Several years ago it was my privilege to be a part of Billy Graham's Congress on Evangelism in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. After several days packed with these challenging sessions, the 10,000 evangelists there spent one entire afternoon in what was called a Day of Witness. We were given these box lunches and sent across Holland that day to do evangelism in scores of places. And I was asked to be the bus captain for our 40 or so evangelists. Now when I mentioned those lunches to Richard, our bus driver, he was not a happy camper. He didn't seem particularly sympathetic with what we were going out to do - and he sure wasn't going to allow those lunches on his bus. He said, I always end up cleaning up a busful of garbage. The only way we ever got out of the parking lot that day was that I pledged to clean the bus myself.
Ian is an amazing man. If you only know the public Ian, the private Ian is going to shock you. If you only know the private Ian, the public Ian is going to shock you. He's a friend of mine who has been the leader of Youth for Christ's highly effective ministry in New Zealand. As you converse with him, you quickly learn that Ian has a stutter - which sometimes makes it difficult just for him to complete a sentence. While it's noticeable, it's not important. Ian is a godly, magnetic person. But then when you see him in action before a crowd - as I did at a national youth convention with 3,000 teenagers - well, prepare for a shock. I felt bad, wondering how he would communicate effectively to all those kids with that stutter. To my amazement, I discovered there suddenly was no stutter. His speech was perfect, and he emceed and preached flawlessly. That's what's so amazing about Ian - something happens to him when he has to speak well. And to you.
When you grow up in the city like I did, your neighborhood usually has a neighborhood bully. Ours did. His name? Boomer! I don't know if he was born with that name or if he earned that name. All I know is that for the little kids on our block, Boomer was like the original terrorist. He would beat us up for nothing, he'd take our stuff, and generally intimidate us. But one day I got tired of it - he had taken my White Sox cap. Sure, I was just a little guy. Sure, I was no match for him. But I walked boldly down our street to where no kid dared to go - to the corner apartment building where Boomer lived. I went to the back porch, knocked on the door, and asked for my hat back. You say, "My, what a brave little boy." There is one detail I left out - my father went with me. And that made all the difference. See, Boomer was bigger than I was. But my father was bigger than Boomer was!
It's been almost 80 years - but there's something about the sinking of the Titanic that fascinates us. Latest evidence - the incredible success of the blockbuster movie, "Titanic." I've always found the story of the last hours of this supposedly unsinkable ship to be a haunting story. People representing just about all the kind of people that there are, knowing many of them will probably die,facing the reality that, at best, half of them will get into a lifeboat. The ways people handled those terrifying hours on a sinking ship tell us so much about what we are really like.
Waking up early most mornings is not an option for me. If I oversleep, it means missing a plane or a speaking commitment or radio broadcasts or an important meeting. In other words, my clock radio had better work. And it does. Even on the days when many other clock radios don't. Because the power went out during the night, that is. There have been mornings when I have been awakened by my clock radio - and looked over at the other one in the room and seen it blinking at me some time when it was the middle of the night. Now, that clock was plugged into the wall - and sometime during the night the external power supply had failed. Good thing I wasn't depending on that! But mine always comes through - because it's powered by batteries! What keeps it going is inside!
If you've driven across America much, you've probably seen a sign sometime for Wall Drug Store in Wall, South Dakota. They advertise all over the country. I was in Singapore and I saw an arrow pointing west - it said something like "Wall Drug Store 10,000 miles." This once little drug store in an unknown town has grown into a major tourist attraction - some days they'll draw 20,000 people! But it wasn't always that way. In 1931 a young pharmacist and his wife bought the drug store in Wall, this dusty little town on the edge of the Badlands. And for five years, they barely eked out a living. On the verge of giving up, the druggist's wife had an idea. Because of the new Mt. Rushmore attraction, lots of cars were going by - but they weren't stopping. Her idea? Advertise the one thing those travelers needed after driving across that hot prairie - ice water. They put out signs for free ice water, the people began to stop, and the rest is history. Here's what that couple said looking back over the years at the amazing things that had happened - no matter where you live, you can succeed because wherever you are, you can reach out to other people with something they need!
Who would think you'd miss a fleet of big brown trucks? Man, if they say UPS on the side, you'll miss them if they're off the streets for long! That's what America found out when the UPS drivers went on strike. Within hours in some cases, days in almost every case, thousands of UPS customers were in a crisis. I couldn't believe what the strike revealed, that 80 percent of America's packages, at least before the strike, were carried by UPS! Apparently, all the other guys were fighting it out for the other 20 percent. On the first day back after the strike, I'll bet some of those drivers were greeted with a standing ovation by some of their customers, "You're back! We're saved!" What a mess it was, huh? Businesses were almost on the ropes in a few days. They were manufacturing their product, the folks on the other end needed their product. But it wasn't happening. A sender and a receiver aren't enough, if the person delivering it isn't doing their job!
The Garden of the Gods in Colorado is one of the most beautiful spots in America. And God has allowed the Navigators ministry to have their headquarters right there. My first time there was for a national committee meeting, where they worked us very hard. But finally someone suggested a hike to the waterfall. They told me this was some of the most spectacular scenery around these parts. Little did I suspect this was also an initiation for us rookies on the committee. Our walk started out on a nice path that ran next to this roaring mountain stream, and it was really roaring from the recent snowmelt in the mountains. Finally, we walked to this dead-end where there was only a rock wall in front of us. I said, "Where's the waterfall?" "Over there," they said, pointing across the stream. I asked the obvious question, "How do you get to it?' They pointed to this narrow pipe that spanned the stream and they said, "You cross the pipeline." I told them, "You cross the pipeline!" They were expecting me to balance myself on this little pipe and walk across? But that was the only way to get to the incredible beauty on the other side!
Isn't it amazing how intrigued so many people are with the Titanic - 85 years after it hit an iceberg and sank? Two TV mini-series on it, a blockbuster movie, explorations of the wreckage, even sales of pieces of coal from the Titanic. But it's hard to get the picture out of our minds. The proudest ship ever built - the supposedly unsinkable ship - on its maiden voyage, and then the haunting images of her disappearing into the icy waters of the Atlantic. Some 1,500 people died that night! It wasn't that the Titanic didn't try to get help. They set off flares and radioed an S.O.S. - which was picked up by a ship named the California. Historians have generally thought the California was about 20 miles away that fatal night - too far to away to help. That was until we learned exactly where the Titanic went down. Looking at the location of the California that night and the location of the Titanic has revealed an awful historical secret. It turns out the California was only about five miles away! Which means they were close enough to save people - and they just didn't respond.
I met Gary when we were both working with our local high school football team. He was a coach - I was the football. Actually, I was sort of an unofficial chaplain for the team. Gary's basically a happy guy, pretty laid back. Until they come up in the conversation. They are the men who were prisoners of war or missing in action in the Vietnam War. When it comes to the subject of the MIA's who have not been accounted for, Gary isn't laid back anymore. He becomes very intense, very serious. He is one of a number of veterans who are determined to do whatever they can to make sure we do everything we can to locate or account for those missing soldiers. I was at a flag-raising ceremony where Gary participated in uniform. The rallying point of the veterans there was that black flag - you may have seen it. It has the silhouette of a man's head on it - the words P.O.W. and MIA - and a stirring four-word motto - "You are not forgotten."