Category Archives: Spiritual Stories

The Mighty Acts of God

Macau 1993

“The Gift of Hospitality”


A young Chinese woman sitting across the table during our orientation session grabbed my attention. She was obviously a church leader, her smile and overall countenance reminded me of my conception of an angel. I felt compelled to speak personally with her at the end of our meeting.

Macau Woman Healed of Cancer (1).jpg

With the assistance of an interpreter, I spoke, “Please forgive me, but I am so curious. Your peaceful smile obviously reflects a relationship with God! Would it be possible for you to share with me about your faith?” Her testimony left me deeply touched and reconfirmed my belief in the personal nature of God.

“My husband and I have only recently become Christians. We grew up in Buddhist families. After we were married, my mother-in-law stressed the need to worship numerous idols, to burn incense, and to go through the daily rituals involved in ancestor worship. Since my husband and I lived with the family and I was the youngest woman, it became my responsibility to complete these daily religious chores. I began to act more and more religious, but the whole routine meant little to me personally.

Then tragedy crashed down on our family. I don’t remember the doctor’s words. I simply recall the sense of nausea, a deep emptiness, and a weakness that engulfed my whole body upon learning that my husband had cancer. The doctor felt it might be treatable if we were able to secure the proper care in Hong Kong, but living in Macau and having limited finances made that very difficult. We began to recall family members we knew who lived in Hong Kong. After having made a list, we telephoned each one of them to see if it would be possible for us to come and live with them for a few months during the time of my husband’s surgery, treatment, and recovery. Every call resulted in disappointment. Our relatives either had no room, other visitors, or some other reason why they could not receive us as their houseguests. Finally, we remembered our distant cousins, Helen and Luke. When we called their home, their response lifted our spirits—“Yes, we would be glad to receive you as our guests during this time.”


Our family warned us that these relatives were Christian, but what were we supposed to do? My husband’s parents worried that if we omitted the ancestor worship and adoration of the house idols, their son wouldn’t be healed. But the Cheung’s seemed to be the only alternative. So we moved in for our extended visit in Luke and Helen’s home. My husband received surgery and extensive chemotherapy, and for the next two months we stayed in the home of Luke and Helen.

The home atmosphere differed considerably. There were no altars to ancestors. The odor of incense never burned in their home. The dependence upon fortune-telling to try to determine the future simply didn’t enter into their minds. Instead, their religion merged every day with life and decisions in a coherent and logical manner. The Cheung’s faith affected their attitudes and their ethics. Gradually, Luke and Helen began to ask if we would like to share in their time of Bible study together. Gently, they began to pray with us. They offered to pray for the healing of my husband, and somehow we noticed a vitality and faith we had never seen before. More important than the verbalization of their faith was the love they showed to us each day that we spent in their home. They understood our pain and sympathized with our anxiety. They shared in the responsibility of caring that resulted from our suffering. We began to feel closer to them than to our own family. Throughout the entire illness, they suggested that not only was the medical treatment we were receiving important but that we needed to place our trust in the Great Physician, Jesus Christ. The treatment of my husband was totally successful, and now the doctors can find no traces of cancer. Since that time, we’ve returned to our home, but our memories of Luke and Helen’s hospitality, their love, their concern, and their deep faith have not left our minds. Several months after we returned to Macau, we began to attend the Christian church and made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of our lives.


We’ve learned many things we didn’t know before that time. We now know that the Bible does witness that Jesus healed people of every disease and sickness (Matthew 9:35). We have captured the impact of the love chapter of the Bible (1 Corinthians 13). We understand by reading Hebrews 11 that faith is an imperative part of the Christian faith. And we’ve come to understand the importance of the gift of the Holy Spirit in each believer’s life. Our church has taught us that evangelism is a Christian responsibility. We realize as we reflect about our experience in accepting the Lord Jesus Christ, that it was through one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit—the gift of hospitality (Romans 12:13) —that Luke and Helen could most effectively evangelize us and help us to see the validity of Christianity. We praise God for his wonderful grace. We are beginning to pray and ask that he will show us the gift he has given to us so that we can use it to lead others to him.”


Hints about Writing and Storytelling

It is my hope people hearing or reading my stories will be motivated to write and tell their stories. Everyone is a storyteller. Some are just better than others. Think about how many times you say or hear, “I remember,” “You should have been there,” or “Now listen to this.” Those are phrases that indicate the speaker is about to weave a tale of one sort or another.


I used to play a game with my grandchildren in order to tell my stories. I called it “Truth or Fiction.” I would weave a tale and then ask them to guess if it was true or fictitious. This game excited their interest while allowing me to testify to many of the “mighty acts” of God in my life or expose them to some of our family lore. I hoped some of the stories would be etched in their minds and that some of them would take up the family tradition of storytelling.

Our life is a series of moments. They follow one after another in endless succession. A series of moments make an experience. It is fair to say that most moments are hardly discernable and seldom processed. Brief experiences only provide a small effect on our life and are then filed in our subconscious and eventually forgotten. However, important transformational experiences impact our life in one way or another in terms of who we are as a person. As Sue Monk Kidd wrote in the Secret Life of Bees, “Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” The sum of our experiences determines who we are.

Japan and China Pictures group 2 001_2.jpg

We begin to understand why we act the way we act when we retrace our life to identify transformational moments and how we responded to them. It is like walking backward with a personal characteristic in hand trying to find the place or moment where we picked it up. Transitional moments can be negative experiences such as the premature loss of a parent that drove us into a responsibility for our family that we certainly didn’t want or expect. Or, on the positive side, they can be the special attention given by a teacher that birthed our positive self-concept. Every moment carries the potential for a positive or negative impact upon life, but only a few really make dramatic and immediate changes. Most of my writing focuses on such transitions whether serious or humorous.

We All Have Plenty of Pain–Can We Turn It To Gain?

Pain or Gain? Snippet #1
Every human being endures a variety of pains or suffering in his/her life. And, only to a limited degree, does right living endorsed by the discipline of the Christian faith shield us from certain types of suffering. Helmut Thielicke, a noted theologian, says that one of the greatest defects of many Christian leaders is their erroneous teaching that the faithful will not suffer. That is a ridiculous myth. Everyone will suffer–the key is learning to do what is necessary to transform pain into gain. And, everyone would love to know how to do that. Scripture and other sources of wisdom can help. But for today–expect to suffer, but don’t always think that pain is your fault!

Pain or Gain? Snippet #2

Pain and suffering are part and parcel of the human predicament. Focusing on the possible futility of life because of pain and suffering played a part in the birth of nihilism–the unfortunate philosophical position that life has no meaning. The nihilists get lost in the quandary of their suffering and consider life not worth living. The good news is we can find a resting place through our faith while suffering.

Pain or Gain? Snippet #3

The German and Danish words for crisis are angst and angustia, which mean “to be in a squeeze”. Pain puts in the squeeze. The word distress appears 229 times in the Old Testament. In fact the Jews have always been surrounded with suffering. Why should the followers of the most famous Jew be any different? Jesus endured the weight of the world’s sin upon his shoulders. Can you imagine the suffering the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life? It was as bad an end to life as anyone can imagine. Yet, in a matter of 72 hours the angst of pain transforms supernaturally into eternal hope. Now that is going through pain to arrive at perfect gain.

Pain or Gain? Snippet #4

Life is not always a bowl of cherries. Erma Bombeck wrote “Sometimes it is the pits.” Babies get a simple sample when they pass through the birth canal under incredible physical duress, are thrust into an environment where they nearly catch a chill, get their butt slapped by a doctor 40 times their size, have to lay in wet and dirty diapers, sometimes suffer diaper rash, get fed when someone else is ready, have to eat spinach, and sooner or later fall out of bed. They face all of that with little understanding of the word HOPE. But, they make it. I have learned that despite some bad moments, days, and months, the future has incredible possibilities for love, joy, and peace. I plan to hang around for the gain even in the face of pain.

Pain or Gain? Snippet #5

The anatomy of pain and crisis is not easy to summarize, but the crisis of the crucifixion of Jesus outlines a helpful insight to approach pain and grief. The Lord was aware that he was in crisis from the time he arrived in Jerusalem and handled it with the dignity and spiritual stature that we would want to emulate. We have to believe that Jesus walked so boldly through those days of pain because he had one eye focused on the future victory of the resurrection and eternity while the rest of his body endured the pain of the present. Although no pain compares to the burden of dying for the sins of world, any pain we might face is lowered by focusing on the reward of eternal life.

Pain or Gain? Snippet #6

We can identify eight clear stages of pain and suffering.

  1. There is the build-up toward the crisis. (We can see many crisis approaching.)
  2. There is the tremendous weight of the emotional, mental, and physical pain of the crisis.
  3. There is our reaction to the crisis whether depression, anger, denial, shock, immobility, disbelief, lashing out, etc.
  4. There is trying to understand and interpret the meaning of the crisis or pain.
  5. There is an opportunity to not bear the weight of the crisis alone. (Think about who is best equipped to help.)
  6. There is a time to learn and grow from the crisis. (It is actually an opportunity to grow closer to God.)
  7. There is a time to decide upon our response to the crisis. (Try to find scriptures that identifies possible responses.)
  8. There is an opportunity to turn God for hope in what may seem hopeless. (The suffering and then risen Lord reminds us that “Because He Lives We can Face Tomorrow.”)

Pain or Gain? Snippet #7

Here are four concrete ways to deal with a crisis.

  1. We are adequate to face every crisis if we keep up our stability, endurance, faith, and hope. We need to review every crisis in the light of those four resources.
  2. It is ultimately your choice to decide how you will respond best to a crisis. No one should rob you of making that decision.
  3. Hope remains the best aid to enduring a crisis. If we can keep focused on the future that always includes God’s power to give us the maximum victory, there is no way to lose.
  4. Any crisis is best met by taking the crisis to God in solitude and then quietly wait for the healing and strength of Jesus to fill your mind, heart, and body.

The words of the hymn “Trust and Obey” summarize it well.


Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.


Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.


Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.


But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.


Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.


Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in You.” (Psalm 84:11-12)

A Tribute to Colombians–Giving the Credit to Whom It Belongs

God continues to hear the prayers that God will send people to help reap the harvest of souls around the globe. Part of God’s plan involves the movement of the Gospel from one nation to another via missionaries. We can assume that will continue until the second coming. We have come full circle in some countries and are witnessing a new phenomenon in terms of missionary deployment. Nations that were originally the senders, like the United States, are now the recipients of missionaries. The strength of a Christian presence can easily shrink in one or two generations as North Americans and Europeans have witnessed.

Colombian Missionaries and their family members.

Colombian Missionaries and their family members.

Those that hear and respond to the call to work in another culture are the fortunate ones. It is hard to express the honor of such a calling. I can’t say that missionaries are special, but they are privileged. They get to board the ships or airplanes to lands not so different from those the apostle Paul visited. It is their joy to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. Globalization has changed so much of the mystic of traveling to a new culture, but the reality of learning and serving in a new culture remains the same. It actually like living two lives.

The missionary life has its ups and downs, its joys and its sorrows. They have the privilege of sharing in a much larger worldview than knowing only one culture. Just learning one new language opens the doors to more people to whom to witness and form friendships.

Throughout history missionaries have received so much credit for what has happened in taking the Gospel around the world. No doubt they have contributed significantly to the growth of the Kingdom of God. But this is only part of the story. Obviously it is God that elevates preaching and witnessing to the event of salvation.

More than 250 people have now returned from a very significant week in Colombia, South America. It is the second time that General Assembly has met outside the United States. This visit commemorated the 90th anniversary of Cumberland Presbyterian ministry in one of the beautiful countries of the world. Those people fortunate enough to visit Colombia witnessed a diversity of successful evangelical efforts. They sat beside cute impoverished children receiving a hot meal in a hot lunch program. They visited a host of Colombians in the Cumberland Presbyterian senior living center—a nursing home funded by our denomination. They worshiped in one or another of our denominational churches spread over the length and breadth of western Colombia. No doubt they were blessed by what they saw and felt.

One evening was set aside for the missionaries that have served during the 90-year history of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Colombia to be recognized. It was a joy to remember the joys of the past.

The laity and ministers of the two Colombian presbyteries, Cauca Valley and Andes, reach more than 1,200 people for Christ every year. No one can number the thousands of people that Colombian nationals have led to Jesus; their converts are like the sands of the sea. Their disciples are now living on every continent and nearly every country of the world. So in this way we can say that our denomination has carried the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth. We only lack a Cumberland Presbyterian astronaut for the next step into the vast creation of God.

Those of us fortunate enough to have served as missionaries want to express our deepest thanks for everything that pastors and laity have done for each of us. We do not take it lightly that while missionaries often lived in larger houses with more things, drove cars while nationals rode buses or walked, and always worked for a significantly higher salary, our international colleagues loved us as their equal. These brothers and sisters taught us much more than we taught them. We could not have achieved much without their love and hard work. They have walked side-by-side with us as we have shared the Good News and expressed the compassion and love of Christ. What a joy to return to see so many of the people that have enriched our lives.

Missionaries thank God for the privilege to live in countries other than our own. And quite often, we bow in prayer to applaud the courage, love, service, faith, and success of our Colombian brothers and sisters.

“Should You Go or Shouldn’t You?”


The long distance call from the USA was crackling from the bad connection so common in the 1980’s, with repetition I finally got the importance of the conversation.  Mr. Nicks, a retiree from Tennessee, was inquiring about the advisability of spending $1,500 for expenses to do carpenter work at a food distribution site for children in Cali, Colombia, South America where I served as a missionary. I answered quickly, “Please come!  I will send you some details by mail.”

Considerable discussion exists about the value of mission work trips.  People ask, “Should I spend the money for plane tickets and other expenses to volunteer service in a country other than my own or should I write a check for a given project and allow those on the field to hire a national worker to do the same work I would do as a volunteer?  It is a complex question.  The answer to which is not as obvious as one might think!  Actually, as with so many things, both options are valid.

Hot Lunch Program

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that my friend would have spent $1,500 for a mission trip to Colombia, South America.  In those days that same money would have funded 6,000 meals in one of the hot lunch centers.  That translated into a hot meal a day for a year for sixteen children.  On the surface it is obvious the man would have done well to have stayed home and sent his money.  He didn’t!

Instead, he worked from daylight to dark for twelve days building tables and chairs for one of the new centers still lacking furniture.  Again, couldn’t the ten tables and sixty chairs been built by a Colombian providing that person with a job?  On the surface, the man should have stayed in the USA and sent his money.  He didn’t.

Let’s look at the rest of the story as it developed over the next thirty years.  We will never know if Mr. Nicks would have actually sent the full $1,500 plus the money he spent on materials once he arrived.  In most cases it is easier to raise money for mission volunteers than it is for the assigned project. Unpredictable spiritual experiences occur when people travel outside their comfort zones away from family and friends.  Many of their defense mechanisms tumble and they become vulnerable to the movement of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  When this happens, people hear God’s call on their life and make decisions that carry the potential to change their lives forever.  Such was the case of Mr. Nicks.

Volunteer on mission trips face a possibility they will come face to face with the reality that the world is bigger than their own country.  And, such a view causes people to begin to pray, “God bless the world, and not God bless my country,”  or, “Give them their daily bread, and not give us our daily bread.”  People on mission trips expand their worldview so the globe becomes more than a sphere with names written on it.  Specific people literally walk on the face of every globe. No one can estimate or underestimate the number of lifetime of friendships formed between people of different countries during effectively coordinated mission trips.  One twenty-four hour home visit may lead to a lifetime of endless enrichment for the family units involved.

In the case of Mr. Richard Nicks, he returned to his home church of less than 100 people in Tennessee and began to receive a monthly Sunday school offering for hot lunches for the children in Colombia.  Over the course of the next 25 years he raised more than $65,000.  Upon his death his son perpetuates his love for the children by establishing endowment that has grown to more than $75,000, hence providing an annual distribution for the program.

Should you go or shouldn’t you go?

“God, Help Us to Get Off Our Butts! Amen.”

I sat in my study waiting for the first of my six elders to arrive for the session meeting.  Under the Presbyterian form of government the congregation elected a designated number of elders to make the major spiritual and practical decisions on behalf of the congregation.  I knew Dr. Jim would be the first to arrive; he always came thirty minutes early to “shoot the bull.”  He was not your normal church leader.  His transparency appealed to almost all people in our community.  I always said if I were starting a church with just one couple; I would enlist the help of Jim and Elnora.  He would arrive with his trademark cigar hanging from the right side of his chubby lips.

I loved this guy; he almost always supported my vision for strengthening the church and was ready for any innovative strategy for reaching more people for Christ.  New church growth techniques that appeared threatening to many traditionalists tweaked his interest.  I always mused what he might say or do next to entertain me without intending to do so.  Sure enough, the Dr. knocked on the door three times and then entered before I could say, “Come in!”

“Good God, Elnora is going to drive me to drink more than I already do.  I knew he liked to drink a cold beer on occasion and I envied his unwillingness to conform to other people’s religious expectation and mandates.  Jim married his polar opposite.  He was earthy and she radiated aristocracy.  He could be corny and liberal; she was “starched” and staunch.  Both were bright.  Born into the old wealth of Benton County, she raised the bar of her family’s influence by being one of the first to receive an education at an Ivy League school.  She returned from the Northeast and quickly worked her way to top of the county’s school administration.  Her very presence brought dignity to any group—by now her skin reflected years of responsibility; but her elegant dress, carefully applied makeup, erect posture, and Southern drawl pulled your mind to the backyard under the shade of scented Magnolias on a plantation.

Dr. Jim pulled off his Panama straw Fedora with a little pheasant feather stuck under its black band and laid it gently on my desk, totally covering my phone. He sat down with an exhausted groan.  “Elnora is hell-bent on me putting new chains on the porch swing.  The swing is just fine, but she thinks it might not hold under my weight.  You know, I think she lays awake at night thinking of unnecessary things for me to do to keep me away from going to the Elk’s Lodge.”

The guy was significantly overweight especially around his waist. I smirked and said, “Listen, you are probably right about the swing, but if you would drop a few pounds from that expanse hanging over your belt, maybe she would quit ragging you about anything related to weight.  I hate to admit it, but you bring a lot of this on yourself.  I think she just wants to keep you around for many more years.  That would be okay with me as well.  But carrying around thirty extra pounds of sugar day in and day out is not good for the person or his swing!”

“And, by the way, Jim, why don’t you sign your death warrant and tell her that she is the one that needs to take off a few pounds?”

He just scorned hard at me, trying to think of someway to say something ugly, but fortunately another elder, Mr. Pratt entered the open door.

I learned very quickly in my profession that people tend to behave in two time-consuming ways to extend meetings. First, if you allow it, most people will stray from the main point to follow all kinds of paths in an endless forest only to make a big loop and come back to where they began; and second, everyone has an irrelevant personal story they are aching to tell.  I often wondered if some people really wanted to go home from church or enjoyed sitting in an unproductive meeting destined to go no where.  So, after a year of boring business meetings, I set up three non-parliamentary rules:

  1. Personal stories were anathema.
  2. All recommendations for action must arrive in writing on my desk 24 hours before an official meeting.  Non-submitted concerns would be postponed until the following month.  Recommendations had to include a specific plan for accomplishing the recommendation.
  3. No meetings longer than two hours.

Among the five agenda items of the evening, we had a rather heated discussion about strengthening the recruitment of volunteers in the church.  It produced the consensus that the elders had to step forward as examples of the joy of service.  I tried to manipulate the discussion toward some of the leaders actually identifying some of the concrete ways they would serve, besides attending this monthly meeting.  And, they decided I needed to prepare a list of specific responsibilities for current programs that were lacking leaders to present at the next meeting.

The stated rules of the Presbyterian Church require all session meetings begin and end with prayer.  I usually called on one of the individual participants to lead such prayers.  So, I asked, “Dr. Jim, would you mind dismissing us in prayer?”

His prayer was brief and focused:  “God, help us to get off our butts and do what we already know we should!  Amen.”  People left shaking their heads.  I left knowing I needed to buy some softer pillows on which for people to sit.

Blood Stained Glory

It isn’t possible to relate some experiences with the intensity or emotion they deserve.  How can you capture with words the sacrifice people make to secure religious and political freedom?

The incredible history and culture of China dwelled behind dense clouds of mystery for centuries.  The average non-Chinese only imagined the beauty and mystic of the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, or the Terra Cotta Soldiers.  Even Chinese citizens knew little about their country.  Then, Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997), a leader from the peasant class rose to power with Mao Zedong.  After Mao’s death, he led China through the first stages of a market reform that opened some doors to the West while continuing to severely restrict the religious and personal freedoms of his people.

But, the crack for foreigners was wide enough for me to visit a few churches in Mainland China in 1991.  My second stop after visiting a former Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Sha Kai was Guanzhou (formerly Canton) in hopes of finding the gravesite of Rev. Gam Sing Quah.  Rev. Quah, a young convert living in the USA came under a deep personal conviction to plant Cumberland Presbyterian churches in China, and set sail from San Francisco on October 8, 1908 as an employee of the Women’s Board of Missions of the CPC.  By 1923 he had organized eight churches.  He died in 1937 in Canton, leaving the ministry to his two sons—Samuel and McAdoo.


While in Guangzhou we toured the impressive Sun Yat Sin Memorial.  Sun Yat Sin was a revolutionary and the founding father of the Republic of China.  As we sat down in the nearly vacant auditorium, I noticed my guide from Hong Kong become very quiet as we listened to the music played throughout the auditorium.  The tune was captivating even though I could not understand a single word.  When I glanced at my host, tears were gently flowing down her cheeks.  So, I sat and assumed this was a special moment.


Finally, she said, “You know I am really surprised with this music.   ‘Blood Stained Glory’ is the name of the song. Students listened to it for inspiration in the Tiananmen Square in Beijing before the government massacre two years ago. It’s hard to believe the government would allow it played here at this time in our history.”  Later, I would learn the lyrics of “Blood Stained Glory” tell the story of the price paid for freedom, regardless of the country.

Perhaps I’ll bid farewell and never to return, can you comprehend? Do you understand?

Perhaps I will fall and never to rise again. Will you be forever waiting?

If it’s to be so, grieve not, the flag of our Republic has our Blood Stained Glory.

If it’s to be so, grieve not, the flag of our Republic has our Blood Stained Glory.

Perhaps my eyes will shut and never open again, will you understand my silent emotions?

Perhaps I will sleep forever, never able to wake up. Will you believe that I have been transformed into mountains?

If it’s to be so, grieve not, the soil of our Republic contains the love we have given.

If it’s to be so, grieve not, the soil of our Republic contains the love we have given.

The following link plays the music accompanied by shots of the Chinese struggle for freedom.

I sat in silence long after my host left the memorial.  I felt strangely close to a people’s struggle. Mental images of a young man standing in front of an approaching tank passed through my mind.  Few people that saw that display of bravery will forget those moments of tension.   After the young man momentarily stopped the tank, he disappeared into the crowd and to this day no one knows his identity, although some believe he was arrested and killed.  The facts remain unclear.


I could not imagine at the time how critical the Tiananmen experience would be in opening China to the world.  The largest nation in the world would soon become a global political and economic force.  Unfortunately, there are no reliable figures to demonstrate the growth of Christianity in China since 1989, but everyone agrees that numbers have grown significantly. The lives lost in Tiananmen Square were not in vain.  There are still many steps to be taken for full religious freedom to exist in China, but the wall has been knocked down and spiritual liberty is sneaking in day by day.

As I reflect politically, many people have shed blood in every nation on earth in an effort to secure freedom.  No one should underestimate such cost.

But thinking theologically, only the death and spilt blood of the Lord Jesus Christ has the potential to save every person on the globe from remaining estranged from God.  Oh, that everyone would be given the opportunity to receive the gift of eternal life.  And, so, the incredible need for missions.