Someone once said in a song that Love is a many splendored thing, and in the realm and capacity of humanity it is true. I in my lifetime have seen and experienced love’s embrace. This week while I was looking through my wallet for yet another card—Hey! you got enough cards in your wallet these days? So there I was looking through the plethora of plastic that I carry about and once again my heart leapt. No, I didn’t find an extra twenty, but a small piece of plastic that was given me over thirty years ago by my high school sweetheart Terri. She picked it up on a field trip in some souvenir shop I suppose, dropped it in a card and handed it to me upon her return but I still carry it today. It says, “Precious things are very few, that must be why there’s just one you!” then there’s some mushy stuff that’s none of your business hand written in on the back. For those of you who are not in the know, yes I married her! My point is, that though many a year has passed that love has grown and still causes my heart pause today.
A few years ago while listening to the great Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, past President and Chancellor of Asbury College, he recounted this true story about the director of work outside the United States for Gideon’s International, Ken Speakman. The story began in 1996 when Speakman received a letter from a young woman, Ginta Pukis. While hospitalized in Riga and contemplating suicide three years earlier, Pukis had received a New Testament from a Gideon visiting the hospital. After reading the Bible, she became a Christian and, 18 months later, led her husband, a member of the Mafia, to Christ. As an expression of her gratitude to the Gideon’s, she wrote her testimony and sent it to international headquarters in suburban Nashville, Tenn. Speakman had been deeply moved by her testimony and had regretted that his January 1999 trip to Latvia would not take him to Liepaja where she lived. In an October 1999 trip, Speakman was assigned to a car driven by a man identified only as Andris, and he soon learned his driver was from Liepaja. Speakman told Andris he had always wanted to go to Liepaja to meet a young woman who had written a letter to his organization. “I asked Andris how he came to Christ and he told me his wife led him to Jesus. He then told me that his wife was saved in a hospital in Riga in 1993 by reading a New Testament given to her by the Gideon’s. “I replied by telling him that the lady who wrote to us was saved in Riga Hospital #6. He said his wife also was saved in Riga Hospital #6. “I asked him for his wife’s name. He replied, ‘Ginta.’ “I knew then that it was really the hand of God who had assigned me to Andris,” Speakman said. Before Speakman left Riga, Andris Pukis brought his wife and two children to the city where Speakman got to meet her and hear her story firsthand. Today, Ginta and Andris work full time for the Christian ministry, Youth with a Mission. “While I did not ask her for it, Ginta gave me the Testament she had received in the hospital in Riga on Jan. 23, 1993, when she accepted the Lord,” Speakman said. “It is well worn and put to good use.” This story is true and names have not been changed so that we can be reminded of the incredible reach of a Love that goes beyond all this world can imagine, the love of God toward mankind.
“For God so loved the world” John three sixteen says to us, “that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. My, what a verse! My, what a love! But you know what stands out to me is the word “so”. The word “so” points us to the intention and outcome of this love. The intention of course, is obvious—that we might spend forever with Him, but the “so” speaks of His great effort and of His reach. I recall the lyrics to a great old song written by Dottie Rambo called “If that isn’t Love” The Song says, “He left the splendor of heaven, Knowing His destiny, Was the lonely hill of Golgotha, There to lay down His life for me. Even in death He remembered, The thief hanging by His side, Then he spoke of love and compassion, And He took him to paradise. And if that isn’t love, Then the ocean is dry, There’s no stars in the sky, And the little sparrows can’t fly. Yes if that isn’t love, Then heaven’s a myth, There’s no feeling like this, If that isn’t love.” God still reaches out to any one and to everyone who will come to Him. Remember, you are not out of the Incredible Reach of God’s Love!
Tim Throckmorton is the former Executive Pastor of the Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace Ohio and the Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. He is currently the Senior Pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.ReachReach