Threshing The Wheat From The Chaff

Billy and his engine

Billy and his engine just before taking part in a Shrine Parade in 1970. Courtesy of Billy M. Byrd, 369 S. Harrig St., Madisonville, Kentucky 42431.

Billy M. Byrd

Content Tools

On this morning's TV 'TODAY' Show there was a most interesting interview of a widow whose missionary husband was murdered ten years ago by a tribe of wild Peruvian Indians. Several of these Indians, now peaceful and regretting that murder, were with her, appearing before Hugh Downs on the NBC show.

It was a most frightening story we read in about LIFE Magazine a decade ago how several male missionaries were brutally murdered when they attempted to take the Gospel to this tribe of Indians in the wilds of Peru. But instead of nurturing vengeance in their hearts over the loss of their husbands, these hardy, God-fearing wives journeyed to the very spot where their men were murdered and proceeded to make contacts for teaching the Gospel of Christian love after it had been so rudely interrupted. It is said that 'Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.' But these women have proven they were no fools and certainly angels were treading along at their sides.

'These Indians were so murderous that, not only did they kill our missionary husbands, but they were killing each other,' the lady missionary explained. 'After we have been teaching them the Gospel, they had ceased all killing among themselves, and they have expressed great remorse in having killed our husbands.'

There were two male Indians and one of their wives on the broadcast. The one Indian had become a minister of the Gospel among his people, aided by his lovely wife. There could be no dialogue between the Indians and Mr. Downs on the show, save only the interpretations by means of the American lady missionary who understood their rare Indian dialect.

'This tribe was actually being goaded on by their witch and devil-doctors to search out various homes within their tribe and killing them off to the point of almost wiping out their people,' the missionary explained. 'Now they are peaceful, one with another, they have renounced all killing and have taken up their lives in peaceful Christian living.'

The missionary went on, 'The tribe, instead of dying out, has now actually been experiencing a 'population explosion'.'

To which replied emcee, Hugh Downs, 'That is one place in the world where a population explosion is mighty welcome even if it isn't anywhere else.'

And to the lady missionary he said, 'Madame you are a most remarkable woman.'

Of all of the 'squares' and 'rounds' and misfits that are interviewed on the TV 'Today' Show here was one individual whose life and faith had shone so brightly in the world's darkness that even the very naive and colorless interviewer, Hugh Downs, friend of the world's elite, could refer to her no less terms than being 'A most remarkable woman.'

How many there are who think they must rush to the glitter of the big city to gain fame and fortune and happiness. If only they could 'break through' on Broadway and have their names emblazoned on flickering neon marquis, or write some outstanding novel, or make some world-shaking contribution to science to somehow perpetuate their ego before society. Yet here was a lady who did none of these but lost herself in the darkness of the primeval jungle to bring the love of a Christian Gospel to a wild tribe who knew nothing but hate and killing. For the murdering of her husband, she brought kindness, charity and forgiveness. And she has reaped kindness and charity and love in return. Little did this kindly woman dream she would some day be called into the plush offices of NBC and broadcast to the world as 'A most remarkable woman.' But these are the side benefits of living a Christian life. For Jesus said, 'He who would lose his life for my sake, shall gain his own life. Whosoever renounces family and home for my sake shall reap a hundred-fold in family and both in this life and the next.' This 'most remarkable' lady had indeed found a 'home' right in the offices of NBC quite as much as she had found 'home' in the darkest jungles of Peru. How many who seek fame and fortune in the ways of the world can claim this? Mortals, unwilling to lose pretty goals for greater ones in Christian service, blinded to God's plan by pennies before their eyes, usually find themselves wallowing in the same dead-end circles at life's end, as at the beginning. Here was a lonely, bereaved woman who gave her 'widow's mite' and found fulfillment and love returning 'on the waters pressed down, shaken together and overflowing.'

She preached to no great hordes before the glaring lights of television cameras as modern evangelism pro-rates personalities and charisma. She boasted no plush offices with computers to sort the numbered cards of the saved. She established no name-universities in lush oil-town suburbia to announce the glory of the Lord in glittering neon signs. This bereaved young widow chose to 'lose her life in order to save it.' By losing her life in the primitive, hate-infested jungle, armed with God's word she also lost her own feeling for revenge and remorse and, in so doing, she saved not only her own life but transformed a whole Indian tribe into the image of Christian love.

'In renouncing all killing, these Indian people have risen to a higher social level than nominal (so-called) Christian nations that have been civilized for centuries and go on killing,' summed up Mr. Downs. 'You are indeed a most remarkable woman.'

The Bible teaches that 'the last shall be first, and the first last.' Those who come late into God's grace usually do something about it and often far outshine those who've spent a lifetime in Christian learning but do little to show it.

God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. The life of a young woman's husband was sacrificed on a jungle altar that an entire tribe might be redeemed. Hate and murder have been transformed into love. Love for one another and love for a widowed missionary whose work has elevated a nation.

Let us not be discouraged if we can't all be Billy Grahams, or widowed missionaries receiving acclaim for redeeming lost tribes. Everyone is a ministry unto his own right, serving as a sort of unofficial missionary among his own people and brothers, whether on the farm, in the city or ghetto, according to the grace of God within. But the words we say often may be outstripped by the deeds we do for others.

We are often reminded in scripture that cleanliness is next to godliness. A good steam engineer is one who keeps his engine clean and is constantly working on it to keep it in perfect running order. These are the kind of engineers Iron-Men, if you please who make the steam engine reunions a pleasure to attend.

The human body is like a steam engine. It of tens needs grooming and mechanical rehabilitation in order to make it perform as its Designer intended. I have often had to indulge in exercise or some form of 're-education' or personal training in order to keep my entire anatomy functioning. By so doing, I feel we are performing a Divine service, for the body is the temple wherein resides the spirit. But unlike working on an engine, instead of replacing a part here or there, we- must make what physical parts we have keep going. Sometimes that means jogging up a game leg, exercising the muscles of a lazy eye, putting the old spine in proper line, brushing the scalp to retain what hair we have, or even dancing the hula to keep the 'rear deck' from bogging down. Exercising under proper guidance, eating healthful foods, and using Nature's herbs can work wonders in keeping the fire-box a-glow in the human engine.

A mother wrote recently that her teenage son was so despondent and sensitive because his one arm was half an inch shorter than the other. Whenever the human body has a weak member, the rule of the thumb is that it should be exercised more. I've never tried to compare lengths of my arms, but 111 wager if I did, I'd find one slightly longer than the other. Nature never makes two things alike, even on the same body. Nature is a constant variant. She does not make human parts on factory jigs, like we human builders do. She merely grows them. No two sides of a face are the same. Everyone has a good side and a bad side. The great actor, John Barrymore was supposed to be so handsome that he was known as 'The Profile' on the screen. Yet of himself he once remarked, 'One side of my face I am 'The Profile,' but the other side looks like a baked mackerel.'

Once in a while, if my wife happens to be in a particularly good mood, she has been heard to say to me 'You look rather distinguished this evening.' But if she'd been sitting on the opposite of me she'd more likely be thinking how 'extinguished' I looked. For on that side I was probably looking more like the Hunchback of Notre Dame than anything distinguished. Our cat is the only member of our family that looks intelligent from all angles. (But don't tell the wife.)

For years I was quite embarrassed over my eyes, having one good eye, and one weak eye. But after reading much into the subject of eyes, I soon learned that everyone has a so-called 'lead' eye, while the other eye is weaker and only helps the 'lead' eye. When I became aware of that fact, I soon learned to lose my sensitiveness among society. I felt I was more normal than I had realized.

Every boxer leads out with his stronger arm. The other arm only comes in to back up what the stronger arm is doing. Usually a right-armed individual has a stronger right eye, which leads the weaker eye, as the right arm leads for the weaker arm and vice versa. Many outstanding athletes have overcome great physical handicaps which became the driving force to victory.

In marriage we have the same condition. For centuries the man has been dominant in the human family. The wife has been his help-mate. That doesn't mean the wife is weak or unimportant. Just watch a man trying to 'batch it' while his wife has left to visit a few weeks with her mother and you 11 know what I mean. Dishes stack up in the kitchen sink, the bachelor lives on soup for days on end, watering it down the longer the wife is away. What a miserable mess a man can get in without the woman of the house. What a miserable fighter a right-armed boxer would be in the ring without that most important left arm to help the stronger arm. How terrible the one-eyed driver can be without the weaker eye to help the stronger.

If I were a teenage lad I'd forget about one arm being shorter than the other arm. I'd start out leading with that weaker arm. It will soon gain some length. A teenager can do anything to improve his body. He is still growing, after all. And don't forget this the future belongs to the young. (But don't tell them that yet.)

I'd say that getting a leather punching bag and having a few good daily rounds of punching it with the shorter arm what wonderful exercise that would be, and how beneficial toward equalizing any discrepancy in the shorter arm. (Farmers' arms always seemed to get long around a threshermen's dinner.)

We are put here as God's stewards over the body He has given us. We take what is given us. For that we cannot be judged. What we will be judged for is what we do with our bodies once we get them. And if we do wisely and rightly, we can do wonders not fearing the judgment.

As for me, I've learned to live with my physical shortcomings. Devising ways to overcome them lends character and strength even a certain joy, like playing a game to outwit Nature. I don't envy the 'perfect human specimen' with bulging biceps and 20-20 vision. Like scaling a mountain the fun is in climbing, not sitting on top.