Thursday, April 11, 2013

Making a Difference

A young man went to the beach early one morning after a hurricane had passed over the area and
discovered thousands of starfish stranded on the sand. The sun would be blazing soon and any starfish not back in the water would perish. As quickly as he could manage, the young man began picking up starfish and chucking them back into the sea. It was a race against time to save as many starfish as he could. He was only one person and there were so many starfish. His efforts seemed futile. The young man worked for an hour and still the beach for as far as he could see was littered with the dying animals.

It was then that he noticed a woman on her morning run, jogging toward him. “You’re fighting a losing battle,” she called over the sound of the surf. “You’ll never save them all. You’re wasting your time. You really think you’re going to make a difference here?”

The young man reached down, picked up another starfish and threw it as far as he could out into the waves. He watched it sail through the air and plop into the water. “I made a difference to that one,” he replied. 

Next week marks the half-way point of our mission. With one more year left to serve the military folks in Jacksonville, Florida, now is a good time to take stock of our efforts. Unlike the proselyting missionaries, there is no manual for what we do as service missionaries. We are constantly looking for how we can reach out in meaningful ways to love, encourage, lift, console, and roll up our sleeves to help. As we’ve loved and served others we’ve gained many “sons” and “daughters” here and cherish them as our own. 

If we left Florida tomorrow would I consider our mission successful? Are there others whose lives we could have made a little easier? For our servicemen and women the need is great. Navy life is a challenge under the best conditions. Could we have worked longer, harder, smarter? Could we have been more creative, more dedicated, more selfless? 

Have we made a difference here?

Discouragement sometimes hisses that we should have accomplished more. I’m occasionally shadowed by the feeling that we might not have done all we could have done. We are only two and there are so many that need to be reached. 

Have our puny efforts – helping that family move out of base housing, taking that young mother and her baby to the emergency room in the middle of the night, welcoming home that sailor from deployment, running a 5K with that Marine Corp teen, bringing dinner to that family, teaching scuba to those servicemen who struggle with PTSD, visiting that Navy corpsman in the mental hospital – have these efforts in behalf of the relatively few in our circle of influence really made a difference?

A wise local church leader counseled us early on this mission that whatever we do here, Christ will magnify our efforts. He carries the baton the rest of the way for us when we run our leg of the race, even if we are not the fastest, strongest, or the smartest. He completes us.

So, with our Savior guiding our efforts, I believe to that young couple we helped move from their house on base; to that Navy chaplain whose family was far away when we greeted his ship after his long deployment; to that soldier struggling with PTSD who I taught to scuba dive; to that recovering alcoholic sailor we loved as our own son – yes, we made a difference. 

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1 comment:

  1. You sure made a difference to this starfish!


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