Thursday, January 11, 2007

Rambo vs The Darkness

I imagine for most of you, the name Rambo calls up images of Sylvester Stallone rampaging through the jungle, explosive tipped arrows in hand, winning wars single-handed against odds that would give the entire armed forces occasion to pause. Defying all odds, and over-coming all obstacles (usually by blowing them up) he always achieves the impossible goal the writers have set for him. One of my favourite lines is where the terrorist leader asks Rambo's captive commander, “Who does this man think he is? God??” To which Richard Crenna (playing the commander) responds, “No... God would be merciful!”

Well, I’d like to tell you about another Rambo, through whom God’s mercy was shown to thousands of people. He too defied the odds and battled to accomplish the seemingly impossible, only instead of an assemblage of Hollywood hacks, the writer of this screenplay was the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Victor Rambo could have been a highly successful surgeon in the United States. Instead his heart was filled with compassion for the blind in India. Victor understood the feeling of total helplessness that befell those who suffered from the likes of cataracts and glaucoma. He often told the story of one woman who, before losing her sight, was known as a hardworking and useful member of the community. But when she became blind, depression set in, to the point where she could not eat unless food was put in her mouth. She did not remember her family, the time of day, or even her own name. Then Dr. Rambo operated on one of her eyes. A week later, he took off the bandages, and by the end of the day the woman had her mind back, and her joy was so great she wept openly. Victor operated on her other eye, too, and then he told her and her family about another man who healed the blind, Jesus.

with an estimated five million blind people in India, the need was too great for one man, or one clinic. Rambo started recruiting other doctors, and when that proved insufficient, he started training students of his own to meet the need. They would set up “eye camps” travelling from region to region rather than forcing people make the arduous journey to see him.

An advance team would arrive first to clean out and prepare the school or factory where the temporary clinic would be held. Then they would perform a kind of triage, identifying those who could be helped by surgery and tagging them as to which operation they needed. Before the operations began Victor Rambo always made sure his patients and their families understood that all this was being done for the sake of Jesus. He did all he could to calm their fears before the process began, sometimes even tap-dancing on top of a table to entertain them until the whole crowd was laughing and enjoying themselves.

Then the surgery would begin, all the teams working simultaneously, often lasting well into the night because, like his Hollywood namesake, this Rambo would not quit until everyone had been saved. After all the surgeries were done, and time came for Rambo to move on, a nurse would remain behind to make sure the bandages did not come off until the eyes had chance to heal properly. Teams also continued the gospel message, a message heard all the more because of the clear demonstration that Victor cared as much about them as he did about the preaching the gospel.

Dr. Victor Rambo clearly demonstrated that meeting people’s spiritual needs is most effective when we meet their physical needs as well. Too often in the church’s history great crusades have swept into a region preaching eternal salvation and then left their new converts to meet their saviour all too soon because they had no food for their stomachs or clothes for their backs. They fail to see the hypocrisy that exists in walking away after telling about the man who walked upon the water to a people who’s only source of drinking water is the disease infested run off from a garbage dump.

Dr. Victor Rambo had no such duplicity in his character. He knew in his heart, from the very beginning, that it would be easier for people to see Jesus, once they could see their friends and families. When Victor set out for India, he had never removed a cataract before, it was not part of his training. But he would soon learn, and make such a dent in that five million that he would become one of the most famous eye doctors in the world, winning the hearts of thousands for the Kingdom of God.

He set sail for India on January 12, 1924 – 83 years ago this week.

Other things that happened this week - Jan. 7-13

January 7, 367
Early church father Athanasius, famous for his battles against the Arian heresy (they denied the divinity of Christ), writes a letter that contains a list of what he thinks should be considered the canon of Scripture. At the Council of Hippo (Africa) in 393 his list would be accepted by the church.

January 8, 1956
Plymouth Brethren missionaries Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully, and Pete Fleming are killed by Ecuadorean Indians they sought to evangelize. The story of the missionaries and their deaths along the Curaray River was publicized by Elliot's widow, Elizabeth, in 'Through Gates of Splendor', published the following year.

January 9, 1569
Philip of Moscow, primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, is murdered by Czar Ivan IV, just one of the many reasons he was called Ivan the Terrible.

January 10, 1739
George Whitefield, Anglican preacher who launched America's first Great Awakening, is ordained to the ministry. Jealous of his popularity, many ministers denied Whitefield the use of their pulpits, so he took to open-air preaching. Good choice -- his booming voice, according to reports, could be heard up to a mile away.

January 11, 1759
The first American life insurance company is incorporated in Philadelphia. Since Madison Avenue wasn’t in the advertising game yet, the company had the cumbersome title of – "Corporation of Poor and Distressed Presbyterian Ministers and of the Poor and Distressed Widows and Children of Presbyterian Ministers."

January 13, 1501
The world's first hymn book printed in the common language of a region was published in Prague. It contained 89 hymns in the Czech language. I’d love to tell you what the name of it was, but the only surviving copy is missing its title page.

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