“In Case Of Emergency…”

img_5947-002img_5947-001Whenever I fly, I try to get exit row seats. As I got on my last flight into Asia, I saw this written on the side of the plane and realized it wouldn’t really matter where I sat. If there was an emergency, I’m supposed to…do what?! The flight attendant failed to say exactly how I was to exit the plane should we plummet from the skies. No mention of any bulkhead cutting tools located under the seats next to the life jackets. No blow torches where the oxygen masks were. I had extra leg room and all the pretzels I could want for the next two hours and I’d just sit there listening to the droning engine, but if there was an emergency, it would take a miracle to escape…

I was in our second training location in this country. In the room were fifty-seven men and women actively planting churches. All of them are working in Buddhist areas. Almost 100% of the people they live among have no idea who Jesus is, and Christianity is at best thought to be a mythical belief in a nameless god.

At the end of our second day, two of our men went to a hospital to visit the family of a man from one of their villages. Three days before this man had slipped into a coma-like state and now the family just sat in the room. People came and went, brought food, sat for a few minutes or hours. Basically, you just sit and talk.

When these two men came, they took their turn sitting. They asked if they could share a true story. It was about a man named Jesus who cared about a girl who had died and cared also about her family. So they told the story of Jairus’ daughter. The oldest woman in the room said this was a nice story, but doubted it was true. If this Jesus was real, why hadn’t they heard of him before? So our two guys started telling other stories – Jesus healing a blind man, Jesus healing a lame man lying by a pool, Jesus healing a boy filled with evil spirits, Jesus healing a bleeding woman.

The two men told me that after about an hour, “They kept listening so we kept talking.” They started sharing the story of the paralyzed man lowered through the roof and how Jesus told the religious leaders he wanted to show them he had authority to forgive and also heal…”And that’s when the man in the hospital bed in the coma sat up and started shouting ‘I’m like that man! I’m like that man! I’m like that man!’…”

The hospital room went berserk! The man kept shouting and was trying to get out of bed! The family was trying to hold him down and figure out what had just happened! People in other rooms and doctors in the hallway came running in because of all the commotion! And everybody was talking all at once!

I asked my two guys what they did. “Well, there were so many people and so much noise, we just left. But we think they’ll let us visit tomorrow.”…

As I got on the plane a couple days later to leave, I saw the same instructions on the side of the bulkhead. Sitting in my exit row, I smiled. If there was to be any possible escape from this plane, it would indeed take a miracle, and I grinned thinking about the miracle of a bunch of Buddhists hearing about a Jesus they had never heard of before, a man in a coma who somehow heard all they talked about for an hour, and a God who wanted to prove to an entire hospital floor that he has the authority to forgive sins or heal or both.

Distance doesn’t matter

It was 4 AM and I heard these dreaded words. “Continue on south for 559 miles.”

Last Saturday I visited my son at his college. Forty-eight hours later I pulled in the driveway back home before my other kids left the house for school and then I went to the office. It’s been six weeks since we dropped our boy off at college. He’s in the film program and loves his editing and shooting and script writing classes. He’s not burned anything yet that I know of in the apartment. He’s doing well. There were a few hard things going on with each of us, though, and we both just needed to see each other, if for no other reason than we’re father and son.

The only thing keeping us from that was fourteen hours of monotonous interstate. Distance doesn’t change the fact that I’m his dad, even if that distance is half of the USA. When my son needs me, I’m coming to him. So I sat in the truck and headed south…

My favorite question in the Bible is in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve are in the Garden and have messed up. Sin for the first time entered the story. In an instant – like when you touch an electric fence – Adam and Eve realized a chasm has been introduced into their relationship with God where there was once closeness and intimacy. And God comes in the Garden. “Where are you?” Yeah, right, as if he didn’t know. As if he was asking for help to find them. As if he wasn’t aware of what had happened. He knew the separation was there and why.

Yet, he came to them…

In a few days I’ll be in an Asian country. In two locations I’ll get to be with former Buddhist believers who are now pastoring or starting churches in this Buddhist country. Many of them describe their previous search for peace as a long journey not knowing where or if it would end. The ultimate goal of Buddhists is nirvana, where suffering and the desires that cause suffering come to an end. It’s an impossibility, a chasm too large for most to imagine crossing. Until they reach nirvana, each man and woman goes through endless cycles of birth and rebirth.

Many of these believers I’ll be with will describe their conversion experience in words that echo God in the Garden. They realized somebody was coming to them when they couldn’t get anywhere themselves. When they realize what a holy God went through to come to them, they are astonished.

But that’s what fathers do. They go to their kids…

When I left my boy Sunday afternoon to drive through the night back home, he gave me a hug and said all I needed to hear. “Thank you, Dad. Thank you for coming.” And I teared up in happiness for our relationship. The distance wasn’t insurmountable.