The class was labeled “intensive.” We began on Monday morning, studied together for eight hours a day, and concluded on Friday afternoon. That’s intense. The subject was leadership, particularly, leadership of the church. It was a particularly popular class. Students from multiple denominations and around the globe filled the classroom.
At one point in the week, we discussed in depth the leaders challenge and task of providing hope for the congregation. In essence, leaders may change unimaginable. It is here that faith and hope combine. The New Testament provides Abraham as a great example of hope and faith, “Against the odds, Abraham’s hope grew into full-fledged faith that he would turn out to be the father of many nations, just as God had promised” (Romans 4:18, The Voice). We discussed the topic practically and personally, sharing stories of discouragement transformed into Hope when the Holy Spirit floods the imagination with “God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20, The Voice).
One student did not share the sense of encouragement and empowerment. We talked together for a few minutes at the close of the day. My young friend was from Korea where he had lived all his life. For his lifetime, the demilitarized zone dividing his homeland. “It is hard to hope and have faith when I see my broken country.” We pray together. I asked him to meet me before class the next day.
The next morning I arrived at class early, as usual, and my Korean friend was waiting for me. I carried a burlap bag carefully rolled up and tied with string. As my students watched, I undid the parcel, reached in, and removed a piece of concrete about two-thirds the size of your forearm. I told him, “I picked this up when I visited the DMZ. Tell me about your family on both sides of the divide.”
He told stories of relatives who live North of the DMZ. The family only see and one another across minefields, barbwire, cement barricades, and under the suspicious eyes of men with automatic weapons. He told me, “I pray for my country. I pray for God to reunite my country. But, it is hard to keep on hoping and believing.”
I reached into the burlap parcel a second time this time I am merged with an awkward shaped chunk of concrete that you could just hold in one hand. I told him, “I picked this up when I visited the Berlin wall after it was toppled.”
This young Asian man did not demonstrate emotion, but in that moment the feelings were clear on his face and in his voice, “Thank you professor. Thank you professor. I understand. I see in my heart; God is mighty.”
Copyright © Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.