Who is your hero?
Heroes respond to tragic events with courage under fire. We watched heroes in action as the Boston Marathon bombing story unfolded.
We also watched the story of a hero on January 15, 2009. US Airways Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia at 9:15 that morning. Suddenly, 90 seconds into the flight, the A320 hit a huge flock of 15 pound geese. The cockpit recorder captured audible thuds as geese hit the plane. The geese killed both jet engines. But they did not kill the 155 people sitting on that plane. They lived because a quiet hero, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, calmly landed his 150,000 pound jet in the Hudson River.
I’m not easily impressed, but this impressed me.
Captain Sullenberger wasn’t born knowing how to land an A320 in a river. It took time and discipline to develop the ability to do exactly the right thing in the moment of extreme pressure. Sullenberger prepared for a life-changing moment of virtuous heroism by stitching together a life-time of small virtuous actions. Our pastor recently quoted Sullenberger’s own explanation:
“One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience: education and training. And on January 15, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”
Here’s the other thing that impresses me.
Many people I know quietly make small, regular deposits in the bank of experience. But their heroism remains hidden because they never face the kind of crisis Sullenberger encountered. CNN’s cameras never catch them making a withdrawal. They never make the evening news. But they are heroes nonetheless.
I get to work with a lot of heroes. For example, Dr. Denise Kjesbo, who leads the Children and Family Ministry M.A. program at Bethel Seminary. She also leads Bethel’s Cory Center for Children’s Ministry. And her influence is quietly being felt around the world.
There are many heroes we never hear about.
Two years ago, Dr. Kjesbo met with a Bethel graduate named Jan Ryder. Jan proposed to offer a Diploma in Children’s and Family Ministry at Carlile College in Nairobi, Kenya. The curriculum is patterned after Bethel’s Children and Family Ministry curriculum. Jan persisted in her quest to launch this program, and the first students arrived on campus last June.
This year the Cory Center team decided to offer scholarship funds through one of MACFM graduates, Jan Ryder. Gift Mwanza received the $1000 scholarship. Gift is a Children’s Ministry Leader from Zambia, and the scholarship will pay for two years of tuition at Carlile. When Gift finishes, she will pass on her knowledge to others. As the leader of Children’s Ministry in the Anglican Church for a whole region of Africa, she will educate children’s workers who serve little ones in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi.
Activity of this sort is gathering pace around the world. AnneMarie Finsaas, Associate Director of Global Initiatives for the Cory Center, travelled to join the Global Children’s Forum, a gathering held in Nairobi last month. The Forum is developing a Global Certificate in Children’s Ministry to educate hundreds more Gift Mwansas around the world. Bethel Seminary and The Cory Center will serve as the endorsing western seminary of the Global Certificate.
Quiet heroism leaves a legacy.
So Dr. Kjesbo launched a children’s ministry program at Bethel. Dr. Kjesbo’s student, Jan Ryder, started a children’s ministry program at Carlile. Jan Ryder’s student, Gift Mwansa, will start a children’s ministry program for hundreds of children’s workers in her sphere of influence. And Gift Mwansa’s students, children’s workers in a whole region of Africa, will offer love and care, wisdom and truth, to multiple thousands of children in the name of Christ.
Unlike Captain Sullenberger’s exploits, none of this will make a CNN broadcast. Still, these teachers are heroes in my book.