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The acclaimed Jewish author Chaim Potok once wrote, “All beginnings are hard.”* 

The good rabbi might just as well have added, “As are all endings.” 

There is no easy way to report the ending of anything you have loved—a much-needed vacation; a cherished relationship; an exquisite concert; or a fulfilling job. 

You may decorate the narrative with fond remembrances; you may underline the turmoil and hardship that attended the journey; you may sum up all the things accomplished and the growth that was experienced. But in the end, there still is the end. 

With this editorial, I will complete 16 years as executive editor of Adventist Review and soon begin another chapter in my ministry career. On January 1, 2023, I will move to a new role as the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s liaison to the U.S. Congress, the White House, and the diplomatic corps based in Washington, D.C. 

Unlike some who leave leadership positions, this is not for me a journey of regret or retirement. I have deeply loved the years of leading this remarkable editorial team, and the full 25 years I have spent shaping the flagship journal of the Adventist Church. But you may call yourself truly blessed if in leaving a job you have loved for 25 years, you move to a job of which you have dreamed for 50 years. 

I was 15 when I first discovered that my church appointed a representative to advance its interests on Capitol Hill and with the political and intellectual leadership of the nation. It seemed then—as it seems now—a remarkable opportunity to work among and with those whose decisions shape the religious and political freedoms of the United States, and collaterally, other nations of the world. My life story—punctuated by an intense interest in government, a doctoral degree in the history of American religion, and a deep awareness of the vigilance required to protect the rights guaranteed in the nation’s founding documents—has quietly moved me to a role I never expected might be mine. 

None of the remarkable growth and change experienced by this magazine and its umbrella organization, Adventist Review Ministries, in the past 16 years would have been possible without the immense contributions of the talented men and women who have worked alongside me. Adventist Review TV, podcasts, video documentaries, book-length publications, websites that serve hundreds of thousands each month, and a social media platform that communicates with millions more all emerged alongside our historic and widespread print ministry because the Spirit brought to us persons of singular talent and focus. 

Many of them came with deep experience in other church ministries or the public sector. Their passion for their church, their extensive professional networks, and their desire to build God’s kingdom stretched both my vision and my comfort. Left to myself, I might have been content to camp within the world of print I have cherished since I first learned to read. 

To the many thousands who value this journal and the way it has shaped your own spiritual journey, I offer my gratitude as well. Your notes of encouragement, your prayers, your phone calls, and even the occasional rebuke have helped to improve and strengthen both the magazine and the movement. 

This journal has been from its inception in 1849 a defining force in God’s remnant church— both the inspiration for its mission and the place where that mission is reported and celebrated. Nudged by that history, I have written in these columns of passion for truth, of witness, of justice, of dialogue, and of civility. The conversation begun in the pages of this journal 173 years ago will continue shaping us until we wake to that day that has no end. 

So stay in grace. 

* Chaim Potok, In the Beginning (Penguin Literary Group, 1975).

Think about the thief on the cross. Deemed worthy of death by crucifixion (reserved for the worst offenders), he wasn’t pinned up there for stealing bread to feed his hungry family. Even he admitted that he deserved this punishment, saying, “for we receive the due reward of our deeds” (Luke 23:41). And at first, he was mocking Jesus, too. “Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing” (Matt. 27:44). Not a model citizen, by any means. 

And yet, what? The religious leaders, those who should have been worshipping Jesus as the Messiah, were mocking Him instead. “He saved others; Himself He cannot save,” they mocked. “If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him” (Matt. 27:42). His disciples, who should have known by now what was going to happen, having been told by Jesus beforehand (Matt. 26:2; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22; 24:7), were clueless, which explains why most fled. Even the women, who followed Jesus to the cross, had no idea what His coming death meant. “And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons” (Matt. 27:55, 56). And, of course, the Roman soldiers knew nothing as well. 

But then, there was the thief, the thief on the cross. Despite the pain of crucifixion, despite the jeering, despite the mocking by the religious leaders and by the Romans, despite the weight of his own guilt, this wretched soul’s words to Jesus—”Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42)— reveal that he knew who Jesus was and what Jesus was doing on the cross for him. 

Besides Jesus, this man, this guilty man worthy of death, he—among all the world’s sinners—he alone knew what was happening at the cross when everyone else, even those who should have known, didn’t. 

“The Holy Spirit illuminates his mind, and little by little the chain of evidence is joined together. In Jesus, bruised, mocked, and hanging upon the cross, he sees the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world. Hope is mingled with anguish in his voice as the helpless, dying soul casts himself upon a dying Saviour. ‘Lord, remember me,’ he cries, ‘when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.’ ”

And how did Jesus respond to this profession of faith? Did He throw up the man’s past: his thievery; his reviling; his defective character; his less-than-stellar life record? No. Despite everything unworthy about this man who had nothing to offer Christ but his own sin and guilt, Jesus—in response to the helpless plea, ”Lord, remember me when You come into your kingdom”— promised him, right then and there, “You will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). 

And what in the end can any of us do before Jesus but present, indeed, the same helpless plea?

* Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898, 1940), p. 750. 

Within hours of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, ADRA’s team within the country had already received hundreds of calls. As news of the conflict grew, people began reaching out to ADRA offices around the world. Everyone was asking the same question: How can we help? 

As supporters shared their prayers and donations, and schools, churches, businesses, and others launched their fundraisers, ADRA’s work was already underway. 

A crisis like this has unique challenges. ADRA’s staff in Ukraine aren’t just emergency responders; they are as affected by the war as the neighbors they continue to serve. They have been displaced from their homes, stayed behind as family members fled to safer locations, been locked down without food and water, and coordinated their work from underground shelters as bombs fell overhead. 

They weren’t alone. ADRA’s global network quickly coordinated support and deployed international emergency response teams to Romania and Poland. These teams provided additional resources for those in Ukraine and helped ADRA teams in neighboring countries as they launched emergency projects for those fleeing the country. 

At the time of writing this article, more than 7 million people are displaced from their homes within Ukraine, and around 6 million have crossed into neighboring countries and beyond. Men of fighting age are not allowed to leave Ukraine, so most of the refugees are women and children. 

In the border centers where ADRA has been active since the earliest days of the conflict, those fleeing have shared their stories of heartbreaking loss and horrifying escapes. 

Masha experienced every parent’s worst nightmare as helicopters fired upon a broken bridge she was trying to cross with her two small children. She held them tightly as she rushed into the cold water below, slipping across jagged beams and broken pieces of the bridge as they crossed before scrambling up the bank and running for their lives. 

Elena was trapped in the devastation of Mariupol as the city was bombed relentlessly. She lost track of the days in a bomb shelter she shared with others with little food or water in freezing temperatures. When friends finally found her and took her to their home, the bombs soon followed. Her terrifying ordeal continued with a days-long escape through checkpoints and across active minefields. 

Nina was only 1 when Nazis invaded her hometown in 1941. Her parents fled with her to safety in Siberia at the time, and now the 82-year-old grandmother is a refugee from war once again. Before making the decision to leave Ukraine, Nina stayed in her apartment because her limited mobility made it too difficult to get down to the shelter in her apartment building’s basement every time the air-raid sirens started again. As a second-time refugee, she is able to stay connected with her smartphone and carries precious memories with her on a flash drive of favorite photos. 

How Is ADRA Responding?

Thanks to the generosity of supporters and partners, ADRA’s support is ongoing and will last as long as it is needed. 

Within Ukraine ADRA’s work includes evacuating people from conflict hot spots, distributing emergency food, water, and hygiene kits, as well as providing cash support, which is crucial, as each person’s and family’s needs are unique. 

In neighboring countries ADRA’s work in welcome centers at the borders of Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Moldova, and Hungary includes providing food and water, clothing, hygiene items and other essentials, children’s play centers, psychosocial support, and pet supplies. 

ADRA’s work quickly expanded to include refugees from Ukraine in countries across Europe where local ADRA offices are providing additional support, including language lessons, legal resources, education support, cash, social activities and classes, toys, household items, and other essentials for long-term stays far from home. 

Watch Ruslana’s Story

In my area there are a few organizations I support because of what they mean to members of my family. Food Share Ventura, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Aut2Run (autism support), and Child Fund (educational aid for children in Iran). 


My top two are World Central Kitchen, because everyone needs and deserves a delicious hot meal; and ADRA, as they dedicate 90 percent of their monetary donations to causes such as disaster relief, clean water, etc. 


I regularly support ADRA, ACS, and on occasion, World Central Kitchen. The former because they are connected with my faith and it is easy to donate to them because they are a line item when I submit tithes and offerings. Giving to them is part of my regular offering. 


I support ADRA and Christian Children’s Fund. ADRA because of its reach and impact around the globe and the fact that it has Adventist attached to it. I think that allows us to share our beliefs if asked. Christian Children’s Fund because of its worldwide reach provides necessities and education through high school. I have personally seen the impact this organization has. 


We give mostly to Christian ministry nonprofits because spreading the gospel is of utmost importance to us. For humanitarian organizations, we tend to give to Christian ones: Salvation Army, Canvasback Missions, and Toys for Tots. Because we also love animals, we give to ASPCA and Best Friends, as well as World Wildlife Fund and Audubon. And in support of the environment, we give occasionally to National Parks, the Arbor Day Foundation, and the Sierra Club. 


My favorite humanitarian organization that I truly love is ADRA. As a missionary, I have seen firsthand what a difference they are making. 


We support Revive Community Care, which was founded from the compassionate hearts of young adults at Younger Generation (YG) church. This local organization addresses the needs of people within our community. World Vision: CHOSEN— we love the empowerment of children in the compassionate relationship process and trust the integrity of their organization. And of course, ADRA—we have a long-standing relationship with them and partnering with them right now to bring aid to Ukraine. 


I support a lot of health-care societies— Society of Otorhinolaryngology and Head-Neck Nurses; Ear, Nose, and Throat Foundation, Sigma Theta Tau International, Global Tracheostomy Collaborative, American Association of Nurse Practitioners; and Nursing Hearts, Inc. As a family we also support Ronald McDonald House and Christalis. The one I am most passionate about is the Aleyamma Kuruvilla Nursing Scholarship Fund, which I launched in 2020 through Vellore Christian Medical College Foundation. To date, we have sponsored 37 nursing students (100 percent tuition) for their education. 


We love giving to Portland Adventist Community Services—a food bank, dental clinic, and thrift store our conference runs in downtown Portland. I’d had the privilege of volunteering there many times. I’ve seen what the staff are like behind the scenes, and it’s one place where I feel like we are making a difference. And I’ve seen where the money goes—right back to the people in my city who need it most. 


Financially: I’ve always admired ADRA for their willingness to help without evangelizing. Occasional donations led to signing up to be an ADRA Angel with a small monthly donation. Physically: I’ve become involved with ACR-DR, and trained in warehouse management. So far I’ve deployed to Oregon following fires; and after the flooding in southwest Montana, compiled and gave out cleaning buckets at two multiagency response centers. We’ve helped homeowners clean out their homes and muck out flooded storage units.


I provide support to Compassion International. My husband and I sponsored a boy from Ghana until he aged out of the program, and now we sponsor a little girl from the Philippines. I also sponsor our local SPCA. Children and animals need protectors and supporters. Helping is both a privilege and an obligation. We are called to follow Christ’s example, so this is one small way I can do that. 


I normally support ADRA. My criteria simply are what tugs at my heart and how the spirit moves me. I believe that with my meager contribution, ADRA has a better dollar ratio to what is given or used for the cause. I also am impressed with their geographical spread, which allows them to respond quickly. That is important to me because it makes me feel like I have made a difference. 


Islamic Culture book cover 1
Youssry Guirguis, Islamic Culture and Society, 2nd edition (Saraburi: Asia-Pacific International University, 2021), 307 pages. 

The author of this book is an Adventist Old Testament scholar, who grew up in an Arabic culture (in his case, the Arabic culture of Egypt). The book has 17 chapters, a glossary of almost 90 Islamic terms, an extensive bibliography, and three appendices: Scripture, Church Fathers and Apocrypha, and Qu’ranic and Hadith texts. The aim of the book is to enable missionaries, visitors, and those interested in the Middle East to understand the Arab mind, culture, and worldview. 

The volume’s chapters are well organized, with objectives at the beginning, subheadings, a summary, a list of discussion questions, and endnotes. It is evidently written as a textbook for colleges and universities. The chapter headings clearly indicate the chosen topics that cover such diverse matters as childbirth, honor and shame in Muslim contexts, music, and ritual prayer. Each chapter is meant to convey a deeper understanding of the chosen theme and an appreciation of the Arab mindset. 

For each topic, the book seeks to present the historical background, at times going back to pre-Islamic times. For example, when discussing the diversity of culture in Islam (chap. 2), the author points out that the pre-Islamic generosity, hospitality, and sociability of Arabs has been practiced and recommended by Islam since its beginning. On the other hand, in contrast to the pre-Islamic concept of manual labor of the Bedouins, who saw physical labor, such as farming, as dishonoring, the Qur’an extols work and elevates it to the level of worship (chap. 8). 

The book contains many interesting facts of interest to Christians. For example, in the chapter “Burial Rites in the Pre-Islamic Era” (chap. 16) the time prior to the existence of the Qur’an is called “the time of ignorance” by Muslims (cf. Acts 17:30). In the chapter on ethics (chap. 7) we learn that for Muslims preserving one’s reputation is more important than honesty (cf. Prov. 19:1), and shame is an important social constraint within Islam. The prophet taught: “If you do not feel ashamed, then do whatever you like” (Hadith 4:690; cf. Ps. 19:12, 13). 

In summary, Islamic Culture and Society is a veritable gold mine of useful information for the study of Islam and its culture. Because of his unique background, the author is sympathetic to Islam while at the same time rendering a powerful analysis and critique of its ethics in light of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. Islamic Culture and Society deserves to become a standard work for the study of Islam in all schools where such courses are offered. Every Seventh-day Adventist interested in the teachings of Islam will benefit from a careful study of this book.

BookReview HiddenSong
Abigail Follows, Hidden Song of the Himalayas: Memoir of a Gospel Seed Sower in the Mountains of India (Sheridan, Wyo.: Whatsoever Press, 2021), 285 pages. US$14.99, available on 

Mission stories help us see God at work in this world. Hidden Song of the Himalayas is a book about missions, yet it doesn’t seem to fit the stereotypes of successful missionaries baptizing thousands and establishing important institutions. Hidden Song of the Himalayas chronicles the journey of frontline church planters in the Indian Himalayas, seeking to reach middle and high-class Hindus. Abigail Follows, a pseudonym used to protect the identity of the church-planting family, offers not only a lucid description of what happened, but often— and even more engaging—a look into the deepest crevices of her heart as she and her husband, Joshua, begin their journey into international ministry. 

Hidden Song of the Himalayas is deeply personal and reminds us of the fact that mission is costly. The costs involve not only funding to start and establish a longterm project in an unentered region of India, itself part of the larger 10/40 window, the imagined area of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia located approximately between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude, where billions of people live who have never heard any whispers of the gospel, never mind know the name of Jesus. The costs involved are personal, often deeply emotive struggles, the willingness to allow God to push us out of our comfort zones, missing the proximity of close family relations—to mention just a few. 

The writing is very engaging and alternates between reporter-style direct speech and narrative and personal reflections. Chapters are very short—in line with modern reading preferences and concentration spans. Chapter 1 drops the reader in the midst of a hair-raising confrontation with demonic powers, followed by a slow retelling of the prequel of how Abigail and Joshua met and how they decided to answer God’s call to cross-cultural mission. 

The volume doesn’t conclude with a “happily ever after” ending. After many years of international service and incremental church growth, Abigail and Joshua decide to return to the United States before they are able to see the full harvest. 

Abigail describes it like this: “Everything felt normal. And though God’s Word had gone forth, I would not be here to see it accomplish His purpose. I looked past the shops up the hill. There were many people I hadn’t had the chance to say goodbye to. People whose weddings I’d attended. Whose babies I’d held. Whose medical cards I’d deciphered for them. . . . Would I ever see them again? I climbed into the car. . . . I knew I was called to let go of something that was never about me in the first place. It was something God had been doing all along. It was His from the start. And He would finish it.” 

“So I had peace when we left. The peace that makes no sense” (p. 275).

My nature is not for moments. Life sometimes passes me by.

I don’t know if it’s my personality or some driving force within to accomplish one more thing. It’s an elusive drive really, because as soon as the next thing is accomplished, something else looms in view. 

My job, by its very nature, is never done. If I answer 150 emails today, there are more that remain unanswered. If I finalize a certain contract, there are more waiting to be written. If I record one program today, there’s another tomorrow, seeping into my subconscious, with a nagging reminder that I ought to be studying my Bible in preparation. 

How is it to be accomplished? I used to frenetically work; after all, there are 24 hours in one day. Surely, if I just worked harder, longer, faster, more efficiently, I would catch up. So the days, weeks, and months passed in a blur, every waking hour devoted to that goal of accomplishment for the purpose of ministry. Of service. Of the calling that had been placed upon my shoulders. A year passed. Then two, then more.

Along the way I discovered that the mind can take only so much. And that the body obeys the mind for only so long. My plan failed because there was always something left undone. No matter how hard I worked or sacrificed or drove myself, it was impossible to accomplish everything. 

I had failed. And failure is not an option for me. 

My friends and family said to slow down, to take time for life. How was I to accomplish that? What could be cut from life? 

After prayer, I began to delegate more, to triage invitations and say “no.” To evaluate everything through the wise advice Greg and I had received: something about the energy expended versus the impact it made. Opportunities that consumed great energy with low impact were declined, to save room for opportunities that expended less energy while creating wider impact. 

Yet the problem persisted. Perhaps not the frantic pace, but still the smearing blur of time. Life is not a treadmill, one foot in front of the other, all the while remaining in place. Life is beauty and color; it’s moments captured and embraced; it’s living fully right here, right now. It’s to be found with the Marys of this world, sitting at the feet of Jesus. 

That section of Scripture (Luke 10:38-42) used to irritate me. How could I do whatneeded to be done while I wassitting? I’m discovering it doesn’t always mean sitting in the physical sense. It can be a mindset of sitting, even while actively working. Of experiencing God in the moments of life, of appreciating this conversation, this task, this moment, while letting go of what’s still ahead. And I gulp, like someone who’s been held underwater, then breaks the surface and sees the sparkle of light across the water as if for the very first time. 

Ephesians 5 addresses redeeming the time, and by grace, my moments are being redeemed.

Editor’s Note—Build and Restore International is a member of Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI), a supporting ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. 

Often our plans fail that God’s plans for us may succeed.”* Failed plans providentially led to the fulfillment of the mission at West Sacramento Seventh-day Adventist Church. Pastor Sasa Andelkovic contacted Ostap Dzyndra, founder of Build and Restore International (BRI), to request help for his church in Sacramento. 

The request filtered to the back of Ostap’s mind. However, when an upcoming mission project was canceled, he dropped to his knees and asked God what he should do next. Pastor Andelkovic’s name came to mind. Ostap immediately contacted the pastor and traveled to West Sacramento to see the project. 

A scene of dirty gutters and windows covered with spiderwebs greeted him. Paint peeled away from the siding, and rust clung to the doors. Overgrown bushes pressed into the exterior walls, causing staining and water damage, and plants grew up into the trim. 

In Haggai 1 the Lord makes it known that He is displeased when His house remains in ruin. “Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored” (verse 8, NIV). It is God’s will and good pleasure that we, as His people, honor and reverence Him by taking good care of our church structures and houses of worship. 

ASI W Sac Church 1

A Transformation

Ostap immediately began planning how the repairs and restoration of the West Sacramento church would be undertaken. His team took measurements and pictures; church members chose paint colors; and the work of building and restoring began one week later. 

The Lord assembled 24 volunteers who began by pressure-washing the church, 

repairing the broken wood and trim, and sealing cracks, holes, windows, and doors. They repaired light fixtures, replaced bulbs, and built a brand-new door for the maintenance shed. They even installed a new mailbox on the church grounds! They primed and painted doors and walls (using 12 buckets of paint!). 

A team of students refreshed the landscaping, pulling weeds and removing palm trees that had become hazardous to the church structure. They replaced the fence surrounding the property too. The West Sacramento Seventh-day Adventist Church was completely restored. 

Ostap had been praying for a paint sprayer, and three days before the mission began, his cousin called him to tell him that he had purchased a new paint sprayer and offered him his old one, which was still in good condition. The miracles continued as three volunteers brought chainsaws with them to cut down the palm trees. The workers came equipped and eager to do the work, and with God’s blessing, the project was completed in just four days—two days ahead of schedule. 

Throughout the ages the Lord has called for humble workers to come, labor in His vineyards, and finish the work. This call is not exclusive. It goes out to each and every one. What remains to be seen is who will answer the call. May it be that when the call comes to us, we, like Isaiah, will say, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isa. 6:8, NIV).

ASI W Sac Church 2

* Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 473.

Q: My wife “nags” me about my oversized belly, but I have 19 percent body fat! Isn’t that supposed to be good? 

A: Your body fat percentage is within the healthy (6 to 24 percent) range for men,1 but you may still be at risk related to body fat because of your waist size, an external indicator of excess fat around your internal organs. A man’s waist size of 40 inches or more (36 inches or more for Asian men)2 is the healthy cutoff point. If that’s the case with you, your wife’s concerns are warranted. Measuring only your body-fat percentage doesn’t adequately reflect your risk. 

Body fat is found under the skin (subcutaneous fat), around internal organs (visceral fat), within and between muscles, in the bone marrow, and in breast tissue. It’s not just padding; it’s actually an important endocrine organ involved in regulating temperature, sex hormones, blood pressure, appetite, blood clotting, sensitivity to insulin’s effects, and even inflammation. So too much or too little can pose a problem. 

The terms “white,” “brown,” and “beige” fatty tissue have no association with skin color or ethnicity. White fat, the major component in our body’s fat stores, insulates the body and produces hormones; we can’t live without a small amount of it (3 percent of body weight for men; 12 percent for women). Brown fat, or “baby fat,” consumes calories to produce heat, so God gave babies about 5 percent of their body weight in this variety. A small amount persists in the neck, shoulder, and upper-chest areas in adults. Beige fat is intermediate between white and brown fat. Because brown and beige fats burn calories, their accumulation may help prevent obesity. Spending time in chilly (less than 66°F, or 19°C) environments may increase their accumulation. 

Where the fat accumulates also affects health risk. Under-skin fat poses less danger than internal (visceral) fat, which is estimated by measuring waist size, waist-hip and waist-height ratios, and BMI. With age, as testosterone and estrogen decrease, belly fat increases and directly correlates with higher total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, and insulin resistance. Visceral fat deposits disrupt the balance and functioning of certain hormones, increasing the risk of heart disease, gallbladder disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. 

Just as a family history of tubby tummies, sedentarism, inadequate sleep, menopause, overeating, high stress, and some medications favor belly-fat accumulation, other factors reduce it. We suggest daily, moderate-intensity, mixed exercise for 30 to 60 minutes; adequate nightly sleep; effective stress management; and avoiding snacking, sweeteners, and alcohol. 

Prayer and trust in God will help you manage stress. Intermittent fasting is helpful, but replacing processed and ultra-processed foods with whole plant food is essential. Sit-ups can tighten abdominal muscles but don’t decrease the fat. 

We hope you better appreciate your wife’s point of view and thank her for her “persistence.” 

1 The healthy range for women is 14 to 31 percent.

2 For women in general it’s 35 inches. For Asian women it’s 32 inches.

One of the college music ensembles of which I was a member was I Cantori. This select choir included an older community member we’ll call Gary. One very memorable day Gary brought an unusual request to the group. 

He had a friend who lived near the campus who was dying of cancer and was spending his final days in hospice care. Gary wondered if we might be willing to bring a little peace to a man who had loved music all his life. 

Without hesitation we agreed to visit Gary’s friend. Instead of doing warm-ups in the choir room, we clambered into vehicles and drove the mile or so to Gary’s friend’s home. 

When we arrived, the house was nearly silent. A couple of family members greeted us with solemn, grateful smiles under tired eyes and ushered us into their front room, where Gary’s friend lay on a small hospital bed. His pale skin was nearly translucent, his mouth was slightly open, his eyes were closed. The sheet was pulled up over his chest, arms were by his side. 

I Cantori filed quietly into the space— 40 of us in a crooked loop around the man’s bed. As our director’s arms gently moved to indicate the beat, we took a deep breath as one, opened our mouths, and began to sing. 

Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, let me stand.
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light.
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home. 

Precious Lord, take my hand,
Bring Thy child home at last,
Where the strife and the pain All are past.
I have dreamed a great dream,
That Thy love shall rule our land.
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.

The song continued, but many of us couldn’t. Our throats constricted and our eyes filled with tears as the full meaning of the hymn we’d been rehearsing for weeks hit us with nearly physical force. By the time we completed the third verse, there was hardly a dry eye in the room, and only a handful were able to continue singing. 

To this day, hearing this piece (and even now as I write about it) takes me back to that dying man’s bedside, and tears inevitably fill my eyes. It wasn’t just the sadness of the situation that moved us; it was the spiritual experience of the moment, our recognition of the power of music—and through it, Christ—to speak to places of the heart where mere words can’t reach. 

We were meant to bring peace and comfort to a dying man and his family that day, but the reality was that we were all included in the blessing. The Holy Spirit swept through that room and lovingly embraced us all. 

That’s the way it is with spiritual work: it’s never just a one-way transaction, and rarely is it forgotten. 

To listen to a different choir performing the arrangement we sang that day, visit