*****For a long time Dr Trogisch could not answer the question of meaning. He went ahead and performed his medical tasks, but he had no answer. Then he conducted an introductory course to train new helpers for the center. At the end of the one-year training period, he asked these young helpers to fill out a survey. Among the questions was this one, "What changes have taken place in your life since you became totally involved with disabled people?" Here is a selection of their answers:
- For the first time in my life I feel I am doing something really significant.
- I feel I can now do things I wouldn't have thought myself capable of before.
- During my time here I have won the affection of Sabine. Having had the opportunity to involve myself with a disabled person, I no longer think of her as disabled at all.
- I am now more responsive now to human suffering and it arouses in me the desire to help.
- It's made me question what is really important in life.
- Work has assumed a new meaning and purpose. I feel I'm needed now.
- I've learned to be patient and to appreciate even the slightest sign of progress.
- In observing the disabled, I've discovered myself.
- I've become more tolerant. My own little problems don't seem so important any longer, and I've learned to accept myself with all my inadequacies. Above all I've learned to appreciate the little pleasures in life, and especially I thank God that he has shown me that love can achieve more than hate or force.
As Dr Trogisch read their responses, he realized with a start the answer to his question. The meaning of the suffering of these children was being worked out in the lives of others, his helpers, who were learning lessons that no sophisticated educational system could teach. Where else could teenagers and college students learn such inestimable lessons as these?
Dr Trogisch has put his finger on a by-product of the church's mission that often gets overlooked. We tend to focus on the objects of ministry: the souls led to Christ, the marriages rescued, the poor fed and housed, the homebound elderly visited, the teenagers challenged. Yet as I read the New Testament, Jesus seems equally interested in what effect ministry is having on the people who are doing the work of ministry themselves.
(Philip Yancey, Church: Why Bother?, Zondervan, 1998, p79-90)