As a boy I was forced to learn some scripture verses by memory. Yes, I was mistreated regularly. I’m sure I was not the only kid abused by zealous Baptist parents. It wasn’t a bad thing…I guess. One parent illustrated how easy it could be by pointing out that each of us could recite our telephone number and street address by memory. Learning a Bible verse could be as simple as learning a phone number, I was told. I decided to not “pull a muscle” and learned the shortest verse in the New Testament. “ Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) After my decision on my “memory verse” some thought I’d cheated—especially my brother! Later on I realized the verse was actually pretty important and revealed how Jesus had cared deeply for his close friends in Bethany.
Today, I attended a gathering at the CBF office in Atlanta and found myself weeping. Some field personnel were in town for a re-orientation session. They were given some time to share some stories about their work with the rest of us and the stories were powerful. Elizabeth works in a country in the Middle East and told about the business she works with helping provide a place of work and community for a deaf girl who had been banished to living under the kitchen table at home for years because of her physical misfortune and the cultural stigma attached to it. The girl came to them not speaking and avoiding any eye-contact. She responded to the love and acceptance quickly, however, and emerged from her shell of isolation in a remarkable manner. I was overwhelmed with joy as I heard of this blessing. It was almost too good to be true and yet it was. I felt like I’d received a VIP ticket to hear the “good stuff” that ordinary folks don’t have access to. It didn’t end with that one story. Other people shared as well and the tears continued. The theme was familiar…broken extremely neglected people were touched and loved and then responded to the attention in ways that resemble a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Some of these people are traveling and speaking in churches these next few months. I hope you can get one of those VIP tickets and listen in. Then you can join me in quoting: “Jim wept, and so did I.”
Well done, Jim!