move without thinking. I remember how heavy the door was when we emerged from the building, a former Soviet sanatorium. The misty August morning smacked us in the face with a jolt. The silence was as heavy as the fog as we made our way to the vehicle prearranged to drive us back to the airport.
And there she was. Wearing her white baseball cap and offering a smile, she was standing on the curb beside the gray, Russian-made vehicle.
I was incredulous. “What on earth are you doing here? It is way too early for you to be up,” my question breaking the cushion of quiet in the predawn morning.
I will never forget her response: “ I came to tell you goodbye.”
I. Came. To. Tell. You. Goodbye. Her statement redefined friendship for me. In an extremely selfless gesture, she demonstrated love, appreciation, and value in an extraordinary way that touched way down to the fabric of my soul. No fanfare, no flourish…just friendship.
Thank you, Cymp. That August morning in the mountains of Ukraine, you raised the bar of friendship with an act of kindness that is forever etched in my mind.
Again, a shocking noise, this time in the middle of the night, was not nearly so pleasant. Larry and I were in Siberia, near Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake, for a winter Bible conference with our staff serving all across Russia.
The conference was invigorating with its unique outdoor winter activities in God’s glorious creation. The frigid temperatures and the volume of snow only served to enhance free-time activities. Tubing at night down steep hills at blistering speeds, riding snowmobiles through pristine birch tree forests like unto Doctor Zhivago, spinning donuts in vehicles across frozen Lake Baikal, all served to make me feel like a teenager again. Traveling with Larry to minister together to our dear and far-flung co-laborers presented the best of the empty nest.
And then…in the middle of the night…the phone rang. The piercing shrill did nothing to disturb Larry, who slept like a bear in hibernation. This one was for me.
“Debby, this is Matt.” I immediately recognized the voice of my son-in-law, husband of our oldest daughter. This could not be good.
“I am sorry to wake you, but I needed to call and tell you Grace, (our youngest daughter, his sister-in-law), has been in an accident. She is essentially ok, but her car is totaled.”
Distance screamed at me. Every missionary lives with the reality that a phone call can change everything. This one surely did. Forget the conference content; forget the winter wonderland. My world just caved in. My young adult daughter was alone in Denver, alive but traumatized with a totaled car, and I was in Siberia, literally half a world away. Despite modern transportation, the nearest airport was still endless kilometers miles away, and connections were hardly hasty.
Then, without my even hinting, he asked the question for which I am forever grateful: “Debby, would you like for me to get the next plane and go to her? I can do that.”
Tears. “Oh Matt, could you; would you?”
With his answer of “yes” he set himself apart in an indescribable category all his own.
Thank you, Matt. When I felt stranded and helpless, you flew into action. You did the one thing I could not do, the only thing I wanted to do. At your own expense, you flew to Grace to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus. Bless you.
One more. The dark December day was riddled with chaos. The military of The Soviet Union was massing at the borders of Poland, and the entire nation was at the standstill of Martial Law. What came before, and what followed after are details saved for another story. For now, I am compelled to describe an act of kindness demonstrated by my dear friend Gosia.
Our three little children were noisily running around almost unattended to. People were entering and leaving our home like a revolving door. All communication was cut by the government, necessitating face-to-face conversation.
Larry and I were feverishly making plans to fulfill a prearranged commitment to my parents, sharing a European Christmas. Would we be allowed to travel? If so, would there be enough gas? How could we possibly get on the road in time to cross the Polish-Czech border before it closed at 10pm? Threatening unspoken questions hung suspended in the air.
I looked up from the uncontrollable chaos to see Gosia with her husband Roy walking through our tiny door. “I have made a meal for you. You need hot food before you travel.” With that statement she proceeded to open pots of steaming meat and vegetables to minister to our physical need. Where she got the food, I can only imagine. How many military checkpoints she and Roy traveled through to reach us, I can only guess. What she did without to ensure we had enough was never mentioned.
Thank you, Gosia. Your sterling example of commitment has stood the test of time. You taught me that day, “As you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto Me.” Wow. Pause. Thank you so very much.
From these three stories a pattern emerges:
• Kindness trumps schedule, comfort, and personal agenda
• Kindness involves sacrifice
• Kindness speaks a language all its own, and communicates on a level nothing else can or will
• Kindness is defined in a moment, at the very moment it is needed
• Kindness is contagious. I want to be like them!
“Oh God, this Thanksgiving, please make me a person of kindness. After all, it IS a Fruit of Your Spirit.”
Question: What personal act of kindness have you experienced that made a lasting impression?