Samaritan Stones of Remembrance
by Anthony Hopp, Chief Purpose Officer · Feb 20, 2023
Just as the tribes of Israel erected a monument to God’s deliverance, so, too, we can recall the times He has helped us through challenges
Do you ever look at pictures on your phone and, several minutes later, you realize you’ve gotten lost in the memories of those pictures?
They may be pictures of your family, of adventures with friends, of fun times.
I’ve kept special photos of my wonderful family, like the one below, because they remind me how blessed I am to be part of and live in this family. I praise God for Jen and Ethan and Luke.
Another, below, was taken last year. Two reminders in it: First, God’s beautiful, brilliant creation testifies to His awesomeness and majesty. The second reminder is that I’m so thankful for the friendship of these guys and others like them. Thank you, God, for friends who are like brothers.
Sometimes, the memories remind us of the goodness of God. And it’s a good thing, too, because it’s easy for us to forget God’s faithfulness and goodness. We need reminders. In fact, the terms “remember” or “remind” are used 177 times in Scripture.
Here are just two examples:
- God says in Isaiah 46:9, “Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God!”
- And, when Jesus shared His last meal with His disciples and gave them bread, He said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19).
We need refreshing
The works of the Lord, including salvation itself, are so worthy of remembrance, but our hearts are so prone to forget them. Our memories often need refreshing.
In Joshua 4, we see that God’s people, the Israelites, needed refreshing and reminders, too. The reminders described in Joshua 4 are called Stones of Remembrance.
In that part of Joshua, Israel is finally about to enter the Promised Land after 40 long years of desert wandering, but there’s a not-so-small problem called the Jordan River. In order to enter the Promised Land, the people have to cross the Jordan, which during flood times can swell to a width of a half mile and a depth of more than 10 feet. Joshua 3:15 says that the Jordan River was overflowing its banks. According to experts, the flood waters would have greatly complicated Israel’s crossing.
So, at the beginning of Joshua 3, Joshua tells the people to be ready to move when they see the Ark of the Covenant. Then he tells the people in verse 5 to purify or consecrate themselves because “tomorrow the LORD will do great wonders among you” (Joshua 3:3). Joshua didn’t tell the people to sharpen their swords but to sanctify their souls. As urgent as it was to cross the river, it was more important that their hearts were prepared.
The next day, it’s go-time: Joshua tells the priests to lift up the Ark of the Covenant and lead the people across the river. And chapter 3 ends with, “Meanwhile, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by. They waited there until the whole nation of Israel had crossed the Jordan on dry ground.”
Then, at the beginning of chapter 4, Joshua is told to direct 12 men, one from each tribe, to take one stone each and carry it with them the next day as they pass the ark.
Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever” (Joshua 4:21-24).
Purpose of the stones
The whole purpose of these 12 stones was to remind the people, and the generations to come, of God’s power, provision, and faithfulness. It’s so easy to forget all three. When we forget His power, our praise fades. When we forget His providence, our gratitude wanes. And when we forget His faithfulness, our faith flags and fear swells.
But let’s look at these in the positive.
Remembering God’s power moves us to praise.
“Awe” is that feeling of reverential respect, mixed with fear and wonder. Author Paul Tripp says that even though humans are hardwired for awe, it’s way too easy for us to struggle with awe amnesia, which Tripp defines as “the sad state of yawning in the face of glory.” Because the Israelites had seen God’s power over and over again, I would imagine “awe amnesia” was maybe a thing for them? The miracles the Lord did in the wilderness (and still does today) are intended to reflect His glory, point us to Him, and result in praise. The Stones of Remembrance remind us of God’s amazing power.
Remembering God’s provision moves us to gratitude.
At every stage of the Israelites’ journey, God demonstrated His covenant love through His often-miraculous provision and protection.
Unfortunately, Israel’s response was often grumbling, complaining, and unbelief. But God reasonably expects that our response to His provision be gratitude and thankfulness. In Luke 17, Jesus heals 10 men with leprosy and tells them all to go show themselves to the priests. Verse 15 says that one of those men came back, praising God in a loud voice. It says that he threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him. Jesus asks, “Where are the other nine?”
Remembering God’s faithfulness stirs up our faith and dispels fear.
In Psalm 143:4, the Psalmist says, “I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear.” So what does he do? In verse 5, he says, “I remember the days of old. I ponder all Your great works and think about what You have done.” Psalm 77:10-12 says, “And I said, ‘This is my fate; the Most High has turned His hand against me.’ But then I recall all You have done, O Lord; I remember Your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about Your mighty works.” Notice how over the course of three verses, the psalmist goes from despair to remembering God’s faithfulness, which activates his faith.
Samaritan’s own remembrance
Throughout Samaritan’s 28-year history, God has also done the seemingly impossible time after time. There are so many Stones of Remembrance for us. But because the concerns of the present often dominate our minds, we sometimes have little mental energy to remember what came before. We forget His power, His provision, and His faithfulness. Joshua 4 urges us to remember. To remember His power, His provision, His faithfulness. To look back, call to mind, and talk about the times when God showed up and split the Jordan River.
For Samaritan Ministries, that means times like the following:
The first Need
In the early years of sharing, God miraculously protected those early members from any large catastrophic Needs. Around 1995, a member had a $10,000 Need and there was only $2,500 of Share money available per month. But over the next four months, very few bills were submitted, and the members were able to share the entire $10,000 Need. The Lord protected and provided.
In 2006, a health care “reform” law was passed and signed into law in Massachusetts, requiring residents there to have insurance. The problem was, there was no protective language in that law for health care sharing. But God made a way. As Massachusetts bureaucrats built out how the law would operate, a pro-life lobbyist put us in contact with a friendly bureaucrat who asked for information about what we do, which was mailed to him. Without any further contact, a year later when the regulations came out, they included language that provided an exemption for members of health care sharing ministries. This is what God does!
Affordable Care Act
A few years later, the Affordable Care Act was being formulated and modeled after the Massachusetts law. However, there were a few different versions in Congress being considered. Again, God granted us favor by having an exemption placed in one version by way of a friendly Iowa state legislator who lived next to a U.S. senator who was friends with another U.S. senator who was one of the key authors of the ACA. That version was passed in the Senate and sent to the House. In the interim, another senator passed away in an overwhelmingly Democrat state and was replaced by a Republican senator who would have opposed the ACA. Therefore, the House couldn’t risk making changes and sending it back to the Senate, so the version with our exemption was passed, became the ACA, and included the health care sharing ministries exemption. With God, all things are possible!
Washington state cease-and-desist order
On April 1, 2011, Washington state sent us a cease-and-desist order with no warning. We almost didn’t believe it, since it was April Fool’s Day, but this was no joke. Then we discovered a Samaritan member had just been appointed to a vacant seat in the state Legislature there. We worked with him and a lobbyist who also was a Samaritan member to get safe-harbor language added to a bill implementing the Washington ACA marketplace exchange. That led to the cease-and-desist order being dropped. We never had an interruption to any Washington memberships or sharing, and we actually got a safe harbor law out of the deal. It just so happened the whole process took 40 days. To God be the glory for delivering us from the desert!
The Morning Center
Samaritan Ministries has always been committed to protecting, supporting, and advancing the sanctity of life. In 2011, God gave us the opportunity to launch the Morning Center, a ministry that provides comprehensive prenatal care to underserved mothers in Memphis and Atlanta. For a while, we incubated the Morning Center by providing leadership, office space, and funds to get it going. Then we launched it to thrive on its own. Through God’s provision and protection, over 700 babies have been delivered and over 1,300 families have been served. The LORD has made a way for more babies’ lives to literally be saved and for women to be shown compassion and the love of Jesus.
Between 2013 and 2018, Samaritan Ministries experienced significant growth. While growth is a good thing, sometimes the growth was extreme—like 30 percent net growth in one year! And with that kind of growth comes all sorts of challenges, such as just keeping up with existing work; finding, hiring, and training several new staffers; and ensuring that the weight of growth doesn’t collapse our infrastructure. God was clearly with us during these six years of rapid growth.
For a long time, the NCAA required that student-athletes have health insurance, even if the school allowed health care sharing in lieu of insurance. Curt Smith was our lobbyist in Indiana, home of the NCAA, and had previously helped us pass the Indiana safe harbor law. Curt had a son who played college basketball, even playing in the Final Four in 2011. Curt’s son passed away from cancer in 2016 at the age of 25. God used this tragedy to allow us to meet with high-level contacts within the NCAA and get their policy changed to allow student-athletes to use health care sharing. In October 2016, the NCAA announced its decision to allow health care sharing ministries to meet its insurance requirement.
In early 2020, COVID-19 quickly changed the world, and we were forced to quickly change with it. With shelter-in-place mandates imminent, we needed to find a way to keep serving our members. It just so happened that God had just brought Will Cooper to Samaritan, and through Will’s leadership as vice president of information technology (and the leadership and help of so many other staff), we were able to go from about 5 percent of our staff working remote to 95 percent working remote … in about one week! God made a way for us to serve our members without interruption, protect our staff, and establish a new normal. We are now blessed to have 52 percent of our staff working in 33 states!
God brought another blessing through COVID-19 in the form of the amazing Share deficit vanishing act. In May 2020, we went from a $15 million deficit in monthly Shares to a $4 million dollar surplus in September. That’s a $19 million dollar swing in five months! This is what God does!
In fall 2021, founder Ted Pittenger handed over the CEO reins to Mark Zander. Ever since Ted announced his plans to transition a few years earlier, we knew it was a tall task to find a leader who loved Jesus as much as Ted does and could honor the past, respect the present, and take us into the future. God provided Mark. Perhaps the best part of this particular Stone was that God made it obvious first to Ted that Mark was the right guy for the job, which helped everyone feel more confident about the CEO handoff.
Being debt free
As we’ve grown throughout the past 28 years and needed more space, God provided the resources to pay cash and own four buildings debt free. With two buildings in particular, we told our realtor we couldn’t afford the asking price. “Just make them an offer,” he told us. Through extra member giving, several months of exceeding new membership projections, and the sellers accepting our offers, the LORD has consistently and often miraculously provided the physical space for us to serve our members.
To our knowledge, no member of Samaritan Ministries has ever made a complaint to a department of insurance, any regulatory agency, or consumer advocacy group in any state. Our general counsel, Brian Heller, has a lot to do with this and it’s a testament to the quality of our staff, and the quality of our programs and Guidelines. But most of all, this is a huge testament to God’s blessings.
Hopefully, hearing about these Samaritan Stones of Remembrance, and considering the Stones of Remembrance in your own life, moves you to praise, generates gratitude, and activates your faith. We praise the LORD for His great love and for the wonderful things He has done for us (Psalm 107:21)!
Anthony Hopp is chief purpose officer for Samaritan Ministries. He delivered a version of this devotional at a Samaritan staff meeting.
All Bible quotations are from the New Living Translation, published by Tyndale House Publishers.