Iris Richard is a mother of seven children and grandmother of six. She and her husband live in Kenya where they have been involved in missionary work and humanitarian aid projects for the last 25 years. Iris is a nurse and counselor.
The other morning I read a passage from Acts, where Paul, in his farewell speech to the church of Ephesus, talked about living life generously and working hard to make sure to always have something to give to the poor, because it is more blessed to give than to receive.1 Little did I know that I was going to be tested on those very principles a few hours later.
My grandfather, whom I called “Opa,” and I were best buddies. He sharpened my instincts and shared his love for nature during our weekly hikes in the woods.
Each weekend, I eagerly awaited the moment when I was dropped off at Opa and Oma’s one-bedroom apartment in a small town at the heart of Germany’s industrial center.
In a video clip I watched on YouTube some time ago, one of the participants in a panel was talking about a trying time in her life that had led to serious depression. A friend advised her to put together a list of 1,000 reasons for gratitude, so she started keeping track of the good things that came across her path each day, and slowly the tide of negativity turned.
Have you ever felt like life took you down the wrong road, or that things just weren’t meant to work out for you? There was a time when my life didn’t seem to make any sense, like the tangled threads on the back of a tapestry.
A serious case of scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, left me depressed as a child and then heightened the usual teenage worries about the future. By the time I was 15, I was on drugs. It was a wonder that I managed to make it through those troubled years when I couldn’t have felt more lost and helpless. God was the furthest thing from my mind.
Fred was 19 when our paths crossed—a troubled ambitious youth in search of purpose. After leaving home as a teenager, he’d tried many different ways to make a living and had unfortunately made some wrong choices along the way; but there was much potential for change, and Fred was blessed with numerous talents and the willingness to learn.
It was snowing when we packed the last items into the container that was waiting at an appointed lot in an industrial area, almost ready to be shipped. This was the last trip to the container before it left on its journey across the ocean with a load of personal effects and donated items that would help us build our new lives. We’d sold everything we couldn’t take along, moved out of our home, said goodbye to relatives and friends, and were now ready to take off. We were moving to Kenya!
I was caught in one of our congested city’s dreaded traffic jams. The endless line of cars, trucks, and buses was crawling forward at barely a walking pace, while pedestrians, motorbikes, and bicycles managed to make a bit of headway, weaving between the lanes. The polluted air was heavy with the fumes of exhaust, and I felt sick to my stomach. With lips pursed in impatience, I observed the puddle-strewn unpaved sidewalk, still muddy from a recent downpour, and amongst the vendors displaying secondhand wares, fruits, and vegetables on tarps, I spotted a crippled beggar boy, not older than seven, holding out his hand.
I’m someone who tends to go by inspiration, and I’ve long been bothered by my scattered approach to setting goals, so I was searching for an effective way to make it through my to-do list. It seems so easy to pick out the things I prefer doing or feel inspired to tackle first, but unfortunately, this strategy often leads to procrastination, especially since those “favorites” often aren’t the most important or priority tasks. Since the important stuff doesn’t just disappear, I find myself cramming in order to fit everything in.
I was reading the familiar story of the Good Samaritan1 from a well-illustrated cartoon Bible to a group of eight- to nine-year-old Sunday school students. It ended with the question Jesus asked: “‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”2
Before jumping into the day to tackle a long to-do list, I stopped for a half hour of devotional reading, prayer, and reflection. My Bible fell open to Hebrews 11, which is also called the Faith Chapter. As I read through the amazing miracles faith had wrought throughout the ages, I realized that many of these accounts fit into my life as well. Since I had just turned 60, I spent some time reflecting back on the road of faith I have traveled so far, and I came up with my own Faith Chapter: