We’re Here to Help

Matthew 25:40 ESV – And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me.

     In the wake of the tremendous earthquake disaster in Turkey and Syria I thought it appropriate to give recognition to a special group of men.  Within hours of the earthquake a team of men and dogs departed from Hungary.  These were some of the members of the Hungarian Baptist Aid; Rescue24.
     Hungarian Baptist Aid was formed in 1996 and now has a number of ministries.  One of the earliest was the formation of a search and rescue team.  The search and rescue first formed with a few men who trained their own dogs.  They were so successful in their efforts that the Hungarian Government recognized their abilities and provided the men with Diplomatic Passports.  Having diplomatic passports means that they can travel anywhere in the world where they are needed, immediately without need to make arrangements with the country they are traveling to, and begin their search for victims of disaster upon arrival. 
     Rescue24 departed Budapest Airport, February 6th at 10:30 PM (their time).  Their team consisted of 19 medical and search specialists and 7 rescue dogs. Arriving in Adana, Turkey they loaded 2 tons of equipment onto trucks and traveled 3 to 4 hours to reach the disaster.  Once at the disaster site the team put their dogs to work and began locating and rescuing people trapped beneath the ruins.     For more information you can visit https://www.facebook.com/HungarianBaptistAid and see photos of the team and view videos they have posted.
     You can also visit https://www.hbaid.org/hungarian-baptist-aid and learn more about some of the outreach programs of Hungarian Baptist Aid.

The Woman at the Well

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV:  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 

     In May of 2000, our mission team to Nicaragua had the pleasure of having lunch with Dr. Gustavo Parajón.  During our lunch Dr. Parajón shared a story.  It was a story that I shall do my best to retell here.

     Along the northern area of the Nicaraguan Pacific coast lies the community of Corinto.  Corinto is located on a natural harbor where ships were at anchor and the economy surrounded the business of trade and service. 

      Decades ago a woman boarded a train at Corinto and traveled to Managua to visit friends.  While in the capital city she came upon a man selling Bibles on a street corner (a).  Approaching the man she picked one of the Bibles up and was immediately impressed by the quality of the paper within. 

      When she returned to Corinto she showed the Bible to the others who lived in her home; commenting on the quality of the paper.  She then ripped the first page out of the book and rolled a cigarette with the sheet.  A practice that she continued through the entire Old Testament and well into the New Testament.

      The woman was able to read only a few words and when she came to John 4, she saw ‘Jesús y la Mujer Samaritana’ (Jesus and the Samaritan Woman).  Recognizing only the word mujer (woman), she became curious and she sent someone to fetch a student who lived next door.  Having heard the boy read the story of the Woman at the Well, she sent a message to her friends in Managua; asking to be informed when the man returned to sell Bibles on the street corner.

     When she heard that the man had returned she again traveled to Managua.  Approaching him, she opened her then thin Bible and said, “Tell me what this means”.

     The man spent time with her, explaining the Bible story in detail.  When he finished his explanation of the Bible verses she told him that she too was the woman at the well.  She had had four husbands and that she was not married to the man that she now lived with.  After purchasing another Bible she returned home.

     Her heart was touched by what had been shared with her and changes in her life came rapidly.  She gathered the women who lived in her home and told them they would need to move out.  Her home had been a place of prostitution; frequented by the sailors from the harbor.  She then set out to understand the meaning of the full Gospels found in the Bible.  It wasn’t long until she, herself, began preaching the Word of God and became what Dr. Parajon called, “The greatest Baptist evangelist in Nicaraguan’s history”.

     (a)  At the time of this story, in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic society of Nicaragua, it was difficult for Protestant missionaries to find acceptance in the community.  Selling Bibles on the street corners offered an opportunity to share the Gospel.  

A Lifetime of Service

Romans 12:13 – “Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home.”

     Gustavo Parajón (1935-2011) could have been a successful medical doctor in the United States.  Instead, accompanied by his young bride, he chose to return to Nicaragua to serve the people of his home country. 

     During his lifetime, he was many things to many people.  He was a medical doctor who launched a campaign to rid his country of many common diseases.  Following the massive 1972 earthquake that crumbled Managua, Nicaragua, Gustavo gathered church leaders and together they developed a program that would have a deep and lasting impact on the poor of their country.  After the earthquake, First Baptist Church of Managua found itself without a pastor; Gustavo filled the vacancy.  During Nicaragua’s civil unrest (1978-1989) he visited insurgents and Government leaders alike to promote peace; always traveling without bodyguards.  During the armed conflict in Nicaragua, the Parajón family welcomed refugees into their home from either side of their nation’s conflict.

     His legacy is that of a medical doctor, an American Baptist missionary, a pastor, a peace maker and community organizer.  President Jimmy Carter once nominated Gustavo Parajón for the Nobel Peace Prize and he was awarded the Francisco Morazán Medallion by the Central American Parliament.

     Gustavo rarely spoke of his accomplishments and when he did he downplayed them.  Once, while being interviewed on television in London, the interviewer turned towards the live audience and said, “It’s difficult to interview the most humble man in the world.”

     It is appropriate that a book has been written about his life and his service to God.  ‘Healing the World: Gustavo Parajón, Public Health and Peacemaking Pioneer’, co-authored by Daniel Buttry and Dámaris Albuquerque, was released on January 24th of this year.

Serve Others

Mark 10:45 – “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

     During the months that several of our congregation was working with Pastor Dick Sipe, to seek God’s path for our church, we resolved that we are to serve others.  Pastor Jim’s January 22nd message affirmed that servanthood is a characteristic of a Christian heart.

     Our human nature often hinders our serving.  Too often we think that we need to do something huge for others while failing to recognize that God is in the small things also. 

     Have you ever sat and listened to someone going through trials?  In these moments your presence was serving them.

     Have you ever gone beyond what someone asked you to do simply because you knew it would be helpful?  Your efforts were serving them.

     Have you ever found someone struggling to carry a load. to large to be handled well. and offered to carry part of their burden?  Again, you were serving them.

     Have you ever prayed for someone in need?  You were indeed serving them.

     “And so I know that day is lost wherein I failed to lend a helping hand to some wayfaring friend.”  – Edith V. Bradt,

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hebrews 12:14 – Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

   Today our nation remembers Martin Luther King, Jr.  He was an American Baptist minister and also a prominent figure during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.  

   I think it is fitting that we take a few moments to recall a handful of quotes from his many speeches.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Strength to Love, 1963

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

From a sermon delivered in Selma, Alabama, 1965.

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”
Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway, 1964

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Strength to Love, 1963.