It’s easy to mythologise high achievers. One of the most staggering things about Neville though, was how normal he was. Neville didn’t have great wealth or charisma or oratory skills. He didn’t have a Ph.D or political power. He wasn’t promoted by a ring of influential people. He was just Neville, going out, reaching the lost, loving them, preaching the gospel, and bringing hope and life skills to the Deaf around the world. Neville brought the modest offering of himself, humbly, gently, faithfully, gladly to God, and now, 40 years and many dozens of newsletters later, DMI runs or supports schools and dormitories in eight countries, countless employment projects across three continents and a staggering 180 Deaf churches in 20 countries.
It’s hard not to mythologise someone who has achieved so much. I remember when Neville first spoke at our church. He taught about Jesus feeding the 5,000.
There was a predicament: 5,000 people without food.
There was the disciples’ solution: “Send them away.”
Then there was Jesus’ solution: “You give them something”.
The disciples’ solution made much more sense. Jesus’ solution was absurd, up until, referring to the loaves and fish, he uttered five incredible words: “Bring them here to me”. And so Jesus blessed the small offering that the disciples had brought and everyone had plenty to eat.
This truth about the size of our offering and the disproportionate size of God’s blessing seemed to be central to Neville’s approach to ministry. He was never under the illusion that he ever had more than a little to offer, but whatever he had to offer, he offered; and whatever he brought to God, God multiplied.
One of my favourite photos of Neville is of him sitting and praying with two young men in the Philippines. One is Deaf and the other Deaf-blind. Neville is signing for the Deaf man and simultaneously signing onto the hand of the Deaf-blind man so that they both, personally, would know the love of God.
That was Neville. Not speaking to thousands, but reaching thousands one or two at a time, because those one or two are loved by God and precious to Him.
Andrew Miller – Australian Co-ordinator