Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Gandalf the White

We started our work here in Gondor with two other families. I have told you several stories about Gimli and his wife who now work in Ithilien but I have not told you about Gandalf. Today I right this wrong.

Gandalf was an older man (same age as my father actually) who was married to a much younger woman. He married her late in life after his first wife died of cancer. Gandalf and his wife were well experienced by the time they came to us. They were what we have come to call 'long term International Service Corps' workers. The ISC are workers who come out on two year contracts. Gandalf's wife had been divorced (it was part of her conversion story) and so they could not ever be career. Don't get me started on that extreme injustice. Anyway, they had done several two year terms in places that would turn your hair white just to read the names. In 1997 they came and joined our team here in Gondor. I was privileged to have them but truthfully I was also a little bit intimidated to be the supervisor of a man who was my father's age and well seasoned in the work. I wont say it was always easy to supervise them but it was always a privilege and that is the truth.

They, like me had served in
Rohan for a time teaching English as a second language. We decided that we would not do that in Gondor as the needs were totally different. I should say right now that if one thing distinguished Gandalf from everyone else it was his love for the people to whom he was sent. He and his wife were of one mind in this and I learned much about love from them. Gandalf never learned the local language well. Most missionaries who fail to learn the local language well fail to love well. There are a few, very few exceptions and Gandalf was a big one. Love poured out of him everywhere he went and people immediately sensed that he cared about them when he came into a room. His wife learned the language better and they were a great team as he loved people and she shared the reason why!

One day they came to me and said, 'Strider, I know we said that we would not teach English here but God is asking us to start an English club. We don't want to but He is calling us to do it.' They said that it would just last six months and then be over. Oh, and by the way, it would be an English language club that studied the book of Job. Yeah, right. That's a good idea. Well, in the end it was. After six months of studying with about eight students three of them accepted Christ and all of them were very impacted. At this time we started our new humanitarian aid organization that would focus on disaster relief. We needed a secretary. I was willing to hire and work with Muslims, no problem, but our secretary who would be our office administrator really needed to be a believer whom we could trust to represent us well.
Gandalf's wife said that she had just the girl. A young girl who had come to faith in the English club. I was skeptical. She was shy and inexperienced. She would hardly talk to me. But Gandalf and his wife insisted she was the one.

We hired her and while
Gandalf and his wife moved on to Mordor a few years ago and are now retired the secretary is still with us. She was instrumental in starting the first church we started and has been a faithful minister to many in our office over the years. You see, love is not blind after all. In fact, true love sees much. It sees the treasure in others that only God sees. It sees what God can make in a life even when we only see mediocrity, sin, and waste. If I have learned anything from Gandalf and his wife it is that I am called to seek treasure. The treasure in everyone around me. The treasure that God is creating men and women to be. Are you surrounded by turkeys? Look with the eyes of love- not sentimentality by true self-sacrificing love and see what God is doing. Then in love call it forth and see what God is longing to make of the men and women around you. It is what you are here for.


Paul Burleson said...


This report post is absolutely wonderful. Thanks. My hopefulness has been extended as I read.

Tim Patterson said...


I have had similar experiences with coworkers... with the most unlikely/ eccentric people, and in the most unorthodox ways... and yet, God accomplished great things through them. Good insight about looking for the treasure, it is usually hidden to human eyes.

Strider said...

Paul, I didn't know if you reading a story about a guy a year or two older than you would be encouraging or challenging but I am always grateful that you come by and read.

Tim, One day a friend of mine was complaining about some weird guy who had visited us on the field and I replied, 'Dude, normal people don't come here.'

Bryan Riley said...

"normal people don't come here."

So true and what a classic line.

Jody said...

Great, someday, somewhere we'll fit in.