"Who," the teacher asked, "is your hero?"
"Who," the teacher asked, "is your hero?" A very young teenager, I had never thought about having a hero.
Jesus was the center of my life. But the teacher made clear the paper was to be about a person, man or woman. In those days in our culture, regardless of religion or philosophy of life there were no alternatives to "man" and "woman", just like in the Book of Genesis.
To get the paper done I wrote that my 5'8" dad was my hero. What I wrote still stands. He was an incredible man.
From about the seventh grade on reading became my greatest hobby. In addition to schoolwork I tried to read eight books each week. Particularly I loved historical series. In one of them I found another hero: George Washington Carver.
Born a slave, kidnapped as an infant, and purchased back with the price of a horse, an infant black boy and his brother were taken by a German white man into his home and care. Mr. Carver and his wife insisted the boys be educated. George was not blessed with the best of health. He was often provided duties more gentle than working in the fields.
When George Washington Carver, named after his caretaker, saw that he needed further education he left home with little money and few clothes and walked about eight miles to a school for black children. The first night he slept in a barn. Mariah Watkins and her husband, a black couple, owned the farm. The Watkins allowed George to live with them in exchange for farm chores. There is the possibility that children were taken from Mariah as a slave, but it did not dim her faith. She insisted George go to church, gave him a Bible, and taught him how to read it. He carried the Bible for the rest of his life.
Though he faced many hardships because of his color, George remained undaunted. Eventually, he was the first black student to attend Iowa State Agricultural College. He excelled. In fact, it seemed that he excelled in whatever he attempted.
In time he was consulted by Henry Ford, Presidents and scholars of other nations. When he appeared before the United States Congress and was asked where he got some of his knowledge he without hesitation answered "From God." He would walk in the morning communing with God, asking questions about nature.
He never married. He declined opportunities that would have made him a rich man. Henry Ford offered him a job in Detroit. He purposed to bless his people and not sow division of races. He refused to be drawn into bitter battles of politics that only divided people.
He invented... and invented...and invented. In some cases his inventions served to turn economies around lifting poor people out of despair. He could take a sweet potato or peanut and find ways to use them that are multiple household items today.
The German man who took George Washington Carver in was not a Christian. But he was kind to George. Mariah Watkins sowed the gospel into George's heart so deep he never departed from his faith and was unashamed to testify of Jesus even when with the rich and powerful. He kept his faith in God.
When he died in 1943 he left his possessions to help fund education. If he were alive today I would surely seek to meet him and be humbled for the privilege.
Let me repeat: First I FOLLOW JESUS. After Jesus I choose my heroes very carefully. There are many people who have done good things, but my human heroes are those who follow Jesus.
As we move through these difficult times of hard words, division, vitriolic language and evil deeds, let us remember that only Jesus can change the heart, removing sin and hardness, and granting to us the joy of knowing we are children of God.
As we approach our mission conference we celebrate that God in our times is choosing humble folks who often have been treated as castaways. He is empowering them by the Holy Spirit. In Him and through Him the light of the gospel is revealed in the lives of obedient servants who persist in being vessels of honor to His glory.
My prayer is for a generation of people who will set their faces like a flint toward the cross and in community with saints push back the gates of hell. My prayer is that God will raise up an army in Covenant Church of willing and Spirit-driven servants that heaven will one day add to the list of heroes in Hebrews Chapter 11.
Much love Pastor Bare Hebrews 11