“Hi, this is Bertha. Sister Rose has fallen again and hurt herself. We’re taking some meals over to her. Pray for her.”
“Sure will, Bertha. Thank you for─”
Clink! The phone goes dead.
Of course she’s in a hurry, I say to myself with a chuckle. That’s Bertha for you. She tries to help so many people.
In my mind’s eye, I can readily see her headed down the road in her old blue Nissan truck delivering those meals. On another day, she is taking milk to a poor family. Or she is out in the field helping her husband and son harvest the crops, knowing the first fruits will go to the pastor. She will have it no other way.
At age 91, just a few months ago, Bertha left us to be with the Lord. Pictures showing her love for others are forever stored in an album in my memory. In addition to raising five children and rising above her own heartaches, she was occupied almost every day of her life helping someone in need.
Many of her family members and friends benefited from Bertha’s care. Even individuals she didn’t know well were often blessed by her efforts to help in some way.
“I only have a fourth-grade education,” she would often say.
“That doesn’t matter, Bertha,” I’d reply. “Look at all the good you do.”
Besides her capacity to care, Bertha delighted in making others laugh. Those of us who knew her well always felt happier after being in her presence.
A short time ago, I walked into Children’s Hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee, and noticed these words in large lettering on the right-hand wall: To have made even one person’s life a little better, that is to succeed.
In my memory’s picture album, just beneath this inspirational quote, I have written Bertha’s name; for at the end of the day, she had succeeded. She had simply loved.
What sacrifices so many people all over the world make in serving others! What love they manifest to show they care!
Not long ago, an elderly missionary named Eddie spoke at our church. We immediately noticed something amazingly visible about him: his whole demeanor radiated love.
As he spoke in a humble, unpresuming manner about the souls who had been won to Christ, I was one of many in the congregation who wept throughout the entire talk. Had he not mentioned a word about the compassion he felt for the people on that foreign field, we would have known it anyway. Love does not hide its face, and it certainly wasn’t hidden in Brother Eddie.
Such love was often displayed while I worked at the Church of God Home for Children in Sevierville, Tennessee. One scene in particular is ingrained in my memory: A strapping 15-year-old boy had just received the devastating news that he could not return home.
The pained expression on his face was more than his housemother, Carolyn, could stand. Someone once said, “The greater your capacity to love, the greater your capacity to feel the pain.” I have no doubt that this housemother felt this young man’s pain. Because he was taller than her, she reached up, put her hand on the back of his head, and gently pulled his head down to her shoulder.
“Go ahead and cry, Chris,” she said. “I will cry with you.”
Together they wept, and together they worked through the sorrow in the following weeks. A couple of years later, when Chris left our program, something was missing. There was no more pain on his face, but only a smile and gratitude that caring houseparents had simply loved him.
I’m reminded also of Clyde and his wife, Annie, who worked at the Home for Children for many years and in many capacities. Every week they tirelessly planned and joined in activities with the children, drove the school bus, managed the laundry room where all the sheets and boys’ jeans were laundered, chaperoned trips, and the list goes on.
In addition, they served as houseparents to several groups of boys. There seemed to be no end to the sacrifices they made, often working extra-long hours.
One day, a small, sad-faced, 5-year-old boy was placed with Clyde and Annie. The child had been badly abused and neglected, therefore creating bad behaviors. At night, sleep would not come─only nightmares. For months, these caring houseparents nurtured this little boy, feeling his deep-seated pain.
Many nights, Annie would lose sleep having to rock the boy to sleep. Eventually, everybody on the campus began to see improvement in the boy’s behavior. The first night he slept without a nightmare, the houseparents were overjoyed. This breakthrough came because two people so loved that they went beyond the norm to help heal a boy from a life of heartache. Today, this boy has grown into a well-adjusted, responsible young man.
Job declared, “I rescued the poor who cried out for help, and the orphan who had no one to assist him; the blessing of the dying man descended on me, and I made the widow’s heart rejoice” (Job 29:12-13 NET). Do not these words befit the selfless missionaries, compassionate houseparents, and servant-hearted “Berthas” of our world? Does it matter that they are ordinary people like you and me? I think not.
At the end of the day, to have loved until you felt another person’s pain, until someone knew how much you cared . . . that’s what really matters.