Lessons from an airplane

Posted: December 20, 2006 in adoption, devotional, family, God, missions, service, travel

Okay, do not let the title of post fool you. I will not spend time talking about the airplane. I will not write of how you are putting faith in a giant piece of metal flying through the sky at 30,000 feet and how if one wire is not properly connected life as you know it could take a drastic change. Wow, now I do not want to fly anymore. I will not talk about all the people it takes to make a successful flight from the pilot, flight attendant, mechanics, air traffic controllers, ramp crew, fuel crew, wing walker, and on and on. I think there is a great lesson there for the church about how each person has a different function but a common goal of helping people reach their destinations safely. I will not discuss those things. Wait, I already have.

I want to share about an experience I had on our way to Ethiopia to meet our son. Our itinerary was to fly from Memphis to Chicago; Chicago to Washington Dulles; switch airline in Washington and fly to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was a smooth flight all the way. When we were flying from Chicago to Washington, Kellie and I were not able to sit together. I thought I would take advantage of the situation by catching up on some reading. I grabbed Blue Like Jazz and opened the book. However, before I was able to read a single word the man sitting next to me began to ask me questions. He sat down and said hello. I said hello in return and then once again opened my book. He proceeded to ask how my day had been so far. I told him it was fine and I stared back into my book. Feeling guilty, I asked him how his day had been. He responded that it was good but that he had a long flight ahead of him. I said “Well, I wish you the best” and began to once again look at my book (I had read about five words so far and I thought I should have been finished with a few pages by now). He did not seem to care that I wanted to read. He told me he was travelling to Liberia to visit his family. I decided to put my book back into my bag and have a conversation with the man.

We talked about Africa and how to communicate cross culturally. We discussed stereotypes Americans have about Africa and Africans have about America. It was a good discussion.

He asked me what I do. I find that question funny because I have no idea what I do. I minister to people whenever I can. I teach classes at church. I do leadership development. I am a student, but not this semester. I do not get paid to work for the church. I decided to tell him that I was a minister. He got so excited. He began to talk about ministry, about how we are all ministers, about how Jesus changes lives. He talked about the need for Christianity in Africa where his family is and in Chicago where he had lived for the last 17 years.

I learned a lot from this man. I was glad to be sitting next to him. He began to tell me what he did for a living. He has a business in Chicago that cleans church buildings. He then began to teach me about discipleship. He talked about how being a janitor doesn’t seem like an ideal occupation, but how he would not change his career. He said Jesus washed the disciples feet because there was a need and everyone thought they were above that job. Jesus served his disciples. He said people come to a church building and sing songs and hear good sermons and attend good events; but they often think they are above cleaning the toilet. He said if Jesus were here today, he would clean the toilet, he would mop up the vomit from the three year old classroom, he would serve because someone needed to serve. He was not above service. In fact his own words were that he came not to be served, but to serve.

I think that is an awesome picture of Jesus. Jesus serving. Jesus wrapping the towel around his waist and washing the disciples’ feet. Jesus grabbing the mop and cleaning up after we get sick. Jesus grabbing a toilet brush and doing the job no one else wants to do. Jesus serving. Jesus loving. Jesus taking a cross and carrying it up the hill to be crucified because of our impurities.

I am thankful for this man. I am glad I had the opportunity to sit next to him. I enjoyed the book once I was finally able to read it. But I am so glad this man interrupted my selfish desire in order to teach me about discipleship. Am I willing to serve? Do I seek only the glory positions? Sure, I love to preach and teach and be out in front – but am I willing to scrub a toilet in the name of Jesus and consider my role just as important as the teacher, preacher, and missionary? Thank you for the lesson, Lord. Teach me how to apply it.

  1. Raskell Party of 8 says:

    I love your heart for God. What an awesome experience. I always wanted to selfishly have those conversations on the airplane, yet I never asked God for it. I guess that is what I need to do is to ask GOd to direct me to the people I need to minister to. I think the thing of service goes for caring for our children (especially us moms or dads who are stay at home). We become invisible sometimes to our children and spouses for what we do daily. Laundry, dishes, vacuuming, diapers, baths, cooking, etc. But I try to remember that this is yet another way to serve others. God is pleased when we care for our young.

    Thank you for your wisdom and love, my brother. You are a man after God’s heart and you inspire me to do more and be more humble and obedient to our Lord.

    I pray for your new family this Christmas. Enjoy the time together!

  2. Daniel says:

    Well said, my dear sister in Christ. Being a parent is often a thankless job. It is filed with challenges and tasks that are not desirable, but it is also so rewarding. Thank you for your added perspective. I hope your family has a wonderful Christmas.

  3. Jason & Nicole says:

    That’s a great story. Thanks for sharing that.

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