One small voice can start a revolution

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

They Sent Me to Finish

The Olympic Games, Mexico, 1968. The marathon is the final event on the program. The Olympic stadium is packed and there is excitement as the first athlete, an Ethiopian runner, enters the stadium. The crowd erupts as he crosses the finish line.

Way back in the field is another runner, John Stephen Akwhari of Tanzania. He has been eclipsed by the other runners. After 30 kilometers his head is throbbing, his muscles are aching and he falls to the ground. He has serious leg injuries and officials want him to retire, but he refuses. With his knee bandaged Akwhari picks himself up and hobbles the remaining 12 kilometers to the finish line. An hour after the winner has finished Akwhari enters the stadium. All but a few thousand of the crowd have gone home. Akwhari moves around the track at a painstakingly slow pace, until finally he collapses over the finish line.

It is one of the most heroic efforts of Olympic history. Afterward, asked by a reporter why he had not dropped out, Akwhari says, “My country did not send me to start the race. They sent me to finish.”

Source: reported on Sydney 2000 Olympics website

Water pistols

Once upon a time there was a fire in a small town. The fire brigade rushed to the scene, but the fireman were unable to get through to the burning building. The problem was the crowd of people who had gathered not to watch but to help put out the fire. They all knew the fire chief well – their children had climbed over his fire engines during excursions to the fire station, and the friendliness of the fire chief was legendary. So when a fire broke out the people rushed out to help their beloved fire chief.

Unfortunately the townsfolk were seeking to extinguish this raging inferno with water pistols!  They’d all stand there, from time to time squirting their pistol into the fire while making casual conversation.

The fire chief couldn’t contain himself. He started screaming at the townsfolk. “What do you think you’re doing? What on earth do you think you’re going to achieve with those waterpistols?!”

The people realised the urgency of the situation. How they wanted to help the fire chief. So they started squirting more. “Come on” they encouraged each other, “We can all do better, can’t we?” Squirt, squirt, squirt, squirt.

Exasperated the fire chief yells again. “Get out of here. Your achieving nothing except hindering us from doing what needs to be done. We need fireman who are ready to give everything they’ve got to put out this fire, people willing even to lay their lives on the line. This is not the place for token contributions”

This story was originally told by Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. He was urging us to realise that discipleship to Christ means much more than token levels of support to the church and Good’s mission in the world. It calls for wholehearted and total life commitment.

Source: Story retold from Kierkegaard.

A Fresh Start

Fydor Doestoevsky is one of the greatest novelists of all time. He describes an experience when he was 27 as a turning point in his life. Doestoevsky came from the privileged class of 19th century Russia, but was committed to the liberation of the oppressed working class, the serfs. He joined a revolutionary liberation group, and as a result was arrested in April 1849. Placed in a maximum security prison, conditions were terrible. Doestoevsky slept on a hard straw bed in a small, damp room without much light. For eight months Doestoevsky and his fellow prisoners were questioned and kept in jail.

In October, the prisoners were removed from their cells and led to waiting carriages. They were not sure of their fate, but assumed the sentence would be light. When the carriages stopped, the prisoners were led onto a square and lined up on a gallows. The men were sentenced to be shot; they were given a cross to kiss, the chance to confess to a priest, and then were dressed in peasant shirts and hoods for the execution. The first three men in line were led to some stakes and tied; the soldiers took aim, and held their positions. Then from nowhere a drum roll was heard and a messenger from the Tsar rode in on a horse, with a pardon for Doestoevsky and his fellow prisoners. They were taken back to prison, with the intention they be sent to prison in Siberia.

In a letter to his brother Mikhail, Doestoevsky describes his new outlook towards life. “When I look back on my past and think how much time I wasted on nothing, how much time has been lost in futilities, errors, laziness, incapacity to live; how little I appreciated it, how many times I sinned against my heart and soul – then my heart bleeds. Life is a gift, life is happiness, every minute can be an eternity of happiness.”

In a novel he later wrote, The Idiot, Doestoevsky describes an execution scene similar to the one he experienced. he describes the thoughts of the 27 year old victim as he awaited death, certainly his reflections on his own near execution. “What if I didn’t have to die!…I would turn every minute into an age, nothing would be wasted, every minute would be accounted for…(Part I, chapter 5)

Black Robe

Bruce Beresford is one of Australia’s most successful film directors. Among his more widely known movies are Breaker Morant and Driving Miss Daisy. But one of the most difficult films he has ever made was Black Robe. It told the story of French Jesuit missionaries working among the Indians of Quebec.

The bitterly cold winter weather of Saguenay-Lac St Jean created a logistics nightmare.

But Beresferd’s greatest challenge was not the weather nor accuracy of historical portrayal. It was in making the priest’s missionary obsession believable to film-goers today. According to Beresferd: “He had an obsession with getting people into heaven. This is a concept few people these days take seriously. My job was to convince an audience that this is important.”

 

Source: interview with Beresferd at signis.net

An Ideal for Which I Am Prepared to Die

Nelson Mandela is an iconic figure. Now regarded as one of the world’s great statesmen, he spent decades in prison for his stance against apartheid. He was sentenced in the Rivonia treason trial of 1964. Facing the death sentence he made this statement to the Court:

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”