Body, Mind & Spirit

Following the Haitian earthquake, most congregations in the United States collected funds, packed health kits or plan to send mission-medical teams to help alleviate suffering. As United Methodist people, our response was impressive and heartfelt – and, in fact, the United Methodist presence was already in Haiti at the time of the quake. This disaster, however, created new questions for many people – some theological – why? others practical – how?, and still others centered on further response – what more can we do?

Of course, disasters of the variety encountered in Haiti and Chile are often littered with numbers. Some of these deal with the magnitude of the tremors. Other numbers terrify or sadden us. And other numbers might even be mystifying.

But there are other numbers that can be cause for hope or celebration.

For example, when one considers the outpouring of concern, as represented by the whole body of Christ and not just United Methodists, the relief work and offerings become miraculous. Where there were five loaves and two fish before, there is now an overflowing basket. Where once there was just rubble and smoke, there is now the promise of improved care and medical attention. In short, there is hope because of the people of God.

However, we don’t have to focus on earthquakes and tsunamis to see how God can work these same miracles in our lives. Many of our domestic concerns may also seem hopeless – but when viewed within the crucible of Christ’s love, through helping hands and hospitable neighbors, these problems can become opportunities.

We live in a time when numbers have the potential to frighten us, or cause us to lapse into apathy and boredom. Sometimes numbers – especially large ones – can become meaningless.

We must never forget that it is not the size of the earthquake that matters to God, but the size of our hearts. It is not the size of the death toll that ultimately moves us, but the size of our spirits. We don’t wrap our faith around large numbers, but incredibly small ones. God gave us one, unique and only-begotten Son. God usually sent just one man or one woman to proclaim release to the captive and to speak truth to power. Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs. Paul worked with Barnabas and Timothy. Aquila and Priscilla started a church.

Miracles rarely happen with the masses. God’s work is accomplished one person, one congregation, and one community at a time. It’s the small numbers that count.

Todd Outcalt is the senior pastor at Calvary in Brownsburg and the author of twenty books published in five languages. His latest book, The Ultimate Christian Living, was published in March by Health Communications, and includes essays by or about Rick Warren, Max Lucado, Billy Graham, Linda McCoy, Kent Millard, and Bishop Will Willimon, among others.