Por Adauto Rezende
Last Wednesday (December 4th, 2019), my wife and I visited a missionary in his small bachelor apartment in a Christian care facility for the elderly on his 100th birthday. He was born on December 4th, 1919. He was covered with a heavy blanket on a couch to keep warm as he constantly felt chilled. As we approached, he extended his hand and I had the privilege of shaking hands with a man of God who had served the Lord for more than three decades as a missionary in Chad, Africa.
He was a faithful steward of Jesus Christ and a mighty warrior who fought the good fight without any doubt, bringing the Good News to those who were slaves and prisoners of the devil until the Lord sent him to set the captives free, to bring hope to those in despair, to bring light to those in darkness, and to bring victory to those who were defeated by the enemy and paralyzed by fear. After spending some time with our fellow brother, we prayed for each other and, with a warm hug, left feeling very blessed.
The same week, I visited another fellow who had also served as a missionary in the same nation for 34 years. His mission was to strengthen local churches, teach disciples, and support foreign workers, which he did with passion and love. The 89-year-old minister had been in the hospital for a few days due to a viral infection. When we arrived, I saw him holding a thin blanket to try to keep himself warm. During our visit, he mentioned how cold he was feeling and asked if there was any way to get his blanket from his home, which was not too far from the hospital. After retrieving his blanket and listening to the incredible testimonies he shared with us about his time in Africa, we had a time of prayer together. Once again, I left the hospital filled with joy in my heart to have had the honor of spending time with such a humble and great servant of Jesus Christ.
Another 87-year-old Christian friend served as a missionary in Brazil for five decades. He worked as a pastor in different cities, started a boys' home that sheltered over 150 boys, and established a print shop that has published millions of tracts and thousands of Christian books. During our nine years of friendship, we had the opportunity to share victories and disappointments with each other. He has also been a great example of character, love, and servanthood.
The reason I mention these three elderly missionaries is to remind all of us that, like them, there are thousands of veteran missionaries in many nursing homes, hospitals, and homes around the world. Many of them are struggling to endure as their aging bodies decline while waiting for the day the Lord will call them to glory.
The Old Testament speaks of King David, who found himself in a similar situation in his elderly days. He had left behind a legacy of victories and leadership for his people. David had been the godliest and most powerful king of his nation, a mighty warrior who brought success to Israel against its enemies, such as the well-known fight and triumph against Goliath, the gigantic Philistine. Additionally, David was a great spiritual leader who established a living worship system for the Hebrews, reviving the nation and replacing a dead liturgical religious structure. He wrote dozens of Psalms, adding to his legacy as not just a King, but also as a prophet. His final major endeavor was organizing everything for the construction of the temple in Jerusalem. David was the mastermind and major contributor to building the magnificent place where the Israelites would worship his God.
However, after all his achievements, the elderly man began to see his physical strength rapidly decline. David's body no longer responded to the commands of his mind. The aching of his joints and tendons deprived him of sleep, his muscles deteriorated, and finally, due to a decrease in circulation and the thinning of the fat layer under his skin that helped keep body heat, he developed hypothermia. The great King could not get warm, no matter how many blankets they placed over him.
Where could they find help for David? In one of his many Psalms, he gave the answer to this question:
“I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121: 1
How would the Lord resolve the problem?
The narrative states that the servants suggested searching the kingdom for a young virgin to warm the king, comfort him, and serve him during his last days of labor and sorrow, as Moses had written in the 90th Psalm.
“Now King David was old, advanced in years; and they put covers on him, but he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young woman, a virgin, be sought for our lord the king, and let her stand before the king, and let her care for him; and let her lie in your bosom, that our lord the king may be warm.” So they sought for a lovely young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very lovely; and she cared for the king, and served him; but the king did not know her. I King 1: 1-4
It appears from the passage that it was not an easy task to find such a person. The text states that "they sought for a lovely young woman throughout all the territory of Israel." Through God's providence, after an extensive search, they found Abishag, the Shunammite, to serve the King. We do not know much about her, except for her birthplace and beauty. However, she also possessed the character of servanthood. It seems she was not forced to assist the king, but rather she voluntarily came to be at his side until his final days on earth. It was a great honor for a girl who was unknown in the country until that moment. Suddenly her name became important because of the noble task entrusted to her.
The reason I mentioned this incident is that I see the missionaries mentioned above and thousands more like them as being like David. After decades of service to God's people, with many battles and victories, they have aged and lost their strength. Like King David, they are in need of someone to warm them up. This need may not just be physical, but also spiritual support during the hardest times of their lives. They require encouragement and comfort in their distress. Even small acts of kindness such as listening to them, cooking for them, appreciating and recognizing their legacy of blessings in serving God's kingdom, and telling them how grateful we are for their ministry can make a significant impact.
As Israel was looking for a Shunammite for King David, the Holy Spirit is also looking for “Shunammites” in the churches, for the many “Davids” who are in desperate need of them. You might think that this type of ministry is not of great value. Who will see you visiting some King David in our days in a nursing home? However, I truly believe that in fact, it is a very valuable ministry. So valuable that in all Israel they found just one Abishag that could take care of the King. You might be the Abishag of your church appointed by the Holy Spirit for the job, then move on this, and go to warm those Servants of the Lord who are suffering from physical and spiritual hypothermia.
Jesus had said: “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” Mathew 10: 41-42
To Jesus all the glory!