Special Delivery

Omar Aleman, Aleman and Associates

Yes, I played cowboys and Indians as a child; yes, I always wanted to play the first because, reasonably enough, a gun is preferred to a bow. Yes, I shot the Indian many times, who was played by my best friend Raúl. And yes, he always went unscathed during my search and destroy missions, which meant the battle continued for many months until we matured into flipping baseball cards. Yes, I am guilty. But if the truth be told, a cowboy was not my first preference. What I really wanted to be was a pony express rider, but there was no interest in my neighborhood in child mail delivery. 

The Pony Express

Pony Express rider passes a telegraph construction crew that put the overland mail service out of business in October 1861, wood engraving with modern watercolor.

The Pony Express had an 18-month life span, a victim of the establishment of the intercontinental telegraph in late 1861. The service consisted of horse-mounted riders who would carry the mail from Missouri to California and back in much the same fashion as relay racers. These tough riders would travel long distances at great speeds as they formed a transportation chain to the final destination. Despite its short tenure, it became a lore of the American West, lauded for its rugged individualism in a dangerous frontier setting.


A biblical messenger

Enter Tychicus, an Asian Christian from the city of Ephesus with close connections to the Apostle Paul, Dr. Luke, the humble Timothy and the great preacher Apollos. Although not considered a New Testament “player,” he was a pivotal individual in the propagation of the gospel in the early church. Subsequent to his conversion from paganism, he traveled with Paul to Jerusalem and later became a minister and servant to the apostle during his first imprisonment in Rome. It is there that Paul commissions him to conduct a vital and dangerous mission on behalf of the church.

 “Ty” is to carry Paul’s personal letters to the churches in Ephesus and Colossae as well as the one to Philemon. If one takes into consideration the distance involved (840 miles from Rome to Ephesus, 1300 miles from Rome to Colossae), the fact that the journey involved extensive foot and sea travel in dangerous terrain and that it was accomplished while in possession of three heavy leather satchels, it was indeed a herculean task accomplished by this servant of God. Interestingly enough, both letter carriers, Ty and the Pony Express, were in business about the same length of time and their efforts led to the propagation of the message they were delivering. As a child, I dreamed about the Pony Express; now I think of the travails of this faithful man and the importance of his mission.

Chosen to deliver

Unlike the Pony Express, however, delivering Paul’s missives was only half the job. Given that only a small amount of church members were literate, it was incumbent for these letters to be read out loud to the congregation in order for the message to be captured by the whole body. It was the responsibility of the letter bearer, in this case Tychicus, to read it and expound on it. Given that the tedious preparation of these letters was considered a collaborative experience between Paul and his assistants, Ty being one of them, the reader had extensive “inside” information that he could share with the audience. However, Tychicus was chosen for his humility, faithfulness to Paul and his love of Christ to ensure that no human redaction occurred to the sacred writings. He gave the letter a personal touch, including his personal testimony, without changing the content or context.  

The current mission

So how can this guy be more like Ty? Well, for one I must be courageous as a messenger of God’s word. It is not sufficient just to carry it but to properly propagate it in a personal way without redaction. I must be composed in its presentation, given that most of my audience would be illiterate regarding Scripture. Patience is so important, since delivery and understanding of Bible verses is often time consuming. And as I share, the realization of its life-changing content must be the driving force for its daily study and delivery. And to the extreme, just like Paul’s messenger, I should be willing to accept the possible repercussions of the mission, even to its greatest consequences. I have traveled a long journey from the great omission to the Great Commission, but finally I have found the way.

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