Special Friends

1 Cor. 12:23

Early in my ministry, I was serving as Youth and Music Minister at Calvary Baptist Church in Canyon, Texas.  The church was in a transition time of developing new ministries, and we had just purchased a church van when we received an interesting phone call from a local institution.  The Woods Living Center had called to inquire whether some of their residents could attend our services, but none of them could drive.  We responded, “Of course! Anyone and everyone is welcome. We have a new church van, and we can arrange to pick them up and take them back each week.”  The next statement caught me off guard. “Oh, good! None of the other churches seem very interested in having them.” The first week, we picked up five or six of their clients and we found out why this was the case.  I gathered the Woods Living Center was a care-giving facility designed to transition folks with emotional difficulties from full-time institutional living back to everyday life in society, a sort of halfway house.

On that first Sunday, we met Winston, who at one time had been a baritone with the Denver Opera Company.  When it came time to stand and sing, Winston started singing,  and it was LOUD. It was so loud, in fact, that it drowned out all other sound.  Everyone else and everything else stopped.  The sound technician thought it was feedback, and he was frantically turning knobs on the sound board.  The fellow next to him started casting demons out of the contraption.  The organist thought she had done something wrong on the organ, and she held her hands up in surrender.  The pianist, likewise.  The congregation stood there silent, frozen.  I quickly realized what had happened and  stepped to the microphone. I said, “It’s alright folks. We have some new friends with us today, and we’re going to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Now, let’s sing.”  We all started again, timidly at first.  Winston started singing again too, but he wasn’t singing what we were singing, and it wasn’t in the same key. It sounded more like vocalise exercises.

We also met J.P.  I don’t remember what his background was, but J.P. was not shy at all.  He always wanted to know what page we were singing, even if it had just been announced to the congregation.  Until I had told J.P., personally, he didn’t know what page.  It went something like this: “Let’s all stand and sing Hymn 365.”  J.P. would ask, “Hey! Wha’ page? Wha’ page?”  He would continue to ask, until I looked directly at him. “Page 365, J.P.”  He would then respond, “Oh. Ok,” and start flipping pages in the book.  On one occasion, J.P. stood with the congregation to sing, then realized his pants were unzipped. J.P. usually sat on the first or second row and, not wanting to feel exposed to the leaders facing him, J.P. turned around (toward the rest of the congregation) and zipped up.  Satisfied he was again modest, he turned back around and started to sing.

We met Wanda, who had a tendency to cackle at all the jokes the preacher told, and many other comments that were not jokes.  Wanda liked to cackle.  We met Patricia, who was simply broken.  She had a sweet loving spirit, but she was broken. I don’t know how it had happened, but her condition broke my heart too.  There were others who came and went, but these folks all still hold a place in my memory and in my heart.  At some time in their lives, they had each encountered some event or series of events that was just too much for them.

Paul, in his letter to the church at Corinth, instructed them to give special consideration to special people, just like we give special consideration to the “less comely” parts of our body.  We cover them in attractive clothing, not to hide them, but to make them more attractive.  That is what Calvary Baptist Church did. Led by our pastor, our little church took these people in and loved on them.  They became part of our family.

Over a period of years, we began to see subtle changes.  Eventually, Winston started singing the same song as everyone else and at a reasonable volume.  Wanda, after some exhortation, stopped cackling at inappropriate times.  I remember one prayer meeting where everyone surrounded Patricia, gently laying their hands on her and praying for her, just for her.  There was not a dry eye in the place.  I sat at her feet just bawling for her past pain. That night, Patricia ministered to all of us.  And J.P.?  Well, he was just always J.P., but he was fun, and we loved him for making us laugh.

CBC canyon

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Published in: on May 21, 2018 at 10:11 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I love this one. I was crying as I read it. This is exactly what we are called to do as His church, bring them in and love on them. Beautifully written.


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