The longer I'm here on Guam, and the more I rub shoulders with our students, the greater insight I get into their lives and their hearts. It is also true that the more I hang around our students the more they realize that the goofy white guy from the States is OK, and better yet, he's safe. Thus, they are now more comfortable with leading in prayer at the beginning of class, which affords me the unique vantage point of really getting to hear their hearts. Incidentally, "hear" often requires great effort since our students tend to pray very quietly out of respect to God! Nevertheless, what I have heard has burned into my mind how different my world is from the realities that others live with on a daily basis. Two times now I've heard different students pray something like this: "Thank you Lord that we're alive today." At first that struck me as odd, so I dismissed it; until I heard another student, on another day, say essentially the same thing. Why would someone pray that he's glad he's alive? On the one hand, I figured that the prayer could be a way of attempting to say, "Thank you Lord, that you created us." That wouldn't strike me as especially odd. On the other hand, I wondered if the poor student had just missed getting hit by a car on the way to school (not unlikely around here). Upon further reflection, however, I'm sure that's not what was being implied. Plain and simply, those prayers are literal, heart-felt thanksgivings, that "Today I'm alive and haven't died yet."
How many times have I prayed that? What about you? For me, I never think of praying that way because death seems such a distant reality to me. The fact is, however, for most of the rest of the world, death is not the distant reality it seems to be for most Westerners. For instance, our PIBC student missions trip to Yap over Christmas took a different turn than planned when a 30ish year-old man suddenly died, followed by the death of his younger wife the next day! Accidents, disease, and illness are much more apt to claim lives in the island homes of our students than they are for us. The assurance most of us have that our newborn will survive to adulthood is not quite taken for granted on the islands as it is for us. And so I ask, which world is better? The one where long-term health and survivability is assumed, or the one where death is much closer? The one where you take everything for granted, or the one where you realize daily how deeply indebted to the grace of God you are? Food for thought.