Monday, December 05, 2005

This Fleeting Life

A few weeks back I mentioned on a group e-list that I was reading a biography on the life of Bishop J. Waskom Pickett. A pastor wrote me asking where he could find a copy saying, “When I was a young man in ministry I worked in a retirement home and met the Pickett’s. I didn’t know much about them, except they lived in India. They were always very kind to me.”

Admittedly, I, too, had no prior knowledge of Bishop Pickett, but having read his life story I am struck by how fleeting life is and the contribution on this earth, though significant, is quickly forgotten. Pickett, who arrived in India before WWI, was a contemporary of E. Stanley Jones, was the inspiration of Donald McGavran’s work on church growth movements, was a personal friend of Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. Though Waskom did not agree with Mahatma Gandhi, he had intense discussions with the Father of India and met him, at the request of Nehru, two days before his assassination to warn him of the dangers on his life. Bishop Pickett raised millions of dollars for schools, the building of churches and food aid for those starving on the sub-continent in the early ‘50’s. He met several times with President Truman and Eisenhower as a good will ambassador for India.

In today’s market Christianity, where present worth is determined by the size of one’s contribution as a pastor, missionary or layperson in the church, accomplishing great things so that we might receive great credit, often sidetracks us. In his time, Pickett received his just reward, but in the end he and his wife, Ruth, were just nice old people living in an Ohio retirement home.

I am sure the pastor who wrote me now wishes he had appreciated that elderly couple that was nice to him. An opportunity to sit and learn from living history lost forever. Well, not forever, for we will have eternity to listen to their stories and countless thousands more that faithfully served our Lord.