Tuesday, September 3, 2019

And the greatest of these is love

Hi Folks.  I was rummaging through some old papers today and I found something I had written about years ago.  I don't know why I never shared this story and I am a bit ashamed that I did not.  It is far past time this story was told, so enjoy.

1 Corinthians 13 in the American Standard Version is "But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love."  

I have a friend named Ben who gave his time at a soup kitchen for the homeless.  He was charitable with his time and with his love but he always wanted to do more.  His financial status was mediocre to say the least so volunteering his time at the soup kitchen was about all he could muster.  I must tell you Ben has suffered through some conditioning that would have hardened most men far beyond the effect it has had on him.
You see, one day about 2 years ago, Ben reached out with his heart and decided to make a difference in a person’s life besides just refilling his bowl.  He befriended a homeless man named Arthur and offered him a place in his home, just until he could get on his feet.  Upon completion of his duties that evening at the soup kitchen, Ben took Arthur to his home feeling quite good about the path he was taking.  Arthur also was "feeling the love" so to speak.  Upon their arrival, Ben offered Arthur clean clothes, and a place to bathe.  Arthur, moved by the hospitality and kindness being shown him emerged from the bath about an hour later looking (and smelling) like a new man.  They were both pleased indeed with the way things were going. 
While the two were in the kitchen preparing a snack, Ben's wife, Patricia, came in from her prayer meeting and was introduced to Arthur.  Now Arthur was not an ignorant man and it seems he was quite smooth when it came to dealing with the ladies.  Within minutes, he and Patricia were conversing as if they were old friends.  Ben, not a presumptuous man, was pleased to watch their friendship grow over the next few weeks.
Now!   To make a long story short, Patricia and Arthur made a run to the local convenience store one evening on the pretense of grabbing a snack for the three of them.  The only problem was they didn't stop there.  Nope. These 2 folks found love in the potato chip isle and headed south for warmer weather. 
To say Ben was devastated by this development would be like saying World War 2 was a minor skirmish.  He virtually collapsed emotionally for a week and would not see visitors, take phone calls, or even leave his house.  When he did emerge, he was the Ben we had all come to love and admire.  You honestly could not tell anything bad had happened in his life.
     I saw Ben the day he reentered humanity and his spirits were high.  I exclaimed I was glad to see him and explained I was very worried about him indeed.  Ben just smiled and told me he was sorry for worrying me but he was spending time with the Lord.  When I asked him how he had come to terms with his loss, he looked at me with a look of confusion on his face and asked, “What loss?”  I said, “Well Ben, your wife of 10 years ran off with another man.”  Ben said, “Oh that.  The Lord told me not to consider that a loss.  He says he has plans for me and she was not going to be part of those plans.”   He was so serene in telling me this it left almost no room for discussion.  Needless to say, I was a bit skeptical and decided I would worry about him silently and just keep an eye on him.  
     About a week later, I received a phone call from Ben asking me to come and see him.  I quickly put aside everything I was doing and hurried to his house feeling sure something was terribly wrong.  As I was getting out of my car in his driveway, Ben came rushing out to greet me with all the excitement of a five year old on Christmas morning.  He was talking so fast I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.  I calmed him down and took him back in the house where he began to explain. 
     He was raised in an orphanage and never knew his parents.  Every question he put to authorities at the orphanage was met with the same answer, “We just don’t know anything about your parents or even how you came to be at the orphanage.”  Ben finally gave up trying to find out more about his roots, married and settled down only to find out he could not father children.  Devastated by that news, Ben settled himself with being the best husband he knew how to be and vowed to always give as much of his time as he could to helping others.  
     The next day was his 35th birthday and just before he called me he received a call from the orphanage where he had been raised.  It seems the folks at the orphanage knew all along who his parents were but were not allowed to tell him until his 35th birthday.  His father was a multimillionaire who had left his company to establish a Christian mission in Costa Rica.  Unfortunately, Ben’s mother had died in childbirth and soon after his father had been diagnosed with a terminal and inoperable brain tumor.  Having no other family, his father had made arrangements with the orphanage to care for Ben and follow his progress through his 35th birthday.  At that time, if he was deemed to be morally fit, a fortune of 20 million dollars was to be handed over to him, hopefully to be used to further the mission started by his father and mother.
     Ben was ecstatic.  He explained the mission was set up to take children who were orphaned from all over South America.  He would be directly responsible for seeing to their care and education.  Ben had been handed more children than he could have ever hoped for.
The last time I heard from Ben, he had been in Costa Rica for 20 years.  He was happily married to a good woman.   The two of them and a staff of 30 or so more people were administering the necessary care at that time for over 400 children.  During the previous 20 years, the number surpassed 3000.  I honestly don’t believe anyone on earth could have been happier than he. 
     What went on during the week of seclusion Ben spent in his small house after his wife ran off with Arthur?  Surely the Lord had put his mind and his heart to rest and prepared him for all that was to come.   The charity and love Ben had in his heart was put to the ultimate test and he passed with flying colors.  Because of the love in his heart, Ben was given the means to extend that love and his charity to over 3000 needy children.  The most heart warming part of this story: every one of those children called him Dad.