Published January 1, 2009
The world may be divided into two separate groups, givers and takers. We can see this from our own personal experiences. Certainly, I saw this on my recent mission trip to Russia.
Michael Gravette, Jon Duncan, and I traveled to Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia for meetings with our missionaries to consider the possibility of establishing a mission partnership with these two incredible cities. The meetings went very well and I anticipate that in 2010, Georgia Baptists will enter a partnership with these significant locations where we will work closely and in support of our Southern Baptist missionaries there.
While there, we traveled the public transportation system. Most of our travel was on the subway system in both cities. I was told that Moscow has a population of approximately 15 million and that about 10 million of them ride the subway on a daily basis. I believe it! In fact, I think they were all on my car.
I have never experienced such a mass of humanity. My first thought was, “If I fall in this rush, I will be trampled to death.” My second thought was, “There is no way I can fall. I am packed in and surrounded tightly with people. There is no way to fall!” The press of the crowd was not something I had ever experienced and will not forget.
The missionaries cautioned us that while the subways in Moscow are pretty safe from pickpockets, this is not the case in St. Petersburg. So, while traveling the system in St. Petersburg, we were especially watchful. Unfortunately, that did not prevent what happened one night as we were in the process of changing trains.
There were four of us traveling together, Buck Burch, Jon Duncan, Michael Gravette, and myself. As the train stopped and the doors opened, we moved quickly in and were being pushed from behind. This is not unusual. What was unusual and raised a flag were the two guys inside the car who came at us while we were being pushed in from behind.
In a matter of two seconds, it was all over. The two guys in front acted to distract us and the guy pushing from behind, acting as though he had fallen, reached up under Jon’s coat and lifted his wallet. The guy behind was the one we could not clearly identify. Buck challenged the two guys in front and both of them said, “We don’t have your wallet. You can search us if you want to.” After Buck informed them, in perfect Russian, that he could identify them and would go directly to the police, we got off the train.
Fortunately, Jon only had $20 US in his wallet. Of course he didn’t have any money! He was traveling with “Daddy Warbucks” as I am so lovingly referred to by “some” of our staff. On the other hand, he did have his credit cards in his wallet.
What happened next was truly amazing and Buck said, was unprecedented. While we were standing in the corridor calling Jon’s credit card companies to cancel his cards, the thieves changed trains down at the next station and when their train came back up the other side of the corridor and stopped to take on passengers, the thieves threw Jon’s wallet back at him all the way across the wide corridor.
They had only taken the $20 and had not disturbed the credit cards. Buck said he had never seen or heard of anything like that happening. I suggested that when they found out how poor Jon was with only one $20 bill, they decided he needed the wallet worse than they did and threw it back at him.
The pickpockets represented very well the “takers” of this world. On the other hand, the missionary families we met and spent time with represent the very finest among those who are givers in our world today. They have taken their families out of familiar surroundings and traveled across the world to be a blessing. They are among the world’s brightest and most committed.
As always, I was profoundly impressed by them and devoted to supporting their work. Perhaps most impressive is the way they have adapted to the culture, including mastery of the language.
The appropriate response to our missionaries and their giving spirit is to support them with our giving through the Cooperative Program. You can be a part of all that God is doing through them by supporting their ministry through prayer and financial gifts. When I consider the reality of two groups of people in the world today, givers and takers, my prayer is that I will be compelled by my devotion to Jesus Christ to be a life-long giver!
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