Bless someone. What does that mean? We believe blessing others is part of what it means to live missionally is to
Miriam-Webster’s online dictionary offers three definitions.
- to make holy by saying a special prayer.
- to ask God to care for and protect someone or something
- to provide (a place or a person) with something good or desirable.
Not a bad set of definitions. It’s that third one I want to focus on. When I studied biblical Greek, I learned two Greek words for bless/blessing. One was eulogia – which has to do with offering praise. When people give eulogies at funerals, they are supposed to offer up “good words” of praise about the deceased. But the was makarios. It has a connotation of having divine favor, or having God on your side. And it felt like having surprisingly good luck. In the Bible, it meant that God had done something for you. To bless someone like that means you need to do something good for them for the sake of Jesus.
So bless someone. Let God direct you to do something for another human being that will make them feel lucky. Such small acts can change someone’s future. And I have a story…
Back in the early 1920s, my grandfather, Reed Alexander, was a subsistence corn farmer near Athens, Georgia. In that time and place, there generally just enough to survive. You could eat the corn and set aside enough to plant again the next year. He was married to my grandmother. They had two kids and very limited opportunity. The family could make it, but there was not much of a future. But that was when a very simple blessing changed all of that.
A friend had moved to Barberton, Ohio and found work. The blessing amounted to sending a post-card with four words on it. It was postmarked from Barberton and it said, “Reed, they’s jobs here.” No signature. Just a postmark and four words. When my grandfather received that postcard, he figured out a way to get a job and bring his family with him to Barberton. My dad and one of my uncles were born there. And the experience opened Reed’s eyes to possibilities he probably had not considered before, such as the value of enterprise and education.
In 1929, he returned with his family to Georgia. It was the Great Depression. Jobs were going away everywhere. But he returned a different man. In Barberton, he’d learned a few things. When they returned, he and my grandmother negotiated with a family friend for a place to live in Oconee Heights – at the time, it was a village near Athens. He started a store with a gas station there and raised four boys, Pete, Robert, Charles, and George. He made sure they got an education. Tragically, Pete was killed in the war. But Robert, Charles, and George went to college and eventually earned advanced degrees. Each became ordained as a Presbyterian pastor. The blessing grew. The stories of the lives they blessed would be too many to tell – but I’ll share one.
Charles and his wife Ellen became a missionaries in Brazil and worked in the slums in the city of Forteleza. Their mission included practicing evangelism, starting churches, educating kids, and doing what they could to address the pressing physical needs in that city. When his sending denomination (the Presbyterian Church U.S.) handed over responsibility for all missions to the Brazilian church, they recalled my Uncle, saying his work there was over. But he decided to stay in Brazil and find ways to support himself. Over time, he developed a self-sustaining ministry in Brazil which included a farm in the interior to provide employment, to grow food to feed the hungry in the city, and to make bricks to build facilities for the churches he’d helped to start. He also invested heavily in educating the kids. He sent two exceptionally bright students to be educated in the US. I met one of them – a guy named Evandro. He went to Georgia Tech – a pretty good school. Evandro returned to Brazil, married, and had two daughters. And those two daughters are now medical doctors.
So get this: there are people in Brazil today who are receiving skilled medical care and it has something to do with a guy remembering a friend back in Georgia and deciding to send a four word post-card.hpart of that legacy – a legacy of education, service, and hopefulness. My life and the lives of many others have been shaped by a simple blessing.
Maybe that blessing could have come through someone else – but today I bless (eulogia) the memory of the man through whom great blessing (makarios) has come.
Allow God to work through you today and bless someone.