In the fall of 1978, I was beginning my senior year at Southeastern University. It was also my second year to sing with a tour group called “Joyful Sound” – such a catchy, original name, don’t you think?! Smile.
A young man named David joined our team that fall; he had just arrived in the U.S. from India. His parents were missionaries and he had spent almost his entire childhood in that foreign culture.
Joyful Sound practiced every week and traveled (promoting the university) most week ends. Needles to say, we were all close.
During the long drive back to campus one Sunday evening, I ended up seated near David. As a senior member of the team, I felt it my duty to be magnanimous and talk with the freshman. (Insert false humility cough and prideful chest expansion here. Smile.)
But by the time we rolled onto the campus, I truly was humbled - to the point of tears.
You see, David along with his two younger brothers and a sister, were missionary kids during the days of boarding school education. It was deemed the only educational choice at the time.
This meant that every fall and at the end of each Christmas vacation, all four children were put on a train that took them back to the boarding school they attended. The school was five hours away from their parents.
David quietly and without much emotion, painted a vivid picture for me.
I listened as he told of his mom entrusting him with the care of his siblings. I could hear the youngest brother crying to stay with his parents. I could feel the crush of Indian bodies crowding the platform as the strange, white family huddled together for a tearful farewell. I could sense the coldness of teachers and dorm guardians fulfilling their duties: to educate and keep order.
“Why did they do it?” I asked with a voice choked by tears. “Why did your parents send you all so far away? You were only children. You needed your mom and dad!” I became indignant. (Ah, the luxury of youthful ignorance!)
David looked at me with a surprised expression, “Because, Sheri, they were called to share the Gospel with the people of India. And sending us to boarding school was part of the price of that call.”
Simple facts. No bitterness. Not one tear of self pity. Only a tired patience with my lack of understanding.
The Lord reminded me of David’s story often. In fact, Frank and I stayed in touch with David through the years. When he married and returned to India as a missionary himself, our church supported him.
In 2000 while home on furlough, he pitched the idea that one of our girls should help them as a nanny/home school teacher. Kristin jumped at the opportunity and worked with them in Kodai-Kanal, India for five months.
Fast forward to August 4, 2011. U.S. Airways arena in downtown Phoenix, AZ.
I sat in the middle of some 20,000 people and listened as they announced the guest musician for the offertory. Frank and I watched with pride as our dear friend, David, stepped to the center of that round stage and began to sing.
The powerful strains of “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” filled the rafters of that arena.
The next day as I sat talking with another mutual friend, we celebrated the fact that David had been chosen to sing; such an honor.
Cheryl made the connection for me. She said, “I sat there last night and thought. ‘Oh Lord, your eye was on that little boy every time he stepped on the train to travel far from his parents. You watched over those children as they studied and lived without their mom in that foreign land. You comforted the hearts of those missionary parents. How appropriate that David would be asked to sing, “His eye is on the sparrow. And I know He watches me.” You are so faithful, Lord. And You never forget.’ “
(Cheryl will be writing her own version of this story soon and I hope to link you to it when she does. Smile.)
The end of this story of sacrifice?
Well, David’s parents are still hard at work in Chennai. They are completing work on a Bible translation with study notes for Indian pastors who can’t afford to attend Bible school.
David, his wife and three children serve as missionary evangelists in that turbulent nation.
One brother is a law enforcement officer. Serving God in his local church and raising three awesome young sons to follow God too.
The sister married another missionary kid and they serve as support people for missionaries all around the world.
The baby brother? He and his family are missionaries to Latin America.
We know all these people and they would never refer to themselves as heroes. But we do! We believe they are the real heroes of our day.
Maybe you needed to be reminded today that His eye is on you as well. And although you can’t see the end result right now, trust Him. He always remembers the sacrifice of His children. And He will reward those who serve Him!