A gift at sunrise
by Linda Bond, Commissioner –
Getting up for a 3:15 a.m. departure was not on my agenda. Neither was a two-hour drive on a winding road when prone to carsickness. And for certain, it was not the wisest decision, in view of the fact that I was speaking at the closing session of Officers’ Councils within a few hours. But there are some things you can’t miss, like watching the sunrise at the Haleakala volcano crater on Maui. Mark Twain described it as “the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed.”
It really didn’t take a lot of persuasion to join the seven enthusiasts, two of whom extended the initial invitation and felt it was a “must” for any visitor. That was reason enough but the opportunity for experiencing this shared blessing with ministry colleagues was my primary motive.
Let me assure you, we received wise counsel. At 10,000 ft. above sea level, it would be very cold, especially during that time of the day. Warm clothing, blankets from the hotel were a must. But we were in Maui? A jacket in Hawaii? Needless to say there was more than one skeptic who did not prepare adequately. Obviously we made our decision at sea level (that in itself is a lesson worth writing about).
Arriving at the top of the mountain brought the first surprise; serendipity, in fact. The star-studded sky was almost overwhelming. Whether it was the blackness of the pre-dawn morning or the elevation, I don’t know, but never have I seen the heavens so glorious. The stars were like sand. It reminded me of the Lord’s covenant with Abraham, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them…so shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:5) The Lord was extravagant in his blessings then and continues to be so. He is lavish with his grace. That truth was coupled with sheer wonder similar to the psalmist’s exclamation: “When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him…?” (Psalm 8:3,4) No wonder he surveys God’s care of and trust in humanity in the midst of such heavenly glory and concludes, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” (v. 9)
The beauty could not mask the cold, however, and it was apparent that my light jacket and sandals could not make up for a warm hotel blanket. Since we were early, it was obvious that the long wait for the sunrise would be a cold one. A glass-enclosed shelter helped, but not a great deal. Compassion was the order of the day with our group. One of our members gave me her blanket, explaining that her warm sweater was sufficient and she did not plan to go beyond the shelter. I still wonder whether she endured the cold so a novice could enjoy the sunrise.
I only wish I could paint the morning glory in words so that you could enjoy the suspense of the sun’s rays heralding the dawn, but my words would be inadequate. But what was most unusual was the first glimpse of the sun. It came as a fiery trim on the ragged edge of the mountain, just like molten lava seeping down the slopes. The full dawning was received by one tourist with an “Oh God,” in thoughtful adoration. And to think that Jesus was called the Sunrise! (Luke 1:78) What a perfect name for one who dispels darkness and brings warmth, light and life in his coming.
Oh yes—I watched the dawn from outside the shelter. Joining the many other tourists at the crater’s edge, it was apparent that others came unprepared for the cold. A lady standing beside me took a corner of my blanket and asked if she could put it over her bare arm. She had been outside for the full time and was painfully cold. I suggested instead that we share the blanket.
So there we were, two strangers, arms linked, under the borrowed covering, watching the sunrise. This brought the sublimest truth to me that day. It reminded me of the definition of evangelism as one beggar telling another beggar where to find food. Here was an illustration of the same principle. Our need was obvious. I had received a gift that had to be shared to be truly enjoyed. And a fellowship was forged in this common and unexpected experience.