A man I admire very much, as much for the coolness of his name as for the patient humility of his faith, is visiting this week in nearby Dayton. His name is Brother Augustine Asir and he lives in Chennai, India. I count him a distant friend even though I’ve spent a scant few weeks with him, first in the summer of ’99 and then again in 2005.
One of the kindest words of encouragement I’ve ever heard came from this man. In 2005, I was so blessed to have the opportunity to preach twice to groups of believers there, first to a small crowd of elderly folks in a home and then to group of believers in our borrowed flat. Both times, I spent many hours preparing some thoughts from passages of Scripture only to be led to change plans in the hour before I was to speak…but when the speaking came, I had such confidence, power and peace when I opened my mouth that not a word fell to the ground. And I felt joy. Joy like I feel when I read the prophet’s echo, “Is not My Word like a fire, like a hammer which breaks stones to pieces?!” or when I read Paul’s words to Timothy, “But the Word is not imprisoned!” Joy solid like stone.
It was after the second occasion, the one in the small flat (incidentally, after a long night and day of throwing up and general illness), that Brother Augustine came and encouraged me. He came and spoke to me as a sort of spiritual grandfather, eyes peaceful and glad, face lined with dark wrinkles, crowned with his white curly fuzz. He told me then that I had served well, that the Spirit works mightily in my speaking, that He is strong within me.
My father has encouraged me much over the years, and my wife encourages me wonderfully as well. But along with their good words, I remember his. They’ve stayed with me, as a kind of spiritual blessing…these words from a grandfather in the faith.