Time and distance are irrelevant in the context of how much influence a man can have on another man. As a personal example, three hundred thirty years ago, around the world in Luneburg, Germany a butterfly flapped its wings. It had a name – Augustus Herman Francke, and the motion of that moment began the wind that reached my life three centuries later….and today is reaching into yours.
Author Andy Andrews wrote a book in 2009 entitled The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters. I read it with delight a few weeks ago and walked away inspired by his historic mapping of how one man’s life’s work affected another person or an entire population of persons who lived many years later. His story was based upon the scientific theory first posed by Edward Lorenz. The simple, but powerful, principle behind the theory is that small causes can trigger larger effects.
If we track the effect of Francke’s life (1681-1727), we can trace it as far as this moment.
Francke is perhaps infamously known for his effort to lift the Lutheran church from the state of forms-oriented religiosity to following of God that emanated from the heart rather than primarily the head. He was ridiculed for it and was considered by the many of the established clergies to be a religious rebel of the early 1700’s. Meanwhile, he established a large orphanage and a Biblical Institute. His work in these areas was accomplished through prayer alone. He did not solicit charitable donations but instead relied upon God to impress people to contribute. It is this flap of the butterfly’s wings that is our link to him.
After Francke’s death, George Muller, who had been a resident student in Francke’s schools almost one hundred years after Francke’s death, did not know the history of its founder until a happenstance occurred in 1832 in which Muller, while on a visit to the home of another family, caught glimpse of a book in their library and picked it up to peruse. The small volume was the biography of Francke’s life. When Muller realized he had been housed in the very buildings God had built through Francke, he was intrigued, read Francke’s story, and was so moved that thereafter he followed Francke’s lead in establishing both orphanages and a Scriptural Institute employing the same principle prayer and reliance on God to impress individuals as Francke had practiced.
In 1987, while visiting friends for a meal, I was standing in their office and noticed a small worn hardcover book on the shelf. I took it down to take a closer look. It was the autobiography of George Muller and his story were the winds of the butterfly and they caught me up and moved me with great force. Faith missions have actually been cropping up in larger numbers since the time of Francke and Muller; I am not alone in this hurricane. The examples of these two men, along with God’s nudge, have taken our family on an adventure we could not have scripted for ourselves. Since reading Muller’s story, we have led three ministries: a Christian youth encampment, an East African church planting ministry, and an outreach in rural Appalachia. Each of these has been supplied only by means of prayer and God’s provisions through those He has moved to assist. Close to two million dollars have been donated during these years and not a cent was solicited by us – except through prayer to God. Many of these accounts were privately recorded, but are now publically available my book Provisions: A Story of Divine Care.
Who do you influence and how? Every day, every word, each moment of your life makes a difference, and even if your life seems as insignificant as the effect of a butterfly’s wing, it isn’t! Don’t doubt it that in a year, or in a hundred years, or three hundred years, there will be hurricanes, of good or evil, tracking their origins to how you lived your life. We all have great influence and we must use it wisely and carefully.