Great is Thy faithfulness
Remembering the glory is in the details
As WORLD celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, I’ve been reminded of an anniversary of my own: Twenty years ago, I attended the second class of the World Journalism Institute, and my own association with WORLD began.
The technology we used testifies to the passage of time: A merry band of 20-somethings toted oversized laptops (I had to borrow one) into WORLD’s old headquarters in a mall on Tunnel Road. We squirmed while editors dissected our stories on an overhead projector. No Dropbox or Google Docs to make things less painful.
We worked hard, but it was still a rather carefree August in Asheville. We had no idea that a couple of weeks after we returned home, the world and everything in it would unalterably change as terrorists hijacked commercial planes and killed thousands of Americans in a single morning.
But on those last summer days before 9/11, we soaked up hearing from WORLD writers, and we got a kick out of bumping into them outside of our basement classroom. On a Saturday morning grocery run with a couple of classmates, we spotted WORLD founder Joel Belz in the produce section of Ingles. He was sampling a hot drink in a tiny cup, and when we approached to say hello, he almost immediately asked, “Do you know what I think would be an interesting story?”
He talked about the supply chain, and he wondered aloud about where all the abundant food in this store had come from and about all the people who had tended to it along the way. The next day, he invited our class to his home after a Sunday evening worship service, and he mentioned his love of hymns: The title of a hymn is like a headline, he said, and the verses fill in all the glorious details of the story.
When I started writing for WORLD three years later, I learned about the importance of details. I got a couple of them wrong in one of the first stories I submitted and received a firm note from editor Mindy Belz reminding me that it’s not just big mistakes that undermine a story: People’s names matter, so don’t misspell them.
She was right, and though I’ve still made my share of mistakes over the years, that early lesson was helpful: Details do matter, and so do the ordinary lives of people who might not otherwise draw much attention.
Over the years that followed, I’ve met lots of Christians doing hard things in difficult places, who probably won’t be singled out again in any high-profile way on this side of heaven.
I think of the grown daughter of a prisoner now doing prison ministry herself, the Haitian pastor leading a frightened congregation, and the South Sudanese mom creating a fun Sunday school class for scores of children in a refugee camp without flannel boards or crayons or snacks. We meet them in passing in the pages of WORLD, but I often think about how their names are carefully recorded in the Lamb’s book of life, and how much their stories matter because God has written them Himself.
During those carefree days in 2001, I had no idea that 20 years after my grocery store encounter with Joel, I’d be writing about him for our Daniel of the Year profile (see p. 38). In a recent visit with him near WORLD’s old headquarters, I found him still curious about the world and interested in the details of a good story.
The most important details about the most important stories are summed up in the Scriptures he’s memorized and the hymns that he loves. So as we give thanks for all that God has done over 40 years, we can revel in those details: “Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!”
Headline: Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto us.
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