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The Triumph of Faith in John Murdo

Category Articles
Date December 2, 2002

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). To ease another’s burden, help carry it."

by David Cassells

I have a tale to tell and, despite embarrassed reticence, I have the permission of its subjects to tell it.

Every time I open my wallet I think of Murdo John. Not that I owe him money! It’s just that my wallet has a pocket with a plastic see-through front. It allows me to see a small piece of paper with some typewritten words: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). To ease another’s burden, help carry it." That piece of paper is precious to me, for two reasons. One, because of what it says, and two, because of the person who gave it to me.

Murdo John suffers from multiple sclerosis. As you may already know, multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe paralysis or loss of vision. For Murdo John it means sitting every day, hour after hour, in a chair in his living room. His ability to control his limbs is seriously restricted, and speaking is very difficult. To the best of my knowledge this has been the case for around 25 years now, and it is progressive. That positive sounding word, progressive, merely means that it is getting worse. But Murdo John and his devoted wife, Mary Anne, refuse to be daunted. I am sure they have their down moments, but they are not for public consumption. For every visitor the home has a welcoming and encouraging atmosphere, an atmosphere which is the fruit of a strong faith in Christ and an over-riding desire to please God – even in adversity. Perhaps better to say, especially in adversity?

In such circumstances opportunities to do anything for the cause of the kingdom of Christ are impossible. Or are they? Not for Murdo John. That piece of paper is one of hundreds produced every year. Just a typewritten verse and a motto based on the text. I don’t need to describe how arduous the task of producing these can be. But everyone who comes into the home is allowed to rummage in the box and take one away. To be honest, I have broken the rules. Strictly speaking, so the rules say, I should have passed it on to someone else. But with Murdo John’s permission I have kept this one. Just to remind me of him and Mary Anne. When he is able, Murdo John types a text together with a few appropriate words, and this is one aspect of his Christian service. He refuses to be disheartened and simply wants to serve others to the glory of Christ.

The text and motto that I received are precious also because of what they say. That piece of paper carries its own challenge and, at the same time, says something about the man who typed it. You see, Murdo John has another ministry. Prayer. He has an enthusiastic interest in the cause of evangelism, and so he prays. He prays intelligently and sincerely for those who labour for the Lord in ways that he cannot. In so doing, in accordance with that motto and despite all his disability, he is carrying the burdens of others, and thereby he eases those burdens. Stimulating and feeding prayer is one of the core aspects of the work of the European Missionary Fellowship. My little memento, carried with me wherever I go, is a constant lesson about the spirit in which that praying ought to be undertaken.

My tale is told, but here is a question in closing, what can a house-bound man suffering from MS and his wife in Stornoway do for the Lord? As Christians we often use a phrase, ‘only eternity will tell’.



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