FENTON, MI – Horton Hears a Who! was written by Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel and published in 1954. Born in 1959 the book was one of my childhood favorites. Today when I close my eyes, I can still hear my mother’s sweet voice reading those famous words, “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” The book's struggle to save Whoville is enclosed in the efforts of two individuals: Horton the Elephant and Jojo, who stopped playing with his yo-yo long enough to utter the word, “Yopp!” Jojo’s one additional, tiny voice caused all of Horton’s skeptical friends to finally save Whoville because “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”
This month, as we celebrate Mother’s Day on May 14 and the Baptist Association Emphasis from May 21-28, we are celebrating powerful collaborations like that of Horton and Jojo. Here are two examples from my history.
First, my mother was a peacemaker and created partnerships out of moments of occasional discord. When one of my sisters and I squabbled over something Mom would say, “Okay you two. There are dishes to wash. Get in the kitchen. One of you wash and the other dry. Get going.” If you knew my mother you would understand her smile never left her face while she gently gave those directions. She knew what she was doing. In seconds, whatever had put my sister and me at odds vanished. We would grumble in whispers, “She waits for us to fight just so we will do her dishes. That’s not fair.” Today, my mom reports that she was willing to be the bad guy so that my sister and I would rally together.
Second, after I decided to follow Christ as member of the First Baptist Church of Swartz Creek I joined the church’s youth group. I learned the joy of being connected with other teens. To this day, I especially remember the precious couple that persuaded our youth group to interact with the other youth groups in the local area. We called that group of churches an association. The couple that enlarged our naïve, adolescent idea of God’s Kingdom was Brother Dwain and Dawn Lairamore. This precious couple made time for teenagers after spending long hours at the office and in meetings with adults who led associational churches. Brother Dwain and Miss Dawn invested their lives in teenagers of the seventies in Genesee Baptist Association. Today, as a result of their investment and belief in us, many of us are serving the Lord in churches throughout Michigan, throughout the world, and on mission fields where other languages are spoken.
As we move into the future, I want to say thank you to those who partnered together and contributed to my life. Each individual contributed something worthwhile. I have learned something from every person in my life. I am the total of all that I have experienced from those who loved me. From the very first who held me upon my birthday to the ones who continue to speak into my life and share my experiences, to all of you I am grateful.
Let me encourage you in something important as I reflect on the collaborations my mom created, the partnership of churches, and the imagination of Dr. Seuss with Horton and Jojo. Here in Michigan we pride ourselves on being self-reliant. As individuals we boast, “Count on me I can do it.” Or we utter, “Even if no one else commits, I will.” Those phrases are heroic and inspiring. But might it be that collaborations between the smallest to the biggest of us are the strength of our future? I hope as members that we will collaborate. I pray that as churches we will cooperate. I want to see our congregations associate, doing more together than each church could ever do apart from one another.
Paul wrote in Romans 15:5-6 (NLT), “May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Did you catch the condition within these verses? We can give praise and glory to God after we live in complete harmony with each other. What might that praise and glory look like in your life? In your church? In Michigan? In the world? Join a partnership this summer and attempt something risky for the Lord.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tony Lynn is the State Director of Missions for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before coming on staff at the BSCM, Tony served as lead pastor for more than six years at Crosspoint Church in Monroe, Michigan. He and his wife, Jamie, also served with the International Mission Board in Africa and in Europe.