Is it not odd that in an age of instant and perpetual communication,
modern Americans live inside a glass shell of loneliness? Our relationships
in the workplace are superficial; we dare not reveal who we really are. Few
of us know much about our neighbors beyond their address; fewer still
become active ingredients in a local community.

Friendship requires time and honesty. That’s true, whether the
relationship is with other people, or with God. What we have of these
qualities we often choose to spend elsewhere. We’re too busy. There are job
responsibilities, school events to shuttle the kids back and forth between,
community organizations that need our leadership — and our “things” need
our time.

In the 1980s we winked at our busyness: after all, didn’t we still spend
“quality” time with our family and friends? The truth is, as our
possessions grew, so did the time we spent with them, paying for and caring
for inanimate objects. A popular bumper sticker during the 1980s said it
well: “He who dies with the most toys wins.” By the 1990s many of us had
learned another bumper-sticker truth: “He who dies with the most toys still

Is there any alternative to today’s loneliness? This evening, my wife
and I spent a delightful evening with another couple we had never met
before, and may never meet again. There was no entertainment, beyond a meal
and later a walk. Yet for one evening our lives joined, and in the process
of learning about one another, every one of us was enriched.

I could describe this couple as “homeless,” but while true, it would not
be accurate. Their “home” is a Mercy Ship that delivers free medical
services to Third World nations. They can do this because others, who are
part of the larger community that we shared that evening care enough to
send them. That larger community we share is the Christian community.

As a nation America is rich. As our guests this evening pointed out,
“Most of the world wants to come and live in America because of all our
possessions.” Perhaps that’s because they don’t understand the price we pay
for our possessions. Coworkers to whom we dare not reveal ourselves, lest
we fall from corporate grace. Broken marriages, angry, impoverished
husbands and wives, “blended” families, alienated and emotionally crippled
children, and impersonal, dysfunctional communities.

If you’re in the Portland, Oregon, area next week, you can visit the
Caribbean Mercy before she sails to Nicaragua to help the blind see, and
heal those who have lost arms and legs to land mines. It’s a free gift
provided by the Christian community, to those who are in pain and in need.

But even more than the poor in Nicaragua who will see and walk again,
perhaps it is America that most needs the gift the Caribbean Mercy can
give. (For a complete itinerary of the Caribbean Mercy and the other Mercy
Ships, visit on the web.)

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