Sunday, January 01, 2012


As is the custom in America, many of us take time on New Year's Day to review the past year and look forward to the new year. We think about where we have been and what we have done and consider ways we want to make changes.

Dudley Donaldson and his wife Inge are missionaries to Swaziland that I've mentioned often here at Graceland. Dudley is also thinking about his past and what his future holds even though he's living far away from the American culture.

Donaldson, Dudley and orphans Resized

TWO BUCKETS by Dudley Donaldson

It is the time of year to think about making changes. New Year’s resolutions. Notice I said, “think” about making changes. Most of us never really succeed at keeping the promises we make for change.

Making bucket lists has become a bit of a fad over the past several years. In response to the theme of a popular film, many people have made a list of all the important things they would like to do before they die. They want to fill their life bucket with meaningful experiences and fulfilling accomplishments. These range anywhere from seeing the Grand Canyon to seeing my granddaughter become president.

I remember doing this once long before bucket lists became popular. Someone on a Chicago radio station was talking about making a list of ten things he would like to do before he died. He encouraged listeners to email their lists to him so he could read them on the air. I sent in a list and he used part of it. It was kind of a fun exercise.

But you know what? Things change. People change. I’ve changed.

Today I cannot tell you one thing I wrote on that list. I have no idea. When I wrote that list, I never imagined I would ever be a missionary in Africa. Not in a million years. But from the moment I said yes to God’s call to go to Swaziland, my bucket list began to shrink. Today, it does not exist. There is absolutely no life experience that I need to make my life more fulfilled than it is right now. I am in the center of God’s will for me. I could die today with a smile on my face, knowing that my life bucket is filled to the top with God’s blessings.

A few weeks ago we traveled to South Africa for another appointment with my ENT physician. We brought Ayanda—the little orphan girl he has been treating at no charge—along with us. Ayanda had written a note to the doctor, thanking him for all he has done for her. As he read the note, I watched as tears welled up in his eyes. After Ayanda left the room, I was alone with the doctor and I also thanked him for what he has done for her. He looked down and in a soft voice he said, “I am happy I could help her. You know, it really wasn’t that much. It really was just a drop in the bucket.” He paused a long while, and then he looked up at me and said, “But at least I hit the bucket.” Wow, isn’t that the truth?

There are two very different kinds of buckets. There is the bucket of exciting life experiences so many of usare wanting to fill. And there is the other bucket filled with lost, hurting people. The first bucket is empty and we are trying to fill it with adventure, excitement, and conquests that will give our life some sort of meaning or purpose. We do not want to die before our bucket is full.

The second bucket is full. It is filled with millions and millions of people in far-flung countries of the world who are hurting and starving and suffering in unimaginable ways. Many people don’t even want to think about this bucket, because it is too big and too full and, frankly, it is just too uncomfortable to consider. This bucket seems overwhelming. Anything one person does to help is just a drop in the bucket, so why even bother?

That is how it is with the orphan situation in Swaziland. And with the HIV situation. And the medical situation. And the poverty, the ancestor worship, the witchdoctors…it is overwhelming. What impact can one person have?

Two buckets. One represents the pursuit of an exciting life in the present. The other represents the opportunity to make a difference for eternity. Which bucket is holding your interest?

My days are now filled with opportunities to care for widows and orphans, to encourage those who are discouraged, and to present the light of salvation to those who are in darkness. I know, it is just a drop in the bucket. But at least I am hitting the bucket.

And God has made my life full.

To read more about the ministry that the Donaldsons are involved in, visit their organization's website:

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