Every day, more than once I read these words:
‘Do no great things, only small things with great love.’ Mother Teresa
The year was 1994, in a bone chilling month of February- we made our way to Washington DC. As the taxi drove us from the airport past the Potomac, the water was not flowing, it was filled with boulder chunks of ice. We were there to attend the National Prayer Breakfast at the invitation of our congressman, Glen Browder. Alabama was the host state for the Prayer Breakfast. We were going to be eyewitnesses to this remarkable event. And while this was an amazing invitation- we had also decided to make it a religious pilgrimage of sorts. We visited the landmark New York Avenue Presbyterian Church where Chaplin of the U.S. Senate, Dr. Peter Marshall, delivered heartrendingly beautiful sermons and prayers, during World War II and beyond. This is a very historical church just 4 blocks from the White House, where more than eight U.S. presidents, cabinet members, congressmen and justices of the Supreme Court worshipped- beginning with John Quincy Adams. Abraham Lincoln attended services there during the War. His famous Gettysburg Address had coined the phrase ‘One Nation under God’ -more than 80 years later, Lincoln’s address inspired Scottish born Peter Marshall’s sermon ‘A New Birth of Freedom’, which he delivered on another freezing February day. That sermon inspired Dwight Eisenhower and others to amend the Pledge of Allegiance adding Lincoln’s phrase. Martin Luther King Jr. would later give an impassioned address in this same church. And long after we had come home- this church provided prayer and comfort to the capitol city after 9/11.
We were taken by an official bus and dropped off very close to the presidential motorcade, parked exactly where President Reagan had been shot a few years before. Ushered in and seated on the front row at table four in a huge ballroom, the room was packed. The security was tight. We listened in rapt attention at the amazing Tuskegee Choir from Alabama. We could not believe we were there, much less on the front row- eyewitnesses to history, why, we were in the presence of national leaders in our nation’s capitol city, along with citizens just like ourselves, however- seated at our table were two missionaries from Japan. When I asked them where their missionary field was- these lovely Asian people said- ‘We believe that the people of the United States need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ’…To this day, I am moved by the profound love and kindness in that simple statement.
What must folks from foreign countries think of the American people? From the news media to print to music to lifestyle- what conclusion would a person who is not from the United States draw from all of the disagreeable messages we send out across this globe?
The keynote speaker at the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast was Mother Teresa of the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta. The speech was very long- the news media drew from her profound words a few statements and conclusions– when actually Mother Teresa had so very much more to say than what the headlines distilled and became politically charged rhetoric.
I was there, I can tell you firsthand that this tiny woman, Mother Teresa was a mesmerizing figure. A two step high platform was placed behind the podium and still her head could barely be seen from our tables on the front row. On our tables, along with the program was a bookmark with her words on them- I won’t quote them verbatim due to length- however, I recall being enlightened to the point I am still moved to tears whenever I think of them- Mother Teresa’s words were-
- When you see the poor and pitiful
- When you see the maimed or mental
- When you see the rejected and despised
- When you see the orphaned or sick
- When you see the hungry or the homeless…
- Look into their eyes- ‘You are looking into the Eyes of Jesus’
‘When I was hungry you fed me, when I was thirsty you gave me drink…when you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto Me.’
from Matthew 25:35
Mother Teresa’s ministry was among the ‘poorest of the poor’ in the streets of Calcutta, India The Sisters of Charity literally feed, clothe, pick worms and vermin off the heads of the poor- they clean their stricken bodies, clothe them and put them in clean beds, give them meager bowls of rice or broth; and often hold a quiet vigil as the least of humanity die in the comfort of a clean bed. The Sisters of Charity know they are looking into the Eyes of Jesus.
The ballroom that freezing winter day, was hushed into a reverent silence as she spoke unforgettable words. We had no idea that this tiny remarkable person would walk this earth only a few more years.Later I read that a nun in New York City begged to come work in Calcutta alongside the Sisters of Charity. Mother Teresa said-
‘Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right where you are.’
That is what we all must do, beginning in our homes, spreading out into our communities, unto those who are outcasts.. even unto the ends of the earth, we must look at a suffering world and see the Eyes of Jesus. interpreted from Mark 16:15
Find your own Calcutta. Look for the Eyes of Jesus. The world is watching.
Love y’all, Camellia
photographs from AOL images, except the bottom one from the wonderful book- ‘Come and See’ by Linda Schaeffer- which we edited.