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Blogs > Honestly


For the last couple of months I have been re-reading a very unusual book for my morning devotions.  The book was given to me as a gift from Martha Plagens. 

"Arrows of Light:  Devotions for Worldwide Christians" was written by David Schneider.  Schneider was a Lutheran missionary, colleague, and friend of Bob and Martha Plagens.  Martha gave me the book soon after I arrived at Our Saviour's.  She even got David to write a little inscription inside the front cover. 

I must say that Arrows of Light is unlike any other devotional book I have ever read.  In the course of his career, Schneider served around the world:  in the Philippines, Mexico, South Africa, and Kazakhstan.  In his devotions Schneider tells stories from throughout his ministry.  Many of these stories involve failings on the part of Schneider as he served as a pastor and missionary. 

You know you're reading a very different kind of devotional book from the outset.  In the first devotion Schneider tells the story of a friend who drove up while David was working on a roof.  David never got off the roof, but chatted with his friend while still atop the shed.  That same day the friend went home, put a gun in his mouth, and killed himself.  At the time of this tragedy Schneider was a seminary student.  His friend's suicide led to a crisis of faith as David thought about what had happened.  In his own words Schneider describes the painful questions that confronted him:  "Did I miss hidden calls for help in the conversation?  Was there something I could have said?  Why hadn't I at least gone down to shake his hand?  I failed to save him."

David goes on to say, "My friend's suicide helped to shape my life.  I was forced to look into myself and into the Bible, to see what was truly there.  I found myself:  a young man who had hungrily fed on the praises of God's church--praises that belonged to God.  I despised myself for that.  But someone had turned on the lights. I discovered that God forgives self-centered, glory-grabbing people and brings confident joy instead of guilt.  What a relief!  No more pretending. Christ's light heals."

Through his soul's struggle Schneider found comfort and guidance in the word of God.  One particular passage would shape his life and ministry:  Isaiah 49:1-6.

As God's word did its work, Schneider reflects:  "Isaiah prophesies the coming of Christ, God's servant, his arrow of light who pierces the darkness of human misery. . . .  'Let there be light' God spoke over my life.  I wasn't strong enough to save my boyhood friend, but I hope to live out my days reflecting Jesus, God's arrow of light who indeed can rescue people."    

At times I am astonished by the candor that Schneider displays.  His honesty is quite remarkable. 

Why is Schneider so frank?  On the back cover he explains his rationale.  "It is time to slaughter a sacred cow--the idea that Christian missionaries are noble, self-sacrificing paragons of perfection.  This book aims to butcher that beast by looking honestly, among the good things, at some faults of Christian workers in foreign lands."

Schneider goes on to add, "But the writer's goal is not a nasty expose--rather a celebration of the grace of God that forgives sin and restores joy for missionaries and for all God's people."

As I continue to read through Schneider's book I can't help thinking about something another missionary once wrote:  "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. . . .  For when I am weak, then I am strong."  (2 Corinthians 12:1-10)




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