Have you ever encountered that person? The one who has a spiritual gift and the way they live it out is eerily supernatural. Something from the ether. A distant thinly veiled look into the heavens. That person who says three words and you are bawling? That person who serves in a way that you can hardly fathom? That pastor who preaches a piercing word to a hardened soul and it shatters?
I love those people…
Lake Placid Florida – August 27th
If the sun hasn’t been up for at least three hours I have no business leaving hibernation.
My Patronus is a Sloth.
My hours tend to bleed long into the night, and late into the day.
“But you are wasting your day.” Some say.
“You are wasting your night.” I reply.
Perhaps it’s from the coffee driven Seattle culture where caffeine is as critical if not more important then oxygen. A place where stores don’t close until 2 AM in case you need a post-midnight snack or just happen to be going for an early morning jog.
I rose at 4:30 A.M.
This is it. The road is now our home. Pity that we don’t have a ton of room in the car but it’s a nice first home. Four windows, Air Conditioning, Several Mirrors. A car is a fine place to live for a season. We left the house early because several hours away a nurse was getting off her shift. Instead of going home to sleep after night shift she graciously decided to meet us and chat.
For people like that, I love being a morning person.
It was strange, especially because the sun in Florida does not rise until near 6:30. Two hours of darkness bled out into a beautiful dawn. We drove northeast from the small town of Lake Placid to Panera bread.
Passing palm trees, retention ponds, patchy grass and sand. As we approached Orlando the buildings started to shine. Buses claimed to go to the magic kingdom. I am pretty sure that is Hogwarts. And we drew close to a really fancy new hospital overlooking a chic Panera bread.
When you meet people, especially if you are in the business of meeting people, you run through millions of banal thoughts approaching the meeting “Do we shake hands? Do we hug? Have I met them before? Did I brush my teeth. I wonder when the walking dead is on. Do they like the walking dead? Maybe that’s offensive. I’ll just shake one hand and kind of hug…”
Some people take a couple of hours to warm up. Some bring a warmth and joy that sets the stage for comfort in just seconds.
Momma D (Not to be confused with the absolutely amazing Momma P, The second mother with a letter at the end of her name that I know) greeted us with a warm hug. She was well-acquainted with the other half of this soul, yet I was a stranger meeting a new friend.
We talked and laughed, Emily and Momma D caught up on her kids and the life change that they had been experiencing. And then we presented our Taiwanese Vision. It is normal for us to present and get to educate people on Taiwan, we love presenting, and that is where things went in a new direction. Momma D pulled a big bundle of red, white, and blue rope out of a plastic bag. Red, white, blue… it was the color of the Taiwanese flag. She had a presentation of her own.
“Of course it’s rope.”
And then I felt it. I felt that strange bleeding away of the physical, where a God-bearer stood before us. The environment shifted and I knew the gift of hospitality dwelt among us.
She began to speak of this old missionary story, of a man named William Carey and the Baptist Missionary Society. It was 1792, the world was different. A long time ago being a missionary meant certain change if not death, poverty, hard work, and little credit. It meant everything would change. It was a time where mortality was under the surface of most days. People knew life was short. People knew what we did mattered.
William Carey when gathered with his compatriots saw that India needed Jesus, and if he was to leave on that journey he very well may never come back. “Well, I will go down, if you will hold the rope. And if you promise to hold that rope as long as you live.”
He was speaking metaphorically of going into the mine. The dark and wretched place where coal and energy was harvested. The place where life was cheap, work was hard, and safety was just humoring us. He knew that if someone didn’t hold the rope for him. He would never make it. He wouldn’t spiritually, physically, financially, emotionally, be able to make it. So his friend Andrew Fuller held the rope. He held it for years, through the death of his wife, eight of his eleven children, and working full-time for the BMS. He held that rope with such fervor we should wonder what souls will ever rise to match it.
Momma D had a son who worked at a summer camp running the climbing wall. He would belay people. When they needed to soar he would let go a little and see them rise. When they were falling, he would hold tight and put his weight into slowing the descent.
And then she raised and turned her purse to us. It carried several worn, ragged, and well-loved pieces of rope. She began to tell us stories of the people who had been supported by her and her family. Missionaries reaching tribes. People serving in hard to reach areas. And then we saw the piece of red, white, and blue rope that had been trimmed off.
I couldn’t claim to be stoic, the three of us had tears in our eyes.
Leaving is a somber moment. The journey into the mine is hard, it is rough, it is dark and perilous. Emily and I are leaving everything known and comfortable, in the prime of our lives. Instead of working in coffee shops, living in the same place for more then a few months, we are giving up so much to go overseas. Few people see that or validate it the way that Momma D did.
“Some of us are called to go. Some are called to hold the rope. And I will be holding the rope as long as you need me too. When it is really hard and you feel you need to tug on the rope, call me, talk, and pull on the rope. When you need to soar, I will help you soar.”
We cried. We listened intently, moved by someone who not only understood the role of the missionary, but the role of the church. Here we were, being sincerely encouraged and pushed to new heights by Momma D.
She gave us the rope. A big long piece, hundreds of feet. Some matches. And told us to cut and burn, make little pieces, and invite people to be rope holders. It was beautiful. It was a picture of community and the body of Christ that I have rarely seen.
So we left, hearts full, rope in hand, a new supporter of our ministry. And now we know to ask people to hold the rope, because one of the most fantastic, beautiful, and glorious callings is that of the rope holder.
The belayer of souls.
It is so much more then a check. So much more then reading a newsletter once in awhile. It is holding people up and pushing them forward to reach new heights so that the whole world will one day know Christ.