Read an Excerpt
JUST A MINUTEIn the Heart of a Child, One Moment ... Can Last Forever
By Wess Stafford DEAN MERRILL
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2012 Compassion International, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy sportscaster friend Jerry Schemmel, now the well-known "Voice of the Colorado Rockies," survived the 1989 crash of United Flight 232 at Sioux City, Iowa. Miraculously he emerged safe in a cornfield, relieved and standing clear of the burning wreckage ... when he heard a baby's screams still inside that smoke-filled fuselage. He dashed back into the carnage, followed the cries through the billowing smoke, and rescued a little eleven-month-old girl named Sabrina Michaelson. His story is told in his powerful book Chosen to Live.
As Jerry sat in my office reliving that story for me, I wanted to jump up and say, "Me too! That's what I would have done!"
But would I? Would you?
Nothing grips our hearts more on the evening news, putting a lump in our throats, than watching a firefighter rescue a shivering child from an icy lake—or a bloodied soldier hoisting his wounded friend onto his shoulder and carrying him to safety amid a hail of bullets and explosions. Such acts of selfless heroism cannot be rehearsed or anticipated. That amazing spirit either resides deep within us, or it doesn't. The drama seizes us in an unexpected moment, and we act—or we don't—in just a minute.
There are no second chances, no coulda-woulda-shoulda options. In the instant, heroes seldom know the full significance of what they are doing. In fact, they may never know. Is this child's life a fair exchange for my own? If I die in the process of rescuing her, will she live to achieve more than I might have? There is no time for such thoughts.
When, in retrospect, we learn years later what that child grew up to be, we say, "Wow, thank goodness!" But when we don't know, we should also say, "Wow, thank goodness!" A life is precious for what it is, not just for what it does. The truth is that every child is valuable. They are lovingly knit by their Creator in their mother's womb, one at a time. They are born one at a time. They live and die one at a time. And they can be rescued one at a time, usually by selfless heroes ... notice, usually not by politicians, millionaires, or celebrities, but by ordinary people, with extraordinary hearts.
The Most Vulnerable
When the news cameras zoom back from the face of a specific boy or girl in peril to reveal the masses across our world, however, it is easy (and understandable) to move from empathy to apathy. The sheer magnitude of children in poverty is overwhelming. Most of society, even caring people, feel they can't possibly do all that needs to be done, and so they become paralyzed. They end up doing nothing. The great British statesman Edmund Burke is best remembered for this one sentence: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing."
In this crazy, fast-paced world, it is easy for the weakest, the most vulnerable, the littlest among us to get hurt in the stampede. They need our "just a minute" moment of safety and rescue that they so richly deserve.
That thought came to mind recently when I was driving along an Oregon highway. I came to a row of orange highway cones and flashing signs that said "Construction Zone. All fines doubled. Injure a worker and receive a $15,000 fine and mandatory jail time."
Needless to say, that got my attention. I slowed down and kept a wary eye out for the road crew. The last thing I wanted to do was to get that kind of fine ... and, oh yes, to hurt a worker. Sadly, I believe it was in that order.
This warning was needed because in the everyday commutes of our lives, it is easy to miss the people and things going on around us. Yet these guys in a dangerous zone were concentrating on their construction work and needed the rest of us to watch out for them. They were vulnerable on that stretch of road.
As I cleared the area and sped off, I got to thinking. Isn't that exactly the mind-set we need to hold for the welfare of children in our world today? They are vulnerable to everything dangerous around them. They are concentrating on the busy task of growing up. They aren't yet aware of the hazards on all sides. Looking out for them should be our job.
If a child is around, we should be on high alert, not just to not harm them, but to rescue them when needed and to advance them lovingly in any way we can. Anything harmful done by society racing by should receive double the fine compared to causing the same harm to an adult! That might make criminals pause before robbing a store that has children in it, or breaking into a house where they see toys in the yard. "Oops, better watch out—there are children around here." It might slow down a pervert who is about to sexually molest a minor.
It is the duty of all of us who make up society to protect, nurture, and bless the children entrusted to us. Life, as we've said, has value because it is, not necessarily for what it does. But as a man named Herb Gilbey discovered, sometimes it's both.
ERRAND OF MERCY
WHEN THE SNOW IS FLYING and the wind is howling, you naturally want to stay inside your own warm home. Herb Gilbey certainly did that night back in 1918 as a blizzard roared across South Dakota. He wanted nothing more than to hold a cup of hot chocolate between his hands and look out the window.
But there was a knock at the door. His neighbor, a pharmacist, had come over for some reason. "Come in, come in—get out of the cold!" Herb said as he ushered his friend into the living room.
When the neighbor pulled back the scarf from his face, Herb could tell that he didn't look good. He knew the man had been working long hours, trying to help people all over town as they battled the flu epidemic that was in full force just then. They both had read in the papers that some 20 million Americans had been stricken so far, with thousands of deaths.
"Are you all right?" Herb inquired.
"Yes, I'll be okay," the man answered huskily. "But Pinky"—the nickname of his seven-year-old son—"has got it really bad. It's turned into pneumonia now. I don't know if he's going to make it...." The father's voice cracked as he said this last sentence.
"Oh, no!" Herb replied. "Can we do anything to help?"
"Well ... that's why I came over," the pharmacist replied. "There is a new drug—still kind of experimental—that seems to work pretty well against pneumonia. But I don't have any of it here. The closest place to get it is at the big supply house in Minneapolis. I was just wondering ..." His voice trailed off.
Herb looked again at his neighbor's flushed face. The man was in no condition to attempt a drive of two hundred fifty miles east and then back again. What an ordeal that would be in this weather, even for a healthy person.
But ... he couldn't just let little Pinky succumb. Herb thought for another moment, then said, "Okay. I'll give it a try. What's the address?"
Herb Gilbey went out and got his Model-T Ford started in the cold. It had no heater, but soon he was on the rough, mostly unpaved road anyway, headed for the Minnesota state line. He drove all night through the snowstorm, rarely topping thirty-five miles an hour. By morning, he arrived in the big city, found the supplier, got the medicine, and turned right around to start back to South Dakota.
Herb Gilbey passed away in due time, feeling gratified about his good deed for the neighbor boy. He didn't live long enough to see Pinky reach his full stature on the American stage ... as a U.S. Senator and Vice President of the United States. People by then were calling him by his more proper name: Hubert H. Humphrey.
The child you rescue may hold incredible potential. A small act when the boy or girl is in jeopardy may change the course of history. We never know. Given that uncertainty, we always need to lean toward the side of protection and rescue.
The Humphrey story reminds me of a similar crisis that broke back in the early 1700s, when a cottage in Epworth, England, caught fire. The masterful biographer of John Wesley (known in childhood as "Jacky") opens his book this way:
PLUCKED FROM THE BURNING
THE ROOM SEEMED LIGHT already, yet the bed curtains were closed, and the nursemaid had not yet gotten him up. Jacky lay puzzled for a moment, then put out his head from the four-poster. He saw streaks of fire on the ceiling.
In the lurid glow he noticed that Molly and Anne, two of his sisters who slept in the same great bed with him, were gone, and the other bed, where the nurse slept with Patty and baby Charles, was empty. Five-year-old Jacky ran to the open door. The floor outside was ablaze. He ran back and climbed onto a chest of drawers near the window and pulled at the latch.
Above him the thatched roof of the rectory crackled and burned in the strong northeast wind. Below, a crowd of neighbors were gathered in the yard and were trying to douse the flames. Jacky edged onto the windowsill as far as he dared. He saw a man point up, then call out that he would fetch a ladder.
Another cried, "There will not be time!" This tall, burly neighbor leaned against the wall while eager hands helped a lighter man to climb onto his shoulders. As the heat behind Jacky grew intense, the fellow stood upright, stretched his arms, and plucked the boy out of the window. At that moment the roof fell in, "but it fell inward, or we had all been crushed at once."
They carried Jacky to the house where the family had taken refuge. Apparently Hetty, who was eleven, had been woken by a piece of burning thatch and had given the alarm. Their father, the rector of Epworth, had run to the room where his wife slept apart because she was ill and pregnant. She woke their eldest daughter, and they dashed through the flames to safety.
Then the rector rushed upstairs to the nursery. The maid seized baby Charles and ordered the others to follow, but no one noticed that Jacky lay fast asleep through the uproar. When the rector realized the child was missing, he tried to get up the stairs again, but they were on fire and would not bear his weight. In agony of mind he knelt in the hall and commended John Wesley's soul to God.
But here was Jacky safe and sound, "a brand plucked out of the burning." The Reverend Samuel Wesley, his house in ashes, his books and writings gone, cried out in joy: "Come, neighbors! Let us kneel down! Let us give thanks to God! He has given me all eight children. Let the house go. I am rich enough!"
Had that peasant not found the courage and strength to move close to the heat, becoming a human ladder to lift another up who would snatch a young lad from a burning window ... well, the world might never have seen the great Methodist awakening that John Wesley spearheaded. No doubt that image led to the conversion of many listeners as he retold the story; they came to see themselves in the same danger as little Jacky, except for them it was the inferno of hell. And I assume that peasant surely got a shock when he entered heaven and discovered how many souls were present as a result of his "just a minute" moment.
Sometimes the rescue takes place before the child is even born. I have become convinced that the womb is in fact the most dangerous place on earth to be a child. Sometimes the risk is because of poverty. Sadly sometimes it is merely "inconvenience" that ends a life. In the following case, the endangered child has become a great hero of mine.
HIS PARENTS MARRIED during the Great Depression. Two children quickly arrived—and then, to their dismay, the young couple discovered they were pregnant with a third child before their fourth anniversary. Those were painfully tough financial times, and another child certainly wasn't in their plan.
But ... against all logic they became convinced God had planned this child for them. They chose to have the baby, yet another one—this time a boy. And their son now writes, 'Tm so grateful they did ....Our family came to know a joy in family life that we other wise would never have known." Today, all three of those children are in Christian service. And as the noted preacher and author Chuck Swindoll says, "Because they thought those unselfish thoughts many years ago, I'm able to write these things today."
This would come as no surprise to Chuck Swindoll, but if ever you wonder if God loves little children, notice His accounts of rescues in the nick of time. The Bible records at least three of them.
1. A priest's wife named Jehosheba, truly an unsung hero, snuck into the royal palace and snatched her infant nephew Joash away to safety. Otherwise his wicked grandmother, Queen Athaliah, would have killed him along with all his brothers. Seven years later, Joash was named king and went on to reign for four decades. Really—read it in 2 Kings 11.
2. We don't even know the name of the nurse who swept up Prince Jonathan's little son Mephibosheth into her arms and fled as the royal house of King Saul was crashing to pieces all around him. In her haste, she tragically dropped the child, crippling him for life. But she could so easily in that panicked moment have saved her own neck and left him, just one more to be slaughtered. She didn't. Later as an adult, he was brought to the palace of King David to live the rest of his life in comfort, as a show of David's great love for Mephibosheth's father. This story appears in 2 Samuel 4:4 ... you can't make this stuff up!
3. Finally, there's the great prophet Elijah, who in 1 Kings 17:17–23 wouldn't give up his vigil to bring back to life the dead son of a grieving widow who had been kind to him for a long time. Elijah, no newcomer to miracles, was disappointed that God didn't answer his fervent prayer. But he refused to stop praying for the boy, even though God didn't seem to be listening. He prayed not once, not twice, but three times, and would have prayed more if God had not then intervened and raised the boy to life. (I guess it sometimes takes more than "just a minute.")
Unknown but Hot Forgotten
Sometimes the act of kindness we do for a child, though it takes just a minute, can reverberate for a lifetime. Like the ripples from a pebble tossed into a pond, we may never know how far our action spreads or where it finally comes to rest.
One of our Compassion International staff members in Colorado Springs has a wonderful teenage son. Christopher Dana was a model student, an athlete, and a godly young man. He had a minor curvature of his spine that required a fairly basic surgery to straighten things out as he was finishing up the development of his strong, growing body.
But something that morning in the operation went horribly wrong. In a matter of just minutes, Christopher was left paralyzed. Brokenhearted, I visited him in the hospital. Oh, Lord, what do I possibly say to him? I moaned as I entered the room.
I tried to say the right things that day, and then I prayed with him. Leaving, I wasn't sure I had been much help.
Months passed, and Christopher entered therapy. All of us at Compassion prayed daily for him and his overwhelmed family. In time I started hearing good reports from Sean and Michelle, his courageous parents.
One day, my assistant Angie came into my office, tears in her eyes. "I think you should come see this," she said quietly.
Out in the lobby sat Christopher in his wheelchair. As I approached him, he painfully stood to his feet! His father said, "Christopher has been working for many months with this one goal. He's wanted to come here and show you his ability to walk 900 feet—into your office." They had measured it off with tape on the floor.
Excerpted from JUST A MINUTE by Wess Stafford DEAN MERRILL Copyright © 2012 by Compassion International, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.