Most Meaningful Mission

Tommy is a retired air force pilot in our church.  Tommy used to fly the Vice President of the United States, the Secretary of State, members of Congress, and foreign dignitaries all over the world. Tommy is usually one of the first people to volunteer at church when a need arises.  The pilot who is ready for a mission comes out in Tommy.  He is used to carrying out orders and getting the job done. Tommy has flown important people all over the world, but I think that his most meaningful mission was when he flew Clifford.

Clifford had an accident when he was younger and it left him mentally and physically handicapped.  He is a fixture around here with his walking stick, keys, and phone hanging from a cord around his neck.  Clifford is hard to understand when he speaks.  One has to often ask Clifford to repeat himself a few times just to get what he is saying. He moves slowly and walks with a limp.  Clifford will always grab you at church to ask for prayer, or to volunteer to do something.  Many times I honestly have to just nod my head and say “OK, Clifford, that’s good.”  I know Clifford cannot do most of the things he would like to do.  After all, he is handicapped.

In September of 2011, Hurricane Irene hit the North Carolina coast, and our church was called into action with a disaster relief team.  The North Carolina Baptist Men do an amazing job when natural disasters occur in our region and beyond.  When hurricanes, tornados, floods, etc., happen, these men jump in their trucks and go help.  They have very difficult work to do, like cutting down trees, mudding out flooded homes, clearing piles of debris, and helping people who have lost everything.  They do not get paid.  The days are long, and the work is physically and emotionally draining. This mission with Hurricane Irene was not for the faint of heart.  No one would have ever expected Clifford to go.  
But when Clifford heard about the hurricane coming to North Carolina, he wanted to go help.  The normal reaction would be to brush him aside and tell him no.  But Tommy and a few others prayed about it.  They asked the question:  “If God is calling Clifford to help, why shouldn’t we let him go?”  After getting a doctor’s clearance, Clifford was cleared for takeoff.  With Tommy as the pilot and Cliff as his wingman, they left with a small group to spend a week on the coast of North Carolina.  This community had been devastated by the hurricane.

Clifford was the surprise of the trip.  Many had their doubts about how much he could do.  But no one worked harder than Clifford. He was the inspiration for everyone.  All the other volunteers and leaders could not help but be blown away by Clifford’s desire to help others.  When the volunteers got tired, Clifford’s tireless work ethic re-energized them.  If Clifford could do this draining work, so could they!  Many times Tommy tried to get Clifford to take a break, but there he was, slow and steady, determined to make a difference.  The difference was not just in the relief work that was done.  It was in the witness that Clifford had to hundreds of people who were inspired by his heart for those in need.

I think we all need that kind of inspiration. Thanks, Clifford, for inspiring me.  And thank you, Tommy, for investing in Clifford.

Invest in the few, change the world.

Dave Marshall

My Favorite Video

Videos do a great job of telling the story.  This one is my favorite video of a father investing in his son. Did you know that Jesus spent 90 percent of his life in Nazareth around his earthly family?  Live like Jesus. Follow His plan. Invest in your family. Make disciples in the family.

Invest in the few, change the world.

Dave Marshall

“I Can’t Stand Those Trees.”

Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.  The color of the leaves turning is simply stunning.  People from all over the world come to our neck of the woods simply to walk around and look at trees.  The streets and cafes are packed with people admiring the change in season.  Pictured above are some trees right outside my office.  They are Bradford Pear Trees. They have nice white blooms in spring and deep green leaves throughout the summer.  In the fall they have an array of colors.

On Thursday mornings at 7:00 am, I meet up with my friend Ken and he disciples me.  Ken is a very strong Bible student and has a heart for making disciples.  We spend time every week sharing in Bible Study and prayer. Ken is also one of the most intense people that I have ever met.  It is one reason I enjoy being around him, because we are so different.  As we talk, it not unusual for Ken to openly weep over the Bible.  He can also get pretty worked up and even bang on the table.  Recently, as Ken and I began to talk about our week, somehow we got on the subject of trees.  I causally mentioned how much I enjoyed the colors this season…even the trees right outside my office.  Ken actually started getting visibly upset about the Bradford Pear trees.  Not really upset, just intense.  (But if you don’t know Ken, he looks upset.)

Ken said, “I can’t stand those trees.  They are useless!” Ken went off about the trees for one simple reason: Bradford Pear Trees do not bear fruit. They look great. They even have a nice name. But they do not give us anything. They also are not very strong.  In times of storms and snow, it is not unusual for them to crack or for their limbs to give way. Tree experts tell us that they have weak wood and poor branch structure.  In fact, they only last about 20 years, and then they begin falling apart.  Remember that 20 years is not very long for the life of a tree.

Ken went on to talk about the apple trees in our area. Pictured below is an apple tree. Apple trees are actually not that attractive.  They are kind of gnarly and gangly.  Yet apple trees are beautiful to everyone here because they produce fruit.  Our biggest weekend of the year here is the Apple Festival, when tens of thousands of people come to our town to enjoy the harvest of apples.  Apple trees can live up to 80 years, and they provide for the livelihood of many in our community. In fact, worldwide, the apple industry is worth billions of dollars.

Now compare these trees to our own lives with Christ. Am I like the Bradford Pear?  Is it possible that I look good on the outside, but do not bear much fruit? Or am I like the apple tree, bearing fruit year in and year out?  Do I stand strong in the storms of life? Am I making a difference?  Am I being discipled, and am I making disciples?

“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).

Invest in the few, change the world.

Dave Marshall

“The 50 Club vs. Hollywood Marriages”

I have to be honest.  I have a hard time keeping up with the latest current events.  We do not have cable at our house, so I am really not that up-to-date with the latest celebrity news.  However, I could not help but notice the latest Hollywood marriage that only lasted 72 days before someone filed for divorce.   I am not writing this out of judgment.  I really do not know anything about that marriage. I am just sad that this is what makes front-page news.  I would love to give you better news today.

Last week at our church, over 50 couples celebrated being married over 50 years. These couples had weathered the storms of life together by sticking to the commitment they had made to the Lord. We had a fellowship hall full of role models, heroes, and superstars.  The stories around each table were inspiring, real, and very much admired.  Some had lost children.  Many had gone through disease and illness.  Some were still caring for an ailing spouse that week.  Everyone’s story was very different, but there was one common thread to the longevity of each “superstar” marriage.  Each one had a rock-solid commitment to Jesus Christ.  And each person was committed to his or her spouse.

Three couples tied for the longest marriage, which was 67 years.  Miles and Ann were one of those couples. I asked Miles around a table of friends, “Miles, how did you make it all these years?” Miles made some kind of self-deprecating statement like, “Well, somehow she puts up with me.”  Everyone laughed, but do not be mistaken.  Miles is a 90 year old rock star in my book.  Miles has a passion for Jesus Christ. He consistently reads the Bible and he is always in church.  He faithfully attends a Saturday morning prayer breakfast with many of the husbands of the “50 Club.”  Miles leads the singing at the prayer breakfast.  Every week he also writes a poem to inspire us all to draw closer to Jesus.  Miles even volunteered a few years ago to help build one of the Habitat for Humanity homes.  He loves Jesus, he loves his wife, and he loves our church.

Miles and Ann should be on the front page of newspapers, websites, and TV reports around the world.  When I think about my marriage, I have some great role models to look up to in Miles and Ann. So move over Hollywood, and let me introduce you to some real celebrities.  Miles will even give you his autograph.

Invest in the few, change the world.

Dave Marshall