New Pictures of Leadership: Humble Service (Acts 27-28)


It was the kind of cold that hurt.  Crawling out of the surf only made it worse.  The ocean had been a balmy sixty-eight degrees, but the air temperature was in the low fifties.  Even that wouldn’t have been so bad – the wind is what made it painful.  The northeaster had blown itself out, so what had been gale force winds were lessening but still strong enough to whip the Adriatic Sea into waves sufficient to smash the ship’s stoutly constructed stern into pieces.  The combination of being wet and cold, and having a thirty-some mile per hour wind tearing at their sea-soaked clothes made the survivors a perfect picture of survival against all odds.[1]  The shipwrecked mariners were happy to be alive despite their violent shivering.

The native population had awakened that morning to yet another overcast, cold, and rainy day.  The winter storm season had struck early this year.  The last of the carob blossoms had been blown away and the once lush white carpets of gargir abjad and the splashes of bright yellow inula were simply erased by the storm’s violence.  In the gray light of a dreary morning it was easy to fear that this would be a long winter.  They had seen the ship immediately – it was hard to miss.  One of the late passing grain ships of the Roman fleet was struggling towards the pebbly beach under her foresail alone.  Knowing the waters, it would be a close run to get her over the sandbars, so the islanders gathered at the shoreline, ready to assist the unfortunate sailors and passengers as best they could.  Things could not have gone worse.  The ship grounded on the reef and her stern was smashed by the violent waves.  People could be seen jumping off the ship – first those who could swim, later those who needed to entrust themselves to flotsam from the doomed ship.

After helping the exhausted men escape the pounding sea, the natives skillfully built a fire despite the rain.  Miraculously, not a single man had been lost.  All two hundred and seventy-six souls had been rescued.  As they warmed themselves by the fire, an older man – bald and rather bowlegged, separates himself from the rest of the survivors.  He leaves the warmth of the fire and begins to gather additional fuel.  He bends low under the scattered junipers and holm oaks to gather what brushwood he can.  His actions are those of a man past his physical prime.  Do his aging eyes have trouble seeing the broken branches, drift wood, and the faded early winter remains of once green shrubbery?  Or do his hands ache as his arthritic fingers close around each handful of kindling?  In any event, it is an old, but dignified man who is deliberately putting one tired foot in front of another as he stoops to gather fuel to keep his companions warm.  The Island is Malta, and the man is none other than the Apostle Paul.  And what you just saw was leadership.

Your Pastor,

Bob Bjerkaas

Stay tuned for more blog posts in this series of inductive snapshots of Paul the leader! These narrative retellings of familiar episodes of Paul’s life are designed to get you to think about leadership differently by seeing it in action.  


[1] According to the latest method for calculating wind chill, an air temperature of 50 degrees F with a wind speed of 35 statute miles per hour would yield a wind chill of forty-one degrees F.

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