Serve or Die

Dr. Paul Brand told me of his most memorable visitor to Vellore, India, where he directed a leprosy hospital. One day a French friar named Pierre showed up. Over the next few weeks he stayed with the Brands and told them his life’s story. Born into a noble family, he had served in the French Parliament until he became disillusioned with the slow pace of political change. After World War II, thousands of homeless beggars lived in the streets. Pierre could not tolerate the endless debates by noblemen and politicians while so many street people starved outside.

Philip YanceyDuring an unusually harsh winter, many of the Parisian beggars froze to death. Pierre resigned his post and became a Catholic friar to work among them. He concluded his only recourse was to organize the beggars themselves. He taught them to do menial tasks better. They divided into teams to scour the city for bottles and rags. Next, he led them to build a warehouse from discarded bricks and then start a business in which they sorted and processed vast quantities of used bottles from hotels and businesses. Finally, Pierre inspired each beggar by giving him responsibility to help another beggar poorer than himself. The project caught fire, and in a few years an organization called Emmaus was founded.

But now the organization was facing a point of crisis. After years of this work, there were no beggars left in Paris. “I must find somebody for my beggars to help!” he declared. “If I don’t find people worse off than my beggars, this movement could turn inward. They’ll become a powerful, rich organization, and the whole spiritual impact will be lost. They’ll have no one to serve.”

At a leprosy colony in India, five thousand miles away, Abbé Pierre found at last the solution. He met hundreds of leprosy patients, many from the Untouchable caste, worse off in every way than his former beggars. As he met them, his face would break into a huge grin. Returning to his beggars in France, he mobilized them to build a ward at the hospital in Vellore. “No, no, it is you who have saved us,” he told the grateful recipients of his gift in India. “We must serve or we die.”
~ Philip Yancey in Reaching for the Invisible God (239 – 40)


© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2014. All rights reserved.



Filed under Compassion, influence with the world, Loving others, Philip Yancey, Serving

6 responses to “Serve or Die

  1. Pam

    Thank you. I was touched with this story!

  2. Hi, Rick.
    You haven’t posted in a while, hope you’re doing well, my friend.

    • Hi Bill! Thank you so much for checking on me. About four months ago I began a new position as full-time chaplain at our local hospital and have shifted from full-time to part-time pastor. Am still amazed that God opened this door of ministry opportunity but am still trying to learn how to balance my time with both ministry responsibilities. As much as I have enjoyed blogging I simply haven’t had time lately but am praying about it. Still keeping up with the few blogs I follow and always look forward to reading what you share! Thanks again Bill!

      • Congratulations on your new position. Sounds like God’s promoted you. The thing I’ve learned is that we must focus on what God has us doing and it sounds like it’s your new position at this time.
        Keep a journal from your ministry and maybe at some point your journal entries will make for some great blog posts.
        Take care, my friend.

  3. Great idea Bill! And thanks again for checking in on me! Friends like you are a rare breed and a gift from God.

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