Ahmed Shah

Ahmed Shah was a famous ruler of Afghanistan.

The nation had been wracked by conflict among tribal leaders, but Shah brought peace. Legend has it Shah led the people to a secret valley that he had discovered on his travels, a vast plain, bordered on all sides by sheer cliff faces. To protect their new peaceful way of life it was imperative that no-one reveal the hidden passageway into the plain.

One day, Ahmed Shah was approached  by a very nervous lieutenant. “Emir, we  caught someone revealing the location of the secret passageway.” The traitor was Ahmed Shah’s mother!

Ahmed Shah was distraught. He could release Ahmed’s mother, kill the soldiers who captured her and hush the whole matter up by killing the guards who had captured her. But all chaos would break loose once word of this got out. Shah decided he would think it over during the night and announce his decision in the morning.

When morning arrived everyone gathered in the square. Ahmed announced his mother must receive a hundred lashes, which would almost certainly mean her death. Ahmed’s mother was marched into the square and bound.

The first two lashes already saw her bloodied and buckled. Ahmed could bear it no longer.  He halted proceedings, untied his mother and carried her to his rooms.. He walked to his mother and untied her and carried her to his bed. Then emerging from his hut, he demanded that no-one move. He had something to say. He then addressed the crowd,

“The penalty for my mother’s crime was one hundred lashes. She has paid two of them. I will pay the other ninety-eight.” By the end Ahmed was at death’s door, beaten, bloodied and bruised. For some weeks it was unclear if he would survive. He did survive and his people never forgot this act of loving grace.


Source: story reported in Michael Frost, Jesus the Fool (Sutherland, NSW: Albatross, 1994) pp138-144

He Was a Jew Too

Kilmer Meyers was the pastor of a church in Manhattan, USA. One of the more disturbing aspects of his pastorate was a woman named Emma who used to stand outside the church every day at 4pm and scream insults at Jesus. Emma’s pain was understandable – she was a survivor of the Holocaust. One day Bishop Meyers went outside and said to Emma, “Why don’t you go inside and tell him?” She disappeared into the church.

An hour went by and Emma had not returned. The bishop was worried and decided to look in on her. He found Emma, lying before the cross, absolutely still. Reaching down, he touched her shoulder. She looked up with tears in her eyes and said quietly, “After all, he was a Jew too.”


Source: Reported in Maggie Ross, The Fire of Your Life.

A Worthless Creature

In the seventeenth century France a humanist scholar by the name of Muretus was an ailing fugitive. When he presented himself to the medical doctors he was dressed in the rags of a pauper. The doctors discussed his case in Latin, thinking he would not be able to understand them. “Faciamus experimentum in anima vili” one said, which means “Let us try an experiment with this worthless creature”. Imagine their shock when this pauper replied, also in Latin, “Vilem animam appellas pro qua Christus non dedignatus est mori?”, “Will you call worthless one for whom Christ did not disdain to die?”

Source: Reported in Charles Birch, Regaining Compassion (University of NSW Press, 1993)

A Workable Plan

Is it possible for a small group of people to make a difference to the practises of multinational corporations? In at least some cases it is, as was proven by a group of sociology students from Eastern College in the USA. Set an assignment in which they were asked how a small group of Christians could bring about significant social change these students focussed upon the practises of the Gulf and Western Corporation in the impoverished country of Haiti. Their proposal was so audacious one of the students said “why don’t we do it?”. Why not take this beyond a college paper and actually put their proposal into action?

Their method was simple. Along with their professor, Tony Campolo, each student purchased a share in Gulf and Western and showed up to the annual general meeting. As shareholders they were entitled to have a say in the running of the company, and one by one stood up, read passages from the bible that condemned injustice, then asked why Gulf and Western was treating the people of Haiti unjustly. They wanted the company to address the issue of low wages for the sugar workers, to do something about the fact that they’d made the country more and more dependent on a single crop, and to provide education and medical services for the people.

The purpose was to shame the directors into action, and they were effective. The directors of Gulf and Western invited the students to meet to talk the issues over. Eighteen months later Gulf and Western released a plan to act in a socially responsible way in the Dominican Republic. They would partner with Mt. Sinai Medical Center to create health services in Dominican Republic communities, would set aside substantial amounts of quality land to produce food for the Dominican people, and would institute a variety of educational programs that included working with Eastern University to develop a new university that would train teachers, lawyers, nurses, and engineers. Over the next five years Gulf and Western spent half a billion dollars following through on their plans. And the lives of thousands were dramatically improved.

Source: Reported in Tony Campolo You Can Make a Difference and Let Me Tell You a Story.

A Tumour Healed

Elisabeth Jernigan is the beloved daughter of Betsy and Lennie Jernigan of North Carolina, USA. When she was just months old Elisabeth’s parents noticed her right eyelid weaken, then droop and the pupil become fixed. Her grandfather, a Harvard University trained surgeon was worried, and advised her parents to take Elisabeth to an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist sent them to a pediatrician and the pediatrician to a neurologist. Elisabeth was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Exploratory surgery removed part of the tumour from the nerve that controls the right eye, but it was too dangerous to try and take it all. Then the pathology report came back with the worst news of all. Elisabeth had an extremely rare malignant meningioma which had killed everyone who had ever had it. The prognosis was for continued growth of the tumour, paralysis and certain death.

Elisabeth’s parents, Betsy and Leonard started praying, their friends prayed, their church prayed. They prayed that Elisabeth might be healed, but also for the ability to accept her death if healing was not God’s will. Elisabeth’s surgeon grandfather didn’t have the faith to pray for healing, but he did pray for wisdom in selecting doctors, and the ability to get through the inevitable suffering.

Elisabeth’s condition deteriorated as expected. Fluid began accumulating on her brain, with the doctors repeatedly relieving it with a large needle. Elisabeth grew lethargic and nauseated. It was agreed that there be further surgery, to insert shunts that would drain the fluid.

Prior to the surgery the family gathered around Elisabeth while the priest from her grandparents church anointed Elisabeth with oil and prayed for her healing.  It was now the night before the scheduled surgery. A doctor arrived in Elisabeth’s room and removed so much thick, infected fluid from her brain that he asked that the operation be postponed for a couple of days. But 12 hours later when he returned he was baffled to find there was virtually no more fluid.

When the surgery went ahead the doctor’s decided to make a last ditch effort to remove the rest of the tumour. They would remove the section of nerve the cancer had invaded. This would leave Elisabeth blind in her right eye but would give her a slim hope of survival.  But when they went into Elisabeth’s brain they couldn’t find the lesion. They removed the nerve section as planned, but when the pathology tests on it came back they reported there were no cancer cells. Regular cat scans since then have revealed no evidence of a tumour.

Doctors describe what happened as “spontaneous resolution.” Elisabeth’s family call it a Miracle. In June 1995 Elisabeth turned 13. Elisabeth’s father Lennie, says “In the years ahead if you happen to see a young girl walking down the street with her right eye permanently closed, please don’t think that some tragedy has befallen her and extend your sympathy. Instead have cheerful thoughts, knowing that the Holy Spirit dwells in her, and our God is powerful, benevolent and magnificent.”

Source: Reported in Time magazine, April 10, 1995. Volume 145, No 15.