Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY
I’d like to tell you the story of Dashrath Manjhi. Dashrath Manjhi is the man who moved a mountain. Even more impressive is the manner and the motivation which spurred him to do so. Mr. Manjhi lived in rural India 60 years ago. India at the time still relied heavily on the caste-system to order their social and economic life, and Mr. Manjhi belonged to the lowest of the low castes. Everything about his life was hard. He lived and worked in a part of India riddled with rocky terrain—his remote village being virtually cut off from the world. Separated by a mountain ridge that made the nearby town and work (just 5 kilometers away), a 75 kilometer journey by road around or a several hour treacherous hike up and over. In a world that offered this community few options, most chose up and over. Mr. Manjhi made the trek daily—up and over, and each day at midday his wife would do the same bringing him lunch. And they carried on like that for years. Until one day.
One day Dashrath’s wife did not show up at midday. Instead she showed up several hours late, empty handed and beaten up. She prepared for her climb with her small pot of water on her head and husband’s lunch in hand, but half way through the journey some loose rocks slipped out from under her. The lunch came crashing down as the woman slid down the mountain and injured her leg.
Upon seeing his wife in tears, Dashrath Manji made a decision. He went out and bought a chisel, hammer and crowbars. He climbed to the top of the mountain and started chipping away. Each morning on his way to work, he would leave a few hours earlier than before and spend the extra time chipping away at the mountain. On his way home he did the same. He barely slept. He did that every day for years. He was only further motivated by his wife’s untimely death which he attributed to the village being cut off from the nearby town and their doctor.
Mr. Manjhi recounted later in his life that: “That mountain had shattered so many pots and claimed so many lives. I could not bear that it had hurt my wife. If it took all my life now, I would carve us a road through the mountain.”
It didn’t take all his life, just 22 years. After 22 years of chiseling away at a mountain with a hammer and some crowbars, Mr. Manjhi had carved out a road that was 360 feet long and 30 feet wide. The town, the doctor, the school which were previously hours away were all now closer than a 5-K, and most importantly it was a straight shot.
We don’t live in rural India. We aren’t subject to a caste-system. And most of our commutes, at least in comparison, quite manageable. But we do have our mountains, albeit in a different sort of wilderness. We have our own obstacles that isolate us, that hurt us, and that stand between us and God’s will for us. So many things in this life try to separate us from God. But we must remember that just as that bothers us, that bothers God. God looks at us like Dashrath looked at that mountain. Remember what Dashrath said, “That mountain shattered so many pots and claimed so many lives, I couldn’t bear it. If it took all my life, I would carve us a road through that mountain.” God looks at our mountains—all of the things that separate us from him—and, if it takes his life, he will see them go.
Perhaps that’s why when John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness proclaiming that Jesus was coming he started his message off by putting the mountains on notice: Time to level the mountains. Salvation is on the way! (Luke 3).
Salvation is indeed on the way. It’s on the way as God takes on flesh and lives among us. It’s on the way as a child is wrapped in bands of cloth and laid in a manger. It’s on the way as that same child full of grace and truth is raised on a cross to make sure that every mountain that separates God from God’s people is made low. Salvation is on the way.
Mr. Manhji moved a mountain with chisel. My advent prayer for us is that we use the tools God has given us to start chipping away the mountains in our lives. The grace that looses the stones of guilt and shame. The Word of forgiveness that sets us free from our anger, resentment, and disappointment. The blessings and promises of God that dispel the myths that we don’t have enough; that we don’t have enough time or money or stuff.
Time for every mountain to be made low! Jesus is coming. Salvation is on the way!
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.