Loneliness is a very real issue for so many people, and always has been. There was the book a few years ago: Alone in the Crowd, or another Bowling Alone. I think of it often since my wife’s death what with the absence of her company, our conversations, her wisdom. For some reason this reality came back to me in a poignant memory from a moment in 1974 in Lausanne, Switzerland. In that year, the Billy Graham organization had planned and convened a remarkable International Congress on World Evangelization.

The planning committee had done an unbelievable (near miraculous) job of finding out who the real practitioners of evangelism were from across the globe, and finding the funding to bring them together in Lausanne in the summer of that year. What that meant was that they found many in remote parts of the globe who functioned fruitfully under the most difficult circumstances of poverty, cultural opposition, and a multitude of discouragements. The congress planners found the means to fund these faithful ones to come for the event, and to house and feed them while they were there.

One of the events of the Congress was a huge rally open to the public, which took place in the Olympic Stadium in that city, with Billy Graham as the preacher. It drew people from all over that part of Europe. My Betty and I had arrived early and were seated high up I the stands, and were enjoying surveying that cosmopolitan crowd assembling. Betty, being who she was, engaged a delegate who was seated next to her (and was bi-lingual), who if remember correctly was from a remote village in northern India. She asked him what were his thoughts as we participated in that event. His response was: “I know that I am not alone.” When she pressed him to explain that, it came out that he operated out of a small Christian community in a remote village in a primarily Hindu culture. He regularly got on his bicycle and rode to even more remote places and communicated to them the message of God’s love in Christ.

That meant, however, that there were many discouragements, and much misunderstanding, and even more, an often sense of loneliness. Being there in Lausanne made him aware that he was a very real component in the global community of Christ’s followers, and that his isolated work as a herald of the gospel was also a dynamic piece of that global mosaic which we call the church. “I know that I am not alone!”

Christ’s people around the world remind themselves of this reality when they repeat together the Apostles Creed: “… and I believe in the holy catholic church,” that global family of God to whom Jesus has promised: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” i.e., you will never ultimately be alone. To be sure, Christians quite often find themselves somewhat isolated and misunderstood, and not always having access to a community of other believers, but then they know that Christ’s church is also the dwelling-place of God by the Holy Spirit.

What is encouraging to me is my realization that these Blogs go to my Christian brothers and sisters, some of whom are isolated, and for whom these are their communication with the community of faith, and for whom I can be their reminder that they are not alone, … something of a cyberspace Christian community. I’ll not even try to explain that theologically, but only to report that it is a reality that I am aware of because of the responses I receive, for which I am grateful that I can from afar represent the family of God.

And may grace and peace be multiplied to you.

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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2 Responses to BLOG 9/11/18. “I KNOW THAT I AM NOT ALONE”

  1. Dottie Coltrane says:

    You know, I think, that Betty Henderson was a wonderful mentor to me in my early days as a volunteer at The Carter Center. The longer I knew her, the more I treasured her friendship. I will never forget her final visits to The Carter Center, when you brought her in a wheelchair, and people would stream out of their offices when they learned she was in the building. It was almost magnetic — word would travel through each of the building’s rotundas, and staff and other volunteers would find Betty in the hallways or at lunch. Her kind, encouraging words were a gift beyond price.And now, with your blog, you are encouraging others. Betty would be very proud of you!

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