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We are leading a group on a tour of the Panama Canal beginning Saturday. You can go to our Facebook page and “Like Us” if you want to follow our adventure.

I know I’m a leader because my 8th grade teacher told me I was. It’s true. He pulled me out in the hall one day, got real close, looked me in the eye, and said “Moss, you’re a leader (…pause…), and you had better stop leading that little band of outlaws from disrupting my class.” It’s a sad story. I only wish it wasn’t true. I was probably trying to impress that cute girl behind me, Rhonda Cleveringa (now Moss).

Ferdinand de Lesseps was an impressive leader. He was the hero of the Suez Canal and idolized by the French people. He was an administrator with no engineering background. He had a charming, magnetic and persuasive personality. With almost no research, he determined the canal should be in Panama and that it should be at sea level (without locks). An entire nation followed him blindly. People from all walks of life invested their entire life savings in the canal because of their confidence in de Lesseps.

No matter what obstacle, or what problem came his way, he maintained a positive outlook and an absolutely belief that he could lead his country and this effort to success. In the end, of course, the effort failed. It ended in one of the most devastating economic crisis in French history.

de Lessups was not a bad man. While the effort was wrought with corruption, and mismanagement, de Lesseps and his son Charles never enriched themselves. Many others did. de Lesseps was motivated by a desire to see this accomplished for mankind, and especially France. He did enjoy the limelight, and perhaps his ego was something that drove him at a great cost of human life, and financial devastation. He became blind to anything but success, and compromised every principal to achieve it.

How many other times in history haven’t people followed a magnetic, but tragically wrong leader? Jim Jones and David Koresh come to mind? Christ uses these words a lot in the bible, “follow me”. I guess if in doubt on who or what we should follow, he’s been pretty clear about the answer.

Mark 8:34

…..“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Mr. Hamil, I just want to say…you were right when we had that little chat in the 8th grade. You’ll be happy to know I’ve put those skills to more productive use the last forty years. Thanks for the talk though.

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