I was on my way up to top of Mount Sinai and realized about a third of the way up that I was almost out of breath. I decided to stop and take a rest --then I looked up and there he was. An Egyptian Bedouin was standing there and asking me in halting English if I was going to continue. I responded that I would as soon as I caught my breath.
He sat down with me and waited until I regained my breath, and then we were off again, trying to get to the top of Mount Sinai. As we continued it was obvious to him that I was really laboring, and just about the time I was about to give up he reached out his hand and offered me support.
My manly pride almost led me to reject his help, but there was something inside that said, "James, everyone needs some help every now and then. So what makes you any different?"
I took his hand and off we went, back on the climb. We eventually met a camel driver who offered his camel for me to ride the rest of the way up, for a price. I accepted, and we continued up the mountain.
I wish I could write to you that I made it to the top, but I met Delphine who had already ridden a camel up and was coming back down along with two other women. I decided that I needed to accompany them back down the mountain. I was fine with that, because I believed I had already experienced what God wanted me to experience on that mountain. He wanted me to realize that everyone needs help from others at some point in their lives.
To accept help is not a sign of weakness but an acknowledgment of how God created us. We are social creatures. We were not created by the hand of God to be independent, but we have been created to share mutual love and support.
I received news here in Bethlehem that back home in Holston Conference, John Tate and the finance staff announced that our congregations paid 89.24 percent of their Fair Share apportionments in 2007. I was excited that the Maryville District paid 100 percent of its Fair Share. I was equally excited that 697 churches paid 100 percent or more. I realized that almost 90 percent of our churches are aware that every now and then, someone needs a little help in the name of Jesus. Because of the apportionment, it appears that students who want an education but can't afford it will be helped. It appears that missionaries serving in remote places will get a little help. It appears that those who said "yes" to God's call to ordained ministry will get a little help.
It appears that clergy who have retired after preaching the good news, visiting the sick, and sharing God's love with children will get a little help. It appears that a hungry person will now be fed because someone in one of our churches last year decided that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
I am sometimes in positions where I am the person who offers help. But on the day that I was tired and short of breath, a person named Awad reached out to me. I will never forget his support. No, I didn't make it to the top, but I certainly moved farther up the mountain than I would have without his assistance.
I want to thank those churches that reached out a helping hand last year, and I want to encourage those who didn't to try a little harder in 2008.