My friends who help me organize the men’s breakfast ministry at Interlagos Presbyterian had a sending prayer at our last breakfast this month.

During World War II, Captain Ernest Gordon joined the Argyll Sutherland Highlanders’ 2nd Battalion as an agnostic. But during his harrowing capture by the Japanese army and subsequent three years in a POW camp in Singapore, the loving, sacrificial care of a simple Methodist gardener named Dusty Miller, convinced him that God was alive.

After a string of diseases, the guards sent Captain Gordon to the “Death Ward” where prisoners with fatal conditions didn’t receive the food and care others did.

But the Christian prisoners had set up a buddy system in which they served another prisoner as a “mucker,” watching out for him and caring for his needs. Dusty Miller secretly shared his meager rations with Captain Gordon. He boiled rags to wash his diseased legs and care for the infected wound from an appendectomy he had undergone without anesthesia. Slowly the agnostic officer’s body grew stronger, as did his faith. After a few weeks he miraculously emerged from the death ward alive and well.

The sacrificial, loving care of Dusty and the other believers spread through the camp. Christian community developed. They began to pray and worship together at night. Instead of each one following his instincts and focusing on his own survival, they looked out for one another and shared the little they had.

When the survivors were finally liberated, their train stopped near a group of sick and injured Japanese soldiers who had been abandoned by their own buddies during the retreat. The tired, weak, former POWs spontaneously spilled out of their train to give whatever food, water, and medical attention they could to their former enemies. The Kingdom of God had come among them.

In ACTION, Pastor John and Georgie Reed and Pastor Keith and Marilyn Kaynor dedicate themselves to what we call Member Care.  They do this as close to full time as their minimal finances allow them to. But there’s no way they can care for all our members even today, much less in the future when God answers our constant prayer to send more workers into his white harvest.

If we don’t make the New Commandment of Jesus our priority, if we give in to the human instinct for self-preservation and horde our meager resources for the survival of our own ministry agendas, people will continue to fall through ACTION’s cracks.

Member Care, more than an institutional responsibility, is a spiritual and personal one. According to Romans 12:5 we are “members one of another” (KJV).  If our sister is not well, neither are we. If our brother’s ministry is failing, we are failing with it. It is the body and kingdom of the Lord Jesus we are building not just our individual lives and ministries. The world will know we are His disciples by our love for one another.

I looked up the word “mucker” and found that it means: a person who removes dirt and waste, especially from stables. But in Ireland it’s slang for “mate,” or close friend.
Let’s make ACTION a tightly knit organism of Christ’s body by being each other’s muckers.
Let’s watch each other’s backs through prayer and accountability.
Let’s share even the little we have to meet each other’s needs.
Let’s love not only with words but with action and in truth.

After the war, Ernest Gordon moved to the United States where he became the Presbyterian Dean of Princeton University. When he sought news of his friends from the POW camp he learned that three weeks before the war’s end, Dusty Miller had been crucified by a Japanese guard who was frustrated with his sense of calm in the face of hardship. The Lord had awarded him the greatest honor for his humble, loving service as a “mucker.”

Let’s know God like that!
Let’s take action by loving one another as Jesus loves us.

Your friend,


Sources: KJV International Bible Lesson Commentary pp.52.53; To End All Wars (2002); Miracle on the River Kwai (1963)

The elders at the Interlagos Presbyterian Church we’ve attended for 20 years sent us out as missionaries to the world last Sunday evening.