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
Ben Chifley spent a decade as Treasurer and then Prime Minister of Australia during and after the Second World War. He died in the evening of June 13, 1951. The same night he died the Australian Government, led by Chifley’s chief politic opponent, Robert Menzies, was holding a gala ball to celebrate the golden jubilee of Parliament. Preparations had been made for weeks for what was to be the grandest of occasions. The ballroom was filled and the party was in full swing when Menzies received news that Chifley had died. He climbed the podium to announce the terrible news. To a hushed room Menzies spoke. “It is my sorrowful duty to inform you that tonight, during this celebration, Mr Chifley, former prime minister and leader of the opposition, has died. I do not want to try even to talk about him, because even though were we were political opponents, he was a great friend of mine and yours, and a fine Australian.
It does not matter about party politics in a case like this. Oddly enough, in Parliament we get to know each other very well, and we sometimes find we have a warmest friendship among people whose politics is not our own. Mr Chifley served this country magnificently for many years. Sorrow of his own people is shared equally by myself and members of the Government. I hope this cruel blow for Mrs Chifley will be softened by the knowledge that there is no Australian who hears this sad news tonight who will not have a tear to shed for a man who has served his country. Indeed, he has served his country and undoubtedly he has hastened his own passing by his devotion to his own land, and indeed, to the people of the world.”
Then asked whether the party should continue Menzies replied, “In the circumstances there will be no more music. I do suggest that you have supper and that we then leave quietly.”
Generous words for a political opponent are not what we expect these days. But Menzies speech reminds us that the power of words to bring healing, hope and encouragement is as great as their power to tear down and destroy. What a pity then that we so often leave the healing words to times of crisis and death, instead of making them to mark of our daily conversation.
Source: Information on Menzies words from Good Weekend Magazine June 9, 2001
The story is told of a theological college in Sydney where a final year student prepared to preach to the students and faculty. It was many years back and it was the custom of faculty to critique the sermon afterward.On this particular morning the Principal of the college stands and says “Mr Jones would have done better to stand up this morning and say ‘I have no word from the Lord’ and then sit down again.”
I’m still not sure whether is truth or legend, and I don’t know what happened to John Jones, whether he went on to become a pastor. But I suspect that those were words of death in his ears every time he ever stood up to speak in public again. Certainly he may have needed critique, but not like that.
here was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Then it gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.
The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say ‘I’m sorry’, the wound is still there.”
Alternate Application – gossip. When telling the story substitute “gossip” for “anger”, but with the same result – the wounds are still there.
A woman once repeated a nasty piece of gossip about a friend. The news travelled, and soon everyone knew the nasty news. The woman’s friend was deeply hurt, not only by the untruths being said about her but by the betrayal by a friend.
The woman who had first passed on the gossip was also wounded, wracked with guilt over the pain she had caused her friend. She approached her grandfather, a man she had always seen as very wise, and asked what she could do to set things right.
“Buy a chicken, and have it killed. Then on your way home, pluck its feathers and drop them along the road. When you have done this come and see me again.”
The woman was somewhat perplexed by this advice but she followed it anyway. The next day she returned to her grandfather. This time he told her to go and collect all the feathers she had dropped on the road yesterday and bring them to him.
“But that’s impossible” she said. “They’ll have all blown away.”
“Exactly” said her grandfather, “it’s easy to drop them, but it’s impossible to get them back. It’s the same with gossip. It doesn’t take much to spread a rumour, but once you do, you can never undo the hurt. But perhaps you can ask forgiveness.”