Our culture has a skewed perception of what it is to be a hero. Images of caped crusaders, sports icons, and action movie stars come to mind. We picture big names in bright lights, known around the globe for their accomplishments.
What we don’t picture is a surrendered heart dreaming big dreams for the betterment of others. Or the faithful and obedient stepping of one foot in front of the other in the face of great adversity, far away from the limelight. Or the blood, sweat, and tears shed by persevering souls to advance a cause that will outlive them, even though no one knows their names.
But those are the truest heroes, and the ones most deserving of honor.
When they set out to celebrate those unsung missional heroes at Epoch 2013, the response was staggering. People around the world paused to shine a light on those who seek faithfulness over recognition. They received nearly 600 nominations from 33 countries, 32 states, and 6 continents! Clearly, we are eager for a different kind of hero.
Over 400 people gathered last Monday night at the historic Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia for the red carpet, black-tie event. The evening was truly one of celebration and inspiration as six social innovators were awarded grants totaling $50,000. In tuxedos and gowns, we recognized those working to solve some of the most complex challenges around the world, such as poverty, the need for clean water, HIV/AIDS, and sex trafficking.
It was a night to joyfully and extravagantly honor not the achievements of man, but what God is doing through our collective lives. Organizations, businesses, churches, and individuals rallied together to recognize the often-unnoticed champions who daily lay down their lives to fight injustice and bring hope to hard places.
Together, we declared to those laboring in the trenches, “You’re not alone.” We showed them they’re seen, valued, and embraced. Their work matters and we will no longer let it go unacknowledged.
Nations are being transformed by that roomful of sacrificial servants in evening attire, and it is an honor to stand with them in their open-handed and open-hearted work.