It’s possible

Is it possible for one person to influence a church, a community, a country, even a continent?

Jeffrey O. Brown, PhD, is associate editor of Ministry.

There is a chapter in the Bible that lists the all-stars of biblical history: Hebrews 11. It says these all died in faith and are looking forward to a heavenly city, whose Builder and Maker is God. All the big names are there. Then it mentions people whose names are not listed, but they did awesome acts. It says about them, “Of whom the world was not worthy . . .” (v. 38).

I asked myself, who are these nameless, courageous, faithful people? I think I know. They are people who do not live in the limelight. They may not hold high positions in society or church. They may not have received public awards and accolades, but their influence is often manifested by one outstanding characteristic.

Robin Sharma informs us that leadership is less about a title and more about influence, inspiration, and impact.1 I would say, then, that my sister Anne was a leader, albeit a quiet one. Paul said, “This one thing I do” (Phil. 3:13, KJV). Anne’s one thing was the influence of her capacity to care.

A religion graduate from Newbold College of Higher Education and missionary to Masanga Leprosy Hospital, Sierra Leone, West Africa, Anne sent cards to anyone, for every occasion: birthday, Christmas, Easter. When others forgot, you knew a card was coming from Anne. And not any card—just the right card, selected with uncanny appropriateness and meticulous love. Even my mother-in-law in Bermuda would receive a greeting card from Anne, in England. Who sends cards to their brother’s mother-in-law? 

Anne cared for everybody. She wrote letters that demonstrated her love and passion, and she sent them far and wide. I received a letter from Buckingham Palace that said, “The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were most touched by the thoughtful gift you so kindly sent on the occasion of the birth of their son, Prince George.” A gift? From me? I discovered that Anne had sent them a copy of our parenting book.2 Even royalty was not outside the reach of Anne’s care.

Anne died tragically three years ago. Her last card to us, an Easter card, carried the text, “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25, KJV). It arrived three days after her passing.

It’s not about idolizing persons at their funeral. Edward Kennedy said of Robert F. Kennedy, “My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”3 That’s the one thing of a political leader. What about some Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders who have recently died?4 Don Schneider’s one thing was his contagious love for Jesus. Harold Baptiste’s one thing was his unwavering integrity.5 Samuel DeShay’s one thing was his infectious love of life.

At Dr. DeShay’s funeral, a story was told of his service in the mission field. They brought him a patient with an arresting odor. Dr. DeShay asked, “Did you wash him?” “Yes,” they said. “We washed from the head down, as far as possible.” The smell was strong, so Dr. DeShay asked another party, “Did you wash him?” “Yes,” they said. “We washed from the feet up, as far as possible.” Dr. DeShay then handed the patient back and said, “Now go and wash possible.”

Dr. DeShay’s obituary stated, “He leaves to await the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, his devoted wife, Bernice . . . and in a very special way, the entire continent of Africa.” Is it possible now to influence what people will say about you then? I think it’s possible. Is it possible for one person to influence a church, a community, a country, even a continent? Jesus said, “ ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’ ” (Matt. 19:26, NASB).

1  See Robin S. Sharma, The Leader Who Had No Title (New York, NY: Free Press, 2010).

2  Jeffrey and Pattiejean Brown, A Guide to Parenting: On the Winning Team With Your Children (Grantham,UK: Autumn House, 2003).

3  Edward M. Kennedy, “Address at the Public Memorial Service for Robert F. Kennedy,” June 8, 1968, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, NY. https://americanrhetoric.com/speeches /ekennedytributetorfk.html.

4 See Dateline section, page 27.

5  See Walter Earl Fluker, ed., The Stones That the Builders Rejected: The Development of Ethical Leadership from the Black Church Tradition (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1998).

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Jeffrey O. Brown, PhD, is associate editor of Ministry.

July 2019

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