one to one: Lessons about life, ministry, and grandkids
by Keith Burden, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists
When Actions Speak Louder Than Words
No one knew much about the elderly gentleman. Without formal introduction or fanfare he began attending services at our church quite regularly. As a young teenage boy, his quiet, humble demeanor impressed me. He seldom spoke unless spoken to.
In time, I discovered he was a relatively new believer in spite of his advanced age. Always neatly groomed and well dressed, he usually sat alone near the mid-section of the sanctuary. I still recall the black, leather-bound, red-letter-edition Bible he carried. I respectfully called him by his first name—Brother Foster.
One particular occasion stands out in my memory. It was a Sunday evening. Our church commemorated the suffering and death of Christ by observing the Lord’s Supper. Following communion, as was our practice, we participated in the gospel ordinance of washing the saints’ feet. The ladies assembled in the auditorium. The men gathered in a separate area.
Deacons carried in porcelain pans of water and distributed long, white towels among the participants. I sat in the chair directly across from Brother Foster. As I removed my shoes and socks, I noticed a look of uneasiness on his face. In short order, I discovered the reason for his expression; this was his first time to participate in a feet-washing service.
Sensing he was a little uncomfortable, I went first. Carefully positioning the basin in front of him, I girded the towel around my waist and proceeded to wash his feet. When finished, I sat down and waited for him to reciprocate. Slowly and humbly, the aged saint knelt and washed my feet. When he finished, without saying a word we both stood to our feet. His tear-filled eyes and strong embrace spoke volumes. In that moment I witnessed the fulfillment of Jesus’ words in John 13:17: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”
A few weeks later, during a Sunday service, I was stunned to learn my friend had suffered a massive stroke. He was unconscious and in critical condition at the local hospital. That evening, I and others from our church gathered in the hallway just outside the intensive care unit. We reminisced about our experiences with Brother Foster and prayed for him. A few hours later, he slipped peacefully into the Lord’s presence.
Brother Foster made an impression on me that has lasted almost 50 years. It wasn’t because he said something profound or did something spectacular. It was his humble spirit that greatly impacted my life. Perhaps Germain Glidden said it best: “The older I grow, the more I listen to people who don’t say much.” In a day when we are bombarded by so many voices speaking so many words, isn’t it refreshing to know someone whose positive actions speak louder than their words?
About the Column
One to One is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life, ministry...and the joys of grandchildren.