In 2004 Victor Yushchenko stood for the presidency of the Ukraine. Vehemently opposed by the ruling party Yushchenko’s face was disfigured and he almost lost his life when he was mysteriously poisoned. This was not enough to deter him from standing for the presidency.
On the day of the election Yushchenko was comfortably in the lead. The ruling party, not to be denied, tampered with the results. The state-run television station reported “ladies and gentlemen, we announce that the challenger Victor Yushchenko has been decisively defeated.”
In the lower right-hand corner of the screen a woman by the name of Natalia Dmitruk was providing a translation service for the deaf community. As the news presenter regurgitated the lies of the regime, Natalia Dmitruk refused to translate them. “I’m addressing all the deaf citizens of Ukraine” she signed. “They are lying and I’m ashamed to translate those lies. Yushchenko is our president.”
The deaf community sprang into gear. They text messaged their friends about the fraudulent result and as news spread of Dmitruk’s act of defiance increasing numbers of journalists were inspired to likewise tell the truth. Over the coming weeks the “Orange Revolution” occurred as a million people wearing orange made their way to the capital city of Kiev demanding a new election. The government was forced to meet their demands, a new election was held and Victor Yushchenko became president.
Philip Yancey writes
“When I heard the story behind the orange revolution, the image of a small screen of truth in the corner of the big screen became for me an ideal picture of the church. You see we as a church do not control the big screen. (When we do, we usually mess it up.) Go to any magazine rack or turn on the television and you see a consistent message. What matters is how beautiful you are, how much money or power you have. Similarly, though the world includes many poor people, they rarely make the magazine covers or the news shows. Instead we focus on the superrich, names like Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey.… Our society is hardly unique. Throughout history nations have always glorified winners, not losers. Then, like the sign language translator in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, along comes a person named Jesus who says in effect, Don’t believe the big screen – they’re lying. It’s the poor who are blessed, not the rich. Mourners are blessed too, as well as those who hunger and thirst, and the persecuted. Those who go through life thinking they’re on top end up on the bottom. And those who go through life feeling they’re on the bottom end up on the top. After all, what does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his soul?”
Source: Philip Yancey, What Good Is God, pages 184-186
In September 1995 Caryl and Charlie Harvey answered an early morning knock upon their front door. Two policemen stood there grimly, passing on the terrible news that their 20 year old son Chad had been found murdered.
Grief stricken they went through the motions of the funeral and life. But as Christmas approached Caryl found herself giving vent to her disappointment and anger with God. He had failed her. Why hadn’t he protected her son as she had so often prayed?
In desperation she prayed, “God, if you care about me, I need a miracle. Otherwise, I think I’ll probably die.” She waited, and that Christmas her miracle came.
One night the doorbell rang. When Caryl’s 13 year old daughter answered it she found a gift but no giver, nor any mark identifying the giver. The gift was a treebranch with apples planted in it and a blue plastic nightingale perched on top. Attached was a piece of paper which read:
“On the first day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
A partridge in a pear tree.
We couldn’t find a partridge,
And our pear tree died,
So you have to settle for a
Bluebird in an apple tree.”
Also attached was a bible verse describing the birth of John the Baptist.
The next evening there was another ring of the doorbell and another gift. Though Sarah, Cheryl’s daughter, raced to the door, she wasn’t fast enough to discover who the mystery giver was. This time there was a box containing “turtle” brand lollies and two Dove brand chocolate bars. The note read
“On the second day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
and included a bible verse about the angel Gabriel appearing to the virgin Mary.
And on it went for the next ten days. The third day were three cornish hens (the French hens had lost their passport the note said); the fourth day there was a cassette tap with songs which had the word “bird” in the title, and a calling card – “four calling birds”; on the fifth day five golden rings were freshly cooked doughnuts; on the sixth day six geese-a-laying were pastel chalk eggs; on the seventh day, seven swans swam across the top of a blue-frosted cake; on the eighth day eight maids-a-milking was a cow candle; on the ninth day nine ladies dancing were 18 gingerbread people decorated as dancers (the Equal Opportunity Employment Act wouldn’t allow them to send just nine ladies); on the tenth day there were ten wooden leaping puppets; on the eleventh day a James Galway tape did for eleven pipers piping; on the twelfth day of Christmas there were twelve drums made out of iced biscuits. And each day there was a Scripture verse preparing them for the approaching holiday.
Caryl found that this was her miracle. For the first time since Chad’s death she had begun looking forward to the next day, wanting to know what would come next. Thinking of that time she says “My miracle. When I couldn’t talk to God, when I didn’t even want to talk to him, he sent my miracle through someone else. God used earthly hands to send it to me, but his fingerprints were all over it.”
Caryl’s experience reminds us that when people are wounded our action can be a miracle to them, helping them find healing and recovery. Indeed, often like Caryl, they are unable to seek God out, but we can become a vehicle of God’s grace to them
Source: based on Caryl’s story as self reported in Christianity Today Magazine, November/December 2001, Vol. 39, No. 6.
Tony Campolo tells the sad story from his high school days of how he failed to truly be a Christian. There was a boy in his class named Roger. Roger was gay. Everyone knew and tormented him for it. They heaped verbal and even physical abuse upon him. One day the abuse reached a crescendo. Five of boys dragged Roger into the shower room, shoved him into the corner and urinated all over him.
Around two o’clock the next morning Roger went down to the basement of his house and hung himself.
When they told Tony, he says he realized he wasn’t a Christian. He knew all the right answers and sincerely believed all the right things and had lots of good moral practises. But Tony didn’t live faith out when it came to Roger. If he had he says he would have stood up for Roger when the others were mocking him, he would have been a friend, and just maybe, Roger would still be alive today.
Source; Reported in Tony Campolo, Let Me Tell You A Story
Charles Plum, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was a jet fighter pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent six years in a Communist prison. He survived that ordeal and now lectures about lessons learned from that experience.
One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”
“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.
“I packed your parachute,” the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!”
Plumb assured him, “It sure did – if your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform – a Dixie cup hat, a bib in the back, and bell bottom trousers. I wondered how many times I might have passed him on the Kitty Hawk. I wondered how many times I might have seen him and not even said ‘Good morning, how are you,’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.”
Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.
Now, Plumb asks his audience, “Who’s packing your parachute? Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day.”
Application: pride. Don’t allow your pride to blindfold you to the people who provide the parachutes in your life, and the lives of others.
Application: encouragement, gratitude. Take time out to encourage and thank the people who provide the parachutes in your life.
Application: community, church, spiritual gifts. Charlie Plumb’s experience reminds us that every community needs every person playing their part if it is to function successfully. Some of those parts will be the glamorous roles, like the fighter pilot, while others will be behind the scenes, out of the way and apparently unimportant jobs like parachute packing. But all are vital.