SHELLY HOLLIS WAS A YOUNG CHRISTIAN who wanted people to know Jesus. She felt God calling her to be a missionary in Haiti, so she went. She moved there to love the people Jesus loved in Haiti the way Jesus would love them.
She had no idea how hard people can be to love.
One day Shelly came across an elderly woman who was dehydrated and near death. Her name was Granka, and she hadn’t been cared for in days. Shelly found her soaked in urine and sweat, lying on a little bed. Granka’s family had taken all of her personal belongings and divided them up among themselves. They’d put a coffin next to her and left her for dead.
Shelly was moved with compassion, but she couldn’t move Granka. So, Shelly stayed with her, day and night, cleaning her body, feeding her, praying for her. This went on for several days, but finally Granka died.
The next morning Shelly was sitting, dejected, at a picnic table outside the school where she worked. A friend sat down next to her, and Shelly began to weep. Finally, Shelly gained enough composure to get out the words, “I didn’t get to tell her about Jesus.”
Shelly Hollis sat brokenhearted, and she prayed God would put another elderly woman into her path with whom she could share her faith.
Not long after, Shelly walked out of her church building late one night and a man jumped out, grabbed her shirt, and swung her into a wall. Shelly’s shoulder was dislocated. As she lay there, momentarily completely disoriented, the guy jumped on top of her and began to remove her clothes. She fought him off with everything she had. Biting him and hitting him with her flashlight, she finally managed to get away and ran down the street, screaming for help. Shelly opened the door of the first house she came to, went in, and collapsed onto the floor.
Fatalia, the elderly woman who lived there, woke up and ran out of her bedroom to see who was in her house. When she saw Shelly lying on the ground, Fatalia called for help.
The next morning, Shelly phoned her family back in America to tell them what happened. Her father insisted she leave Haiti and come back home. But Shelly told her dad, “I prayed God would give me another elderly woman to share my faith with, and this is that opportunity.”
Shelly didn’t go home. She went back to Fatalia’s house and told her about Jesus. Eventually, Shelly and Fatalia walked into the ocean together, and Shelly baptized Fatalia because of her new faith in Christ.
Love the Idea of Love
We love the idea of loving people. Right?
I mean, who is going to vote against love as a concept? Loving people sounds incredible. The issue is that some of the people we need to love are incredibly difficult to love.
So, perhaps this is more accurate: we love loving people who are easy to love. I think that pretty well sums up where I’m at most of the time. I might just make a bumper sticker and put it on my truck:
I love loving people who are easy to love!
Honk if you love loving people who are easy to love!
I don’t know how many honks I’d get, and actually that bumper sticker may not be the best one for a pastor to have, but it’s pretty accurate.
I love loving people, but I don’t want to give sponge baths to a dying woman. And I’m inspired by Shelly’s story, but if I’m honest, I have to admit that if it was my daughter who had been attacked in another country, I would insist she come home, just like Shelly’s father did.
I’m all for loving people, but doesn’t loving people have its limits?
Idleman, Kyle. 2022. One at a Time: The Unexpected Way God Wants to Use You to Change the World. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
We have just released a new Bible Study based on Kyle Idleman’s book, One at a Time. These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.