I can still remember the last time I saw Bruce Wilson.
"Tell me, mate, how did you end up in the Philippines as a missionary?"
My flight out of Manila was not leaving for another hour. The coffee shop was in a quiet part of the airport.
"It's not really interesting," he said shifting uncomfortably in his chair.
I waited patiently for him to tell his story.
"I used to be a journalist and ended up working for Senator Peterson."
"Wow!" I was impressed. Jo Peterson was a force to be reckoned with.
"My job was to control the media," he continued.
"How does that work?" I asked.
"Well you work out who the people of influence are and you manage them."
The waitress brought our coffee and I noted the time.
"So what happened?" I asked.
Bruce Wilson took his time before answering.
"I was here in '93 with the Senator writing press releases for the start of each day," he spoke quietly. "One night I went for a walk through Rizal Park."
"You were either foolish or brave," I mused.
"Suddenly a little girl grabbed my hand. Her mother was lying under a tarp. She had been bitten by a rat and was shaking with rabies."
"So what did you do?"
"I carried her to the hospital. But for some reason they would not treat her until someone paid $240 up front."
"I guess you paid it," I responded.
"The family washed dishes for a local restaurant. They lived in the park at night with a thousand other homeless people."
"I get the feeling there is more to the story.” I finished my coffee and checked the time.
Bruce Wilson did the same. “I’m sitting in the waiting room with the little girl when my phone rings.”
“OK,” I noticed the missionary’s lip curl with disgust.
“One of the journalist was calling me to complain. The hotel I put him in did not have room service after midnight.”
I tried to stifle a laugh.
“‘My life should not be this difficult,’ he screamed at me.”
“You’re kidding!” I blurted.
“No, I’m not.” Wilson shook his head with sadness.
The waitress cleared our cups and brought us the bill.
“This one’s on me, brother.” I paid and left a generous tip.
We walked the short distance to the Check In station. As the doors closed behind me I sighed with relief. Manila is a chaotic place and I was pining for home.
“Have you heard the story of Martin of Tours?” Bruce Wilson asked.
“Remind me,” I answered slightly embarrassed by my ignorance.
“He died in 397AD. But history records that one day he saw a beggar in the street.”
The story sounded familiar.
“He cut his cloak in half and gave it to him so that the old man wouldn’t be cold. That night Martin had a vision. He saw Jesus on His throne wearing half a cloak. The Lord turned to his angels and cried, ‘Look what my friend, Martin gave me.’”
It was time to leave. I held out my hand to say farewell.
“Bruce, next time you’re home on furlough you must stay with us.”
“It’s a promise, pal.”
When he reached the sliding doors I suddenly remembered something.
“Hey Bruce!” I called.
Wilson turned with a quizzical look.
“Whatever happened to the mother?” Several heads turned to see what the shouting was about.
Bruce Wilson broke into a huge grin. “She lived!” he called back.
As I made my way through customs I passed by a newsagent. There was a long flight ahead of me and I needed something to read. As I glanced at the headlines I suddenly decided to do an experiment. Picking up several more papers I paid for them and headed to the boarding lounge.
During the flight I would study each article and record those news items that dealt with matters of eternal value.
“Perhaps Bruce Wilson was right,” I mused. “The real news is in the thousand acts of kindness we experience every day.”
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