Sunday, September 7, 2008


Today at church, one of our friends shared an experience that totally impressed me. In our church, the first Sunday of each month is called Testimony Meeting. After a few songs, prayers, and the passing of the Sacrament, anyone who would like to can come up to the microphone to share his/her testimony of the gospel. One of our friends, Brad, felt inclined to share some of his feelings.

First, a little background: Brad had some trauma at his birth that has left him permanently disabled. He walks with a pretty severe limp. He has faced numerous surgeries through out his life. He also has a significant speech impediment that can make it hard to understand him at times. He had a pretty rough childhood. Fast forward to his adult life, he married and had two children - a four-year old girl, and a six-year old boy. His son has ADHD and can be a challenge. About two years ago, kind of out of the blue, Brad's wife decided she wanted a divorce. Even though they share custody of the kids, Brad has them most of the time, as he juggles part-time college with a full-time job at a residential facility for trouble teen-aged boys. He is the type of person who deserves so many breaks in life but never seems to get them. He just keeps plugging along, doing the best he can with a positive outlook.

Back to today: He was sharing with the congregation his feelings of gratitude to The Father for his trials. TRIALS! He related the following story: A few weeks ago, he was dropping his nephew off at home after church (he diligently brings the 11 year-old to church, along with his own two children). As he was slowing down to turn into his sister's driveway, he stopped to let a pedestrian cross the street. The man waited, and Brad motioned for the man to go ahead. The man motioned back, so Brad went ahead and turned into the driveway. As Brad got out to help his nephew into the house, the man said, "Sir, I would like to talk to you." Brad said, it was obvious the man was drunk, and he was rather intimidating looking because he was 1.) covered in tattoos and 2.) very large. Brad has a hilarious, dry sense of humor, and he said, "I thought, 'There's no way I could take this guy if he wanted to do me harm'." He told the nephew to go on in, and he got his own two children out and sent them in, just in case this wasn't a good situation. Anyway, this man basically just fell into Brad's arms, sobbing that he'd lost his wife and children. Brad began hugging him and telling him he, too, knows how devastating divorce is because he has also been through it. The man told him it wasn't because of a divorce, and he began saying he wanted to join them. Before he knew it, Brad was sitting on the curb with this man, this stranger, giving him comfort. He said his arm was around his shoulder, and he was holding his hand, just as he would a small child. The man talked of wanting to end his life because it was too much to bear. Brad continued to show compassion to this broken man. After a while, the man made mention of wanting a cigarette, so Brad told him he would go in the house to find one, knowing full well that he would take that opportunity to call the police instead so they could provide the man the adequate help he desperately needed. As Brad got up to go into the house, the stranger pleaded, "Don't leave me." Brad returned to the man's side to offer him his shoulder and the unconditional love he was deserving of. A few minutes later, three police cars pulled up, as a neighbor had made a call upon realizing what was taking place. He was then taken away to either sober up in a holding cell or to receive mental health care.

Brad didn't tell this story to be boastful - that is not in his character at all. He simply told the story to relay his gratitude to The Father for the life he has been given. He was reminded that so many others have if far worse than we.

Upon hearing the story, I can't help but think, how many of us would think badly of the drunken man stumbling in the streets? How many of us would take the time to speak to him? Or would we come up with some excuse as to why we couldn't? Even more, would we put our arms around him, and embrace him as he hopelessly cried on our shoulders?

I am touched by Brad's humble Christ-like service. He has certainly made an even bigger impression on me. His story made me think of Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus speaks of the day when He returns and will separate the people of the earth as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. The sheep on His right hand are those who have served others while the goats on His left are the selfish, thinking only of themselves.

He tells the sheep (34-40) "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me."

"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?"

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

The last verse is what immediately came to my mind as I was hearing the story -- "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Compare that with what he tells the goats who did not serve others, "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me."

As I've been thinking of this today, I ask myself, "What do I hope to be -- a sheep or a goat?"