July 13, 2020
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Albert Schweitzer was a twentieth-century renaissance man—doctor, philosopher, and organist extraordinaire. He signed with Columbia Records and produced twenty-five recordings of Johann Sebastian Bach. But it was his work as a medical missionary that earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. That entrepreneurial enterprise began in the spring of 1913 when Albert and his wife, Helene, traveled fourteen days by raft up the Ogooué River, through the Central African rainforest, to reach a mission outpost in Gabon. There they established a hospital and cared for tens of thousands of patients over four decades and through two world wars. A hundred years later Albert Schweitzer Hospital is one of the leading research hospitals on the continent of Africa and is working to end the scourge of malaria.
Now here’s the rest of the story.
One autumn day in 1904 Albert sat down at his writing desk at St. Thomas Seminary and found a magazine from the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society. It was put there by Miss Scherdlin, a childhood friend of Albert’s. She knew that he loved those missionary letters. In fact, when he was a child, his father used to read them to him. Before turning to his studies, Albert turned the pages of that magazine until he came to an article titled “The Needs of the Congo Mission.” That article changed the trajectory of his life. The author, Alfred Boegner, expressed hope that his appeal for missionaries would fall into the hands of those “on whom the Master’s eyes already rested.”
Albert Schweitzer had locked eyes with his lion. “I finished my article,” Schweitzer said, “and quietly began my work. My search was over.”
It was a quiet move, a premove.
I don’t belong in the same sentence as Schweitzer, but my dream journey parallels his in one significant way. Like Schweitzer, I discovered my destiny in a magazine. On the heels of our failed church plant during my seminary days, I was flipping through a mission magazine when I came across an advertisement for a parachurch ministry in Washington, DC. Why I stopped flipping the pages is still a mystery to me, but there was something magnetic about that particular page. That article led to a phone call, which led to a visit, which led to an opening move to Washington, DC.
Destiny doesn’t make appointments. It usually shows up at the door unannounced. And it often knocks quietly, so you have to listen carefully. It shows up in a magazine, in a meeting, in a lecture. It shows up on vacation or on a mission trip.
In a sense, you don’t discover your destiny. Your destiny discovers you. It shows up in a field of lentils, in taunting Philistines, in a pit with a lion on a snowy day.
I don’t know what Benaiah had on his to-do list that day, but I’m sure he had places to go and things to do. But Benaiah recognized his destiny when it roared. Instead of taking flight, he decided to fight for his destiny.
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.