Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

August 31, 2003


Links across the world provide extraordinary communication


            The medium of e-mail enables me to share my Sunday column in the Opelika-Auburn News with more than a hundred people who have no access to the newspaper. That provides me on a weekly basis contact with many friends across the United States in several other countries.

            Most of the time my comments stir scant reaction. Occasionally, almost everyone responds, as was the case last Sunday. Reader response was huge and varied to my remarks about my struggle with the doldrums in the aftermath of knee replacement surgery.

            Many friends simply wanted me to know they cared. A typical response was that of a couple who are dear to my wife and me: “We are so sorry that you are having a rough time through this healing process.  The days seem long and dark when you are fighting fatigue and depression. Please know you are loved.”

            Another said, “I have been where you are, so I know how slow the return to health can be. However, I made it, and I know you will also.”

            Others wanted me to know that they could relate to the feelings I expressed. One said, “I can related to some of your feelings, but I believe you are well on your way to recovery.”

            Then she reminded me that many times in the past I had shared “wisdom” that was helpful to her in times of distress. “Now,” she said, “all you need to do is to listen your own wisdom – and you will soon have the victory!”

            One of the busiest men in Auburn simply said, “I am not too busy to drop what I am doing and come to see you. If you need me, give me a holler and I will come running!” What a boost that was to my spirit.

            Another response was blunt and to the point. My column, he said, “generates no sympathy from me. You have reached the age where energy level drops off even without new knees. Some things you just have to learn to live with. Face it – you will never be as energetic tomorrow as you were yesterday.”

            Then he shared a few one-liners that he hoped would amuse me:

            “If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

            “A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.”

            “If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.”

            “A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.”

            The popular cynicism of Steven Wright may help me one day. However, it did not last week.

            I have no argument with this reader’s honest reaction. Any writer will agree with me that any response is better than no response. Actually, I appreciate his candor.

            Perhaps the most thoughtful reaction came from a missionary friend in Colombia, South America. Mark Wittig wrote:

            “Your situation reminded me of Charles Cowman, the founder of OMS (Oriental Missionary Society).  He was an energetic businessman type, always on the go.  For some reason, though, the Lord allowed him to be bed-ridden for about 5 years before his death (please do not take this as a prophecy!).  The man, evidently, had a map of the world put up in his bedroom in Japan, and spent much of his time praying for all parts of the world.  I keep thinking that our work here is probably a result of this man's prayers. 

            “As you may also know, it was during this time that Lettie, his wife, composed and edited the book Streams in the Desert.  She did so out of her own struggle with seeing her husband in that way.  A sort of "rest of the story" (a la Paul Harvey) to this story is that when Lettie, years later, sent the first missionaries to Medellín, Colombia, to establish the work here, they searched for months to buy property, but nobody would sell to them or would ask too much (being Protestant missionaries, etc.).  They were about to pack up and leave when someone told them that a property, where our seminary campus is presently at, was up for sale and that the owner did not care who bought it. 

            “The missionaries went at once to see about it, realized that this was it, and hurriedly sent off a telegram to Mrs. Cowman in Los Angeles to send money. Well, as was their custom everyday, they went the next day to the post office to check the mail, and lo and behold, there was an envelope with four checks totaling the amount that they needed to buy the property. 

            “As it turned out, the telegram took two weeks to get to Los Angeles (we are talking about Colombia in 1943), but Mrs. Cowman, a woman of prayer, felt led of the Lord, weeks before, to empty the bank account of the sale of the book Streams in the Desert, and send it to Colombia.  Her secretary, by the way, did this grudgingly thinking that she was probably out of her mind. 

            “The conclusion out of all of this is:  who knows where we would be in Colombia if Charles Cowman had not stayed with his faith even in a bed-ridden state.  Not only his prayers, but also the book that came out of his situation, was used of the Lord to open up the work in Colombia years afterwards.   I guess you never know...  I will pray, though, my friend, that you will be back up on your feet in no time!”

            Mike is serving Christ faithfully in a violent place, rescuing youth from a life of drugs and crime. What an honor that he would take the time to offer me this rare dose of encouragement!

            My sincere thanks to all my readers who responded to the honest feelings I shared on a dark Thursday last week. Thankfully, the sun is shining again and hope is renewed.

One day at a time, sweet Jesus! + + + +