We must be faithful for a long time before we will see lasting results
This letter is for Dave and Leta Howard. Everyone who knows them loves them, and we’re glad to be part of their crew.
You believe in other people. Even when others don’t seem like they’re worth the risk, even when everyone else would pass them by, you always stop, the systematic Samaritan. When others give up, you dig in. When others walk away, you keep walking alongside. You don’t let people off the hook—you won’t coddle or enable or pander or tease—but you never let people go, either. You have learned the important truth that we’ve got to love well for a long time before it starts to make a difference.
We live in a fast-food culture, a microwave media-driven milieu that prioritizes speed over substance. The Church has not been immune to this go-fast-or-go-away proclivity. We want instant transformation, full Jesus-Christ-ness by dinner or your money back. But God honors those who, as Eugene Peterson says, demonstrate “a long obedience in the same direction.”
You’re a “long obedience” person, and you come from a proud and noble heritage. In his book, Encounter God in the City, pastor Randy White speaks to this heritage, recalling the legacy of Christians in the early history after Christ:
Christians in first-century Rome routinely retrieved bodies from pits called carnarii, where Romans threw their dead captives as well as the carcasses of animals. These Christians gave them decent burials, leading to the transformation of social mores. In the second century, female leaders of the church in Cairo retrieved abandoned infants from alleys and back roads and brought them to the public square where they sat under pagan statues and acted as wet nurses to them, saving their lives while sending a clear message to the populace of the city of the contrast between Christian and pagan culture.
You may not have retrieved corpses or rescued infants, but you have gathered lost souls and rescued children, you have bound up the broken-hearted and mended the weak, you have brought together the strays and the weirdos and the rejects, never once turning away one of God’s lost dogs.
 Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000).
 Randy White, Encounter God in the City, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 126-7.