(October 25, 2021) Robert and Maureen McQuillan share an encouragement…
We had a tear in our eyes when reading a comment by Henry Winkler last month. Renowned for his iconic role as the Fonz in the hit TV series Happy Days, after years as Arthur Fonzarelli, he questioned whether his career effectively used his ‘God-given talents.’
According to www.movieguide.org, having been trained as a classical actor, he had always meant to be a ‘serious’ actor – doing drama, not comedy.
‘Occasionally I would wonder: Was playing the character of Fonzie doing anybody any good? I’d been raised in the Jewish faith and still felt a real peace and closeness to God when I worshipped in a synagogue,’ he said. ‘Was I doing what I was really meant to do? Was I using my God-given talents in the best possible way?’
One day an answer came in the most unexpected way. Back in the 80s Henry Winkler had been chairperson of an annual event called the Special Arts Festival held at the Music Center in Los Angeles. Children came there with mental and physical handicaps come to perform in their own amateur theatrics, to show their talents, and exhibit their artwork.
‘Children are there from all backgrounds and all walks of life, and as I walked through the crowds, I’d do a lot of hugging. I’d hold the hand of a little girl in a wheelchair. I’d joke with a young boy without a leg,’ he said.
In a www.guideposts.org 1985 article, Henri Winkler said he remembered one interaction with one of the children that confirmed for him that faith and entertainment were not separate. He wrote: Several years ago there was such a racket that it was amazing I heard the voice at all. ‘Fonzie,’ someone said. A small, shy voice in all the hubbub. ‘Fonzie!’
A little girl with large brown eyes and dark curls looked up at me. She was perhaps five years old – just staring at me. She didn’t say another word, wouldn’t answer my questions. I just figured she was simply one of those shy ones that you see occasionally.
I told the little girl how glad I was to see her and looked up into the face of the woman who must have been her mother. But why were her eyes shiny with tears? The crowd closed around us and l went on.
And then one day I got a letter – from the mother of the little girl. She told me all about her daughter –I’ll call her Claire – that she was autistic. In the entire five years of her life, Claire had not spoken a single word – until she called out… ‘Fonzie!’ Somehow the character of Fonzie had broken through to her, enabling her in that one mysterious moment to make a connection… with life.
The next year Claire was at the festival again, and I eagerly went to see her. This time her voice was firm and clear. ‘Hi, Fonzie,’ she said.
Her mother told me that Claire’s teachers had told her that her daughter now had a vocabulary of over 50 words, that they couldn’t believe what’s happened. Just at that moment, Claire tugged at my hand. ‘My sister,’ she said, pointing out the young girl standing close to them. ‘Hug her, too.’
Henry Winkler also wrote, ‘Sometimes we wonder if we’re doing our best for God. We’re not sure if we’re doing what we should with the gifts he gave us. That little girl showed me that we simply have to do whatever comes our way to the best of our abilities. And trust that God will find his way to touch someone else with them. And what is that trust called? It’s called faith.’
Doing ‘whatever comes our way’
For many months we’ve been encouraging readers and people we have contact with via correspondence, emails, mobile or Skype to reach out and take every opportunity to touch, bless, encourage or challenge someone. To do whatever comes our way… especially when churches are either in lockdown or scantily attended.
We can make friends by even saying thank you for services rendered… as we’ve written before about thanking checkout personnel where we purchase groceries. Even last Friday at our local supermarket checkout, we thanked the young assistant who was going out of her way to ensure our bags weren’t overloaded (She had observed that I, Robert, had my walking cane and Maureen was doing all the lifting).
I thanked her, saying ‘Now don’t say what you’ve been told to say, that “It’s my job to help.’’ I know it is – but I also know that so many customers, especially men, don’t say “Thank you” so I am.’ You should have the bright smile that brought forth!
Jesus had called his disciples ‘Friends’ (John 15:15). Yet Matthew 26:16 tells us that Judas was on the lookout for a chance to betray his friend Jesus… ‘From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.’
If Henry Winkler had wondered if his career was being effectively use, the apostle Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 16:8-9, that he would ‘stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me.’ The message Bible names this opening as ‘A huge door of opportunity for good work.’
Indeed Paul took every opportunity to highlight this same friend, his Lord and Saviour and encouraged others to do likewise…
- Galatians 6:10, ‘Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’
- Ephesians 5:16, ‘…making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.’
- Colossians 4:5, ‘Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.’
We’re still living through this time of pandemic, increased crime and uncertainty, a time when the words of Night Garden Music’s song Everybody Hurts – that we recently heard Father Ray Kelly sing from his heart on an old Britain’s Got Talent segment – are very relevant.
One stanza says, ‘Cause everybody hurts, Take comfort in your friends, Everybody hurts.’
Fr Kelly, finding fame in his sixties, would talk later when interviewed about using his God-given gifts to glorify God and his Son Jesus. But you don’t have find fame at any age, be famous or be a priest, pastor or any other kind of church leader to use your God-given gifts, be ministering. Being a friend to someone is effective work… ministry. Take every opportunity! Beyond encouraging people you could find an opening to share about Jesus being our best friend and Saviour.
This ‘effective work’ and using one’s God-given talents isn’t only for ‘ministers.’ It’s for every Christian!
Friendship begins at home
Actually there are several words in both OT and NT that relate to ‘ministry.’ A NT one being diakonia, a word we often link with deacons, servants of the local church. Service is the key here and it’s been said that no one should get puffed up about ministry as it’s a word that really means servant.
And not only servant but slave (Hebrew abodah: bondservant or bondslave). Going deeper, not just a slave but a like a third row down galley Roman galley as depicted left!
So then… think of ministering as ‘anyone of the local flock’ serving others. And the home base can be a good starting point in reaching out to bless people… a mission front on our own doorstep. But note… ‘loving one’s neighbour’ is not all about seeing people saved. Praise God when this happens… but remember we’re here to meet needs how and when we can, thus blessing others. This too is effective ministry.
Maureen and I find ourselves reaching out to many people from different backgrounds, even overseas, and often strangers… but here’s a simple example, very personal, very close to home…
There used to be an old saying that some many guys never really could figure out what they really want to be until they’re 25 or 30. And by that time opportunities had been missed. We’ve been praying that our son Stuart’s young boys would have great opportunities to find themselves and be achievers in life.
Out-of-the-blue last week, an amazing opportunity came our youngest grandson Aiden’s way! The opportunity? To learn at TAFE how to be welder, a training opportunity that can lead to many openings and a secure career as welders are badly needed all over the world! He was told last Thursday that someone had cancelled out of a course starting Monday and the one-off free opening was offered to him if he could go for an interview and, if accepted, could get the necessary personal gear and be ready.
On hearing about this, we prayed about it all and offered to support in every way we could including getting the needed gear. Praise God those prayers were answered and young Aiden (17 years-old and quite tall, even taller in his new gear) started this morning with great hope in his heart.
We’ve pointed out to him that this opportunity was a miracle, our praying and caring for him and his future, and encouraged him to believe in himself and for a great career up ahead. Proud of him, we encouraged him to trust God who cares for him.
Aiden left geared up and eagerly ready
Seeking to help, to encourage, to help is really about giving someone hope. Hope in God is stupendous. Maureen’s favourite scripture is Romans 15:13, ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’
So we would inspire our readers to offer hope to those with needs in this troubled world. The world may be in a mess but God is still in charge and he offers hope to all.
Oh we may never become a film star like Henry Winkler or a TV icon, but let’s use our God-given hours, talents, experiences, finance, to ‘do whatever comes our way’ and make our days effective ones.
Dr Robert and Maureen McQuillan’s links are OnlinerConnect@gmail.com and Facebook (Scripture/other emphases in this Onliner ours. Appreciated images/pics: various general sources).