Jesus also taught, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Matt. 5:7). Throughout our 100 years, the Assemblies of God has sought to have a heart for people—for the lost, the least and the last.
One of my missionary friends was sitting on the platform for a large crusade he was holding in a foreign country. He was rather proud of himself for the size of the audience. While waiting to preach, he reached into his pocket and began to read a letter his godly father had sent him. It said, "Son, if you ever lose heart for people, pack up your bags and come home." My friend instantly repented of his self-congratulation.
The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, "Jesus wept." One day it struck me with such force. The statement comes near the close of Jesus' ministry, at the tomb of Lazarus. After three years of full-time ministry, the "Jesus wept" statement indicates He never became calloused toward people. Ministry was not something He did mechanically. He felt for people.
Have you ever noticed what Jesus did on the cross? A thief hangs next to Him and says: "Remember me when you come into your kingdom." Does Jesus ignore him? Does Jesus say to Himself, my breath is short and I need to save my breath for more important things? Does Jesus turn to the man and say, "Can't you see I'm dying for the sins of the whole world? I don't have time for you." No! Jesus lets His own suffering be interrupted by the need of another!
Are we willing to do the same?
Mark Buntain, an Assemblies of God missionary, founded a great work in Calcutta. Early on he knew that physical needs of people must be tended to as well as their spiritual needs. So he began a clinic. There, children were successfully operated on to restore their ability to walk.
But Mark had bigger dreams. He wanted to build a hospital. Land was scarce, however, in that densely packed city. There was a plot of land on Burial Ground Road (Park Avenue) that was the site of a "dead" English cemetery. He sought permission to build on that land, but after two years of red tape, no approval was forthcoming.
While driving in his car during a rainstorm he saw a well-dressed man trying to hail a taxi. Mark pulled over and picked him up. A few minutes later, Mark saw a little boy crawling like an insect along a muddy path by the side of the road. Mark stopped the car, got out, picked up the boy, disappeared into the slum and returned with the muddy boy, placing him in the back seat. Mark explained to the man that he had a clinic and this boy could be made to walk. He apologized for disappearing for a few minutes but had needed to find the boy's mother to get permission to take him. Mark further explained that someday he hoped to have land on Burial Ground Road for a hospital where he could help more children like the one in the back seat.
Two weeks later, Mark unexpectedly received word that he had been granted a 99-year lease on the land he sought. The man he picked up was the one official who could cut through all the red tape.
One act of compassion opened the door for thousands to be ministered to. It's the same in your life or mine. And it's what has marked the Assemblies of God for this past century: a heart for God, a heart for people! Mark's story is one among multiplied thousands. What door will open because you have heart?
So here we are—100 years young! A growing, thriving body of believers still striving to fulfill the vision of our founders "to do the greatest work of evangelism the world has ever seen" with humility, hunger and heart.
George O. Wood is general superintendent of the General Council of the Assemblies of God in the United States. He has been chairman of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship since 2008. You can learn more about him at georgeowood.com.
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