The Value of Relationships
I’m heading to my 45th high school reunion in Marin County this month. The dinner will be expensive, and it won’t be served until hours past my usual dinnertime. I won’t be indulging in cocktails beforehand, or much of the dancing at the end. I attend our reunions because I value relationships. It takes effort to establish and maintain good relationships. It’s easy to let them die. I have often been surprised and blessed by relationships I didn’t expect to become special.
On a recent Sunday at Living Streams, I was greeted by Dave Raffi, a friend from high school, right before our service started. Dave was in Phoenix for a family funeral. The first time I saw Dave after high school was at our ten year reunion. He gave me his business card. Later that evening I was talking to some other friends. One of the guys asked, “Have you seen Raffi? Did you know he is a lawyer?”
One of the other guys said, “I thought Raffi was an engineer. He gave me this card.”
I pulled the card Dave gave me out of my wallet. It said David Raffi MD. We had a good laugh when we compared his cards. None of us had a clue what he was really doing. In those days Dave was a character. These days he is following Jesus.
I didn’t have good character in high school. By my senior year I had become an immoral, drug-dealing narcissist. I don’t go to reunions because I’m proud of my past. I go because I’m hoping I can share the goodness and grace of God with old friends who are open to receive it. Dave Raffi and I have been transformed by Jesus Christ. We want our friends to hear the good news about Jesus as well.
At a family reunion in 1980, I met my mother’s cousin, Alvar Platt. During World War II, Alvar was flying missions over Germany as a gunner on a B-17. On May 1, 1943 Alvar’s dad was driving to the church in Manteca, California, where he was the pastor. He suddenly had a burden to pray for Alvar. He pulled his car over to the side of the road and began to cry out to the Lord for his son. Two weeks later he received a notice from the Air Force that Alvar’s plane had been shot down. Alvar was missing in action.
While returning from a bombing run over Germany, Alvar’s plane was attacked by a squadron of German fighters. Alvar was reaching down to put on his parachute when machine gun bullets tore through the plane, hitting the seat he had been in moments earlier. Four bullets ripped through his legs. The gunner next to him was killed immediately. The plane crashed into the English Channel at 200 MPH. Alvar was badly wounded and trapped in the sinking plane. He was starting to drown when suddenly a large wave pushed the wing of the plane up. Alvar was propelled to the surface by the grace of God.
A life raft on the plane had inflated when they hit the water. Alvar was pulled onto the raft by four other survivors. The rest of his crew was killed. His leg wounds were agonizing and bleeding. The salt water kept infection at bay while they drifted for two days. As they drifted into the ocean the second night, they fired a flare. They were rescued by French fisherman who turned them over to the Germans.
If you meet Alvar, who is now ninety-four, he will tell you he spent time in Paris, and then studied music in Vienna during the war. What he means, is that he was in a hospital in Paris, then sent to a prisoner of war camp in Austria, where he learned to play the guitar. He will also tell you he loves the Lord. Jesus saved his soul in 1925, and saved his life in 1940. Alvar has blessed me and prayed for our ministry since 1980. I only met him because our family values relationships. God’s family is built on relationships. We have been told to love one another like Jesus loves us. Sharing Christ’s love is how God’s family grows, and how we bear good fruit.