When the rain began to crest the doorsteps of church members, I tried to call every one of them, but within hours I couldn’t keep up. I wanted them to hear their pastoral shepherd’s voice as life changed before their eyes. Those I called were so grateful, but the list grew too long to continue. Ultimately, more than seven hundred church members and twenty-three staff members lost their homes. One church member described his situation watching the water on the street invade the neighborhood’s homes, in some cases up to five or more feet. Soggy carpet was turning into boat rescues. More than rescuing living rooms, we began rescuing lives.
Teams of church members organically organized and began canvassing neighborhoods to rescue anyone they could. One team headed to the house of John Bisagno, our pastor emeritus, to rescue him and his wife, Uldine. Both in their eighties and her in hospice care for brain cancer, I received a text message with a picture. The photo showed sweet Uldine, sopping wet from the rain with a blanket draped over her. She was in a boat with one of the rescue teams. The driver had one hand on the wheel and his other arm around her shoulders. His face and eyes were sternly set forward as if to say, “I got you and we are getting you outta here.”
When I looked at the picture, my heart broke and tears fell. One, for the heroes commanding the boat, but more, for the Bisagnos. Lord, how can they serve you for eighty years and it end like this? Seventeen days later, Uldine died and they never returned to their home. Teams including my family helped mud out their house, removing sheetrock and ruined possessions. Ultimately, a church member who “flips houses” bought their home of forty-three years to make things a bit easier.
Brother John, as we affectionately called him, moved to Tennessee with his son and died eleven months later. In times like this, your identity has to be secure in Jesus or you’ll never make it. Sure, you may replace the carpet and move back in, but you won’t make it in the soul like Jesus wants.
At Brother John’s memorial service, I quoted him saying, “I’ve preached it as long as I’ve been preaching, that ‘Jesus is enough.’ Now I’ve experienced it for myself. I’ve lost everything and it IS true: Jesus is still enough!” Wow! That’s being anchored to a firm foundation. That’s why he was such a difference maker.
Do you have an anchor?
Do you know how to use it?
The Bisagnos did; it was their identity in Jesus. Now reunited in heaven, they enjoy it even more.
Difference makers are secure in their identity, an identity that cannot be lost even in suffering. Can you imagine what the world would be like if Christians really and truly believed that we are eternally secure and on our way to eternal life? We wouldn’t be afraid of death. We would risk everything for the sake of the gospel. We wouldn’t gain the whole world and lose our souls; we would be willing to lose everything for the sake of Christ.
Gregg Matte, Difference Makers: How to Live a Life of Impact and Purpose (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2019).
Want to fill your church with Difference Makers? It will take more than reading one article. I’d recommend you have every group in your church study this excellent book.
We have just completed a Bible study to guide your group into meditating on and applying these truths. The Difference Makers is our Bible Study based on Greg Matte’s book Difference Makers. It consists of 8 lessons with ready-to-use questions suitable for groups. It can be purchased on Amazon and is also available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service.