When we lived in L.A. in the ’70’s, many of our friends were living together without benefit of marriage. They said that the marriage certificate was just a “piece of paper” and therefore not important to their relationship. By the time we moved away, every single couple who had been living together had broken up while we were still married. Turns out there are all kinds of “pieces of paper” that are pretty darn important. In fact, we owned so many important pieces of paper that I kept them in a safe deposit box. Our diplomas, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, social security cards, and state teachers certificates. I couldn’t get my son into school without a piece of paper verifying his inoculations. More children led to more important pieces of paper: deeds, last wills and testaments, and passports. Being stopped by military police in a foreign country makes one very careful about carrying the right piece of paper or not getting caught with the wrong one.
In June of 1994, crossing the Greek border into Turkey by bus on our way to Istanbul, I saw a man pull a small, folded piece of paper out of his pocket, look around to make sure no one was watching, and stuff it into the tire tread of the bus before we all went in to get our visas stamped. When we came back with our visas officially stamped—he retrieved it. Once the bus was rolling again, I moved to sit beside him and asked him about it. He said Turkey was almost completely Muslim, and it wasn’t really smart to be very obvious about being Christian. “So tell me about that piece of paper you hid in the tire,” I asked politely. “It’s for my wife,” he said. “She cannot read English, but she loves Jesus, and she asked me to bring her back a Bible in Arabic. I was afraid to risk it in my small village so I asked a holy man in Greece to write down the best thing the Bible says for her in Arabic, and this is it. “Want to hear it?” he asked. “Yes,” I said, maybe louder than I should have. So he read it to me: “For God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) That was a pretty important little piece of paper. It did indeed sum up all of what was best that the Bible says.
I knew that the piece of paper he was taking to his wife would become one of the most important of his wife's possessions, and I knew he would treasure it as well. It was just a piece of paper, but it contained, in a language I couldn’t read, a truth in which I had absolute faith. Precious cargo indeed. Some pieces of paper are indeed worthless, but there are some that are very special and precious. You need to know the difference and to know just how much God loves you as it was written on that folded piece of paper that had been hidden in a tire tread on its way into Turkey.