My friend, Jim Brantly stood in front of our church this morning and apologized. Being privy to the incredible family crisis he was (and still is) facing, I was taken aback. What could he possibly be apologizing for on this morning of all mornings? Then, I learned, as I so often do with Jim, that his heart was touched in a way…as it often is…that puts me to shame.
You see, the crisis in his family is the critical and life-threatening illness contracted by his son, Kent Brantly, which has been all over the newsfeeds and even the major news media outlets over the last couple of days. His son, Kent Brantly, who is also someone I consider a friend, has been working for nearly a year with a hospital in Liberia in West Africa. He is a doctor, and for the last several months, his focus has been on the battle to stop the spread of Ebola. And, Ebola is deadly. From the reports I’ve seen, it kills anywhere from 60% to 90% of those who are stricken. Hundreds have died in the last few months, and some of the most at risk are the healthcare workers providing care. In just the last few days, the family learned that Kent had contracted the disease. He was (is) sick, in isolation, and alone (at least from his family) on another continent thousands of miles away. Out of the reach of their loving arms, and beyond anything they could do for him short of prayer.
Can you imagine?
So, for the last few days, Jim (and his family) have been praying…likely like they have never prayed before…for Kent’s recovery. Pleading. Begging. Beseeching. Calling with all of their energy, emotion, and faith on the God they have so long served; asking Him to come to their son’s side and return him to health.
And, in the middle of all of that emotional, mental, and spiritual turmoil, Jim came to realize something. Something that he shared with all of us as he stood in front of the church just this morning. Something that…again to my own shame…I would never have considered if the tables were turned and I was walking in his shoes. Something incredibly selfless.
He realized that he had not been praying for others with that same sense of urgency and fervency. And, his heart ached.
So, at this time when he desperately wants his son to be healed and brought to full recovery, instead of pleading with the congregation to pray for his son, he apologized to the church for his own lack of prayer. And, you could almost see the hearts of everyone in the room going out to him…trying to wrap themselves around him and his family. It was moving. It was powerful. It was REAL. It was what I think God intended. The facades came down. It was the church being real. Really being the church of Christ.
And, of course, we all prayed fervently for Kent.
Once again, I was humbled and amazed by Jim’s simple, heartfelt humility.
That is the kind of family that Kent Brantly comes from. And, that is where he gets his faith and compassion.
Pray for Kent Brantly. Pray for his healing. Pray for his work.
Pray for my friend Jim. Pray for his strength. Pray for his faith in this time of testing. Pray for his whole family.
And, pray for us. All of us. Pray that we can learn to reflect that same humility, selflessness, and faithfulness. Pray that we…wherever we may be…will really be the church as God intended it.