We all have people we look up to because they are willing to go the extra mile to do the work that nobody else wants to do. Such people will sacrifice their own well-being for the benefit of others. When we think of heroes, we may think of those who serve to protect us, such as soldiers, police officers, or firemen. Some think of people who are gifted and driven to excel in different capacities: like athletes, authors, and musicians. Once in a while, we make celebrities out of heroes, but most of the time heroes go unrecognized for their achievements. Many of those we celebrate as heroes today, died before they were ever recognized for their contributions.
The word “hero” means different things to each person. To me a hero is a person who gives himself to help others with little, or no regard, for himself. A hero struggles with sin, depression, discouragement, and self-doubt just like others. However, what sets the hero apart from others is that he doesn’t give up. He keeps struggling against impossible odds when others tuck tail and run.
Today I was reminded of some heroes in the faith. Steven Morris was the guest preacher at Northside Church of Christ this morning. He talked about the work he does with River City Ministry in North Little Rock among the poor. Stephen talked about the people he works with. Some are addicted to drugs; some are prostitutes; and some have criminals backgrounds. They don’t have homes where they can bathe, sleep, or get something to eat. I’ve seen how homeless people are treated. There’s not much compassion; instead, it’s a matter of getting them out of the neighborhood. Sure we don’t mind giving a couple dollars to make ourselves feel better, but real help is hard to come by. We figure people are homeless because they deserve to be homeless. It is also practically inconceivable that we could be homeless ourselves. I have been very close to homeless; too close. Family bailed me out, and got me on my feet again when life crumbled, but what if family wasn’t there?
So I’m grateful for people like Steven Morris. Few will ever see the sacrifices that Steven and his family make in order to help the people that society wants to shut out. In trying to help others, those who do this type of work truly have to trust in God for their provisions. Quite often they are on the verge of being homeless themselves.
I have seen some of the sacrifices first hand through one of my closest friends: Keith Brown. Keith and I studied for the ministry together, and we have stayed in touch over the years. Keith has always had a heart for saving souls. He is a true evangelist. Contrary to common belief; established churches really don’t like evangelist. They want pastors, and there is a big differences between pastors and evangelists. Both are needed in the church, but evangelists seek the lost. So what happens when prostitutes and drug addicts get baptized and start coming to the Sunday morning assemblies? Well, there tends to be a bit of tension, and many churches will cast out the new members along with the evangelist who brought them in.
I have listened to story after story as Keith and his family have served on the front lines of the faith over the years. Keith started working for an established congregation in Minden, LA. When he lost his job with the church for the kind of things I just mentioned, Keith planted a church. But Keith and his family were without a job, and without a home. Since he was doing so much work among the poor before he lost his job, the shelter gave him a place to stay, if he would manage the shelter (not an income position). This went on for over a year and I was amazed by the stories Keith would tell me about God’s provisions. I went to Minden a couple months ago to see first hand what Keith was doing. I visited the church that was planted. They met in a local business establishment. Keith showed me around and we even stopped to pray with a couple who were burying their departed pet. I spent time with Keith’s family playing around on the guitar and singing. They even helped me with a song I was working on. I was impressed by the people I met Sunday morning, and I left inspired of what God can do. Newspapers were reporting on the work and the shelter was getting public recognition. Lives were being changed and people were getting needed help. But where God is at work, you can bet Satan will be at work as well.
We’ve all heard of people who would give the shirt off their back; that’s Keith (literally). Keith was building a church, working for a homeless shelter, and trying desperately to support a family. Soon a conflict arose with some board members of the shelter. When some in the homeless shelter heard about some of the donations given to the church, some felt the donations should have gone to the shelter even though they were not designated for that. Keith was removed from his position and is currently being removed from the house he is living in. The man who did so much to help the homeless is finding himself as a homeless person.
I don’t know what will happen, but I know what Keith will say: “God will provide.” He always has, why wouldn’t he now? That’s faith! And that’s a hero. I have known a great deal of preachers over the years. Some of the very best and most successful around. Some work for large and prosperous congregations with large budgets and myriads of resources. But I don’t know anybody who works harder and is more sincere in his faith than Keith Brown, and I know a lot of very hard workers.
Misfortune seems to follow Keith and his family like a lost puppy. He has struggled with church conflict, financial devastation, and physical health; but I have never in my life witnessed more fortitude. Keith and I were both in the Marine Corps, which prides itself on producing dedicated and disciplined warriors to protect the United States. To me, Keith’s more impressive role has been as a soldier for Christ. His battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph 6:10). That war is raging. Keith was instrumental in my returning to the ministry after I tucked tail and ran. When I get discouraged, I call Keith. His problems outnumber mine a hundred to one, but he’s always there to encourage others.
People like Stephen and Keith may not triumph over the homeless problem. They may not win the masses for Christ like some famous evangelist. They may never see financial prosperity. In fact, they may leave this life without seeing the fruit of their labor. But they are changing lives one by one. They selflessly serve to change lives and save them from harm. That’s a hero to me. Thank you God for such people. They are the unsung heroes.