In his series on marriage called “Too Close for Comfort,” Pastor John Ortberg interviewed Amanda North, a congregant of the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (MPPC) who has been commended for her kindness to a wounded stranger during the Boston Marathon bombings in April.
North, who came to Christ as an adult, was in Boston watching her daughter run the marathon when the bombs exploded. Her daughter was in the last half-mile of the marathon and North was near the finish line when the bombs went off. She was thrown to the ground, and suffered injury from shrapnel. “I really thought it was the end,” she said, reflecting on the act of terror.
In that moment, North felt the presence of the Lord come over her and was at incredible peace – she saw Erika Brannock, a woman who was badly wounded by the explosions, and was compelled to reach out to her. She took Brannock by the hand, and told her that she would not let go. “It had nothing to do with me,” said North, giving credit to God for His Spirit’s work through her - she held Brannock’s hand and waited with her until help came.
Although North didn’t think she’d ever see the woman again, she prayed for Brannock and thought about her every day. Brannock, who lost a leg in the bombings, was in the hospital for 50 days and underwent eleven operations. When the bombs went off, Brannock cried out to God in her pain, telling Him she was not ready to die. The next moment, she says, Amanda North reached down and grabbed her hand, telling her that she would not let her go. Not knowing North’s name, Brannock requested that she meet her heroin in an interview on CNN. North met with her soon afterward, and was interviewed on CNN as well. Brannock just got out of rehabilitation for her injuries, and the two women have become friends.
Amanda North worked for 30 years in the high-tech industry. As a young professional working for Apple, Inc., she knew that something was missing in her life and that she wasn’t truly happy, despite being successful in the world’s eyes. One night alone in her apartment, North called out to a God she wasn’t sure existed; He met her there, and she has been filled with His peace and His presence ever since. A doctor later invited her to MPPC, and she has been attending the church for 25 years.
People from around the world have written to thank North for reminding them that there is goodness in the world. North recently left her job to start a social venture that supports artisans in developing countries.
Pastor Ortberg continued his message on how to give ‘words of life’ to others. After interviewing North, he encouraged his congregation to pray the simple prayer that she had prayed – that the Lord would give her the words to say. “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit,” said Ortberg, quoting Proverbs 18:21.
He went on to explore different Biblical texts that spur the church on to be an encouragement to their spouses and to others. He exhorted believers to accept one another (Romans 15:7a), to mourn with those who mourn, and to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15), to honor one another above oneself (Romans 12:10), to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and to serve one another (Galatians 5:13b).
“Oneness – love – gets built by tiny acts of daily servanthood,” he said. Ortberg ended his message with the Gospel – that Jesus Christ came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died a sinner’s death so that we might be forgiven of our sins. Jesus rose from the grave so that He could say to those who receive Him, “I am never going to let go of your hand.”