Remembering our elders

They built our churches, schools and hospitals; why we shouldn't forget them now

Commentary | Neal Christopher

They built our churches, schools and hospitals; why we shouldn't forget them now

We are building on the foundation of what our elders established. Let's not forget them, just as the ministry of Christ favored the "forgotten ones."

Some Sabbaths ago, I visited an old widow who had lost most of her family members and, due to a hip problem, couldn't go to church. When we arrived with a group of young people, she said to us: "Ten minutes ago I was praying and asking God that someone would come and visit me. I was feeling very lonely and I asked Him to send someone, even if it was one person." The tears running down her cheeks confirmed her words and expression.

We need people with an open heart who will assist our elders. A great number of them dedicated their life to that which many times we take for granted. They traveled for miles to give Bible studies in the places where our churches are built today. They built with sacrifice the walls of the universities where we attend. They donated the land for the hospitals where we work. They even helped some people find a way off drugs. Often, they were the deacons who greeted us every Sabbath morning.

If you are disturbed by the smell of their diapers, their hearing impairment, their slow walking, or you simply don't have time to answer for the fifth time the same question, remember that once somebody loved you enough to look over those things while raising you.

When I read the gospels I'm amazed at the special care that Jesus had for the less fortunate ones. He ministered to widows, lepers, fishermen, children, pagans and Samaritans. The level of amazement increases as I discover how marginalized they were in the society where they belonged.

Today the church doesn't have that problem: We have Dorcas, Children's and Women's Ministries, ADRA, boats in the Amazon jungle, airplanes in Papua New Guinea, hospitals in Kenya and Botswana. We even have EndItNow, the campaign against violence against women. But is this enough?

The apostle James wrote that "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (1:27 NKJ)

The ministry of Christ in favor of the "forgotten ones" is indeed still real and necessary. When we visited the old lady, she whispered in my ear: "You don?t know how important your visit is for me."

Maybe I don't know the value or the importance of our visit for her, but this is what I know: God has called us to remember the forgotten ones, and for Him, this is a matter of high priority.

--Neal Christopher is a student of medicine at River Plate Adventist University in Argentina and a member of the university's Missionary Institute