This is one of the most special experiences I have ever been able to be a part of. I continually learn so much from my parents. They have the most incredible heart and are always watching for God’s hand in each and every situation. This post is in my mother’s own words. I witnessed this actually happen and we were all in tears….of joy, knowing that God guides and orchestrates the experiences of our lives. Sometimes we forget that. I know this post is long, but I hope you will read it and you will be inspired to watch for God’s hand in the daily things in your life.
I THINK I HAVE SOMETHING FOR YOU, SON. . .’
We own a commercial building in Louisiana that my Mother and Daddy purchased many years ago to be used as a church, pastored by my Uncle Howard. It was an Independent Baptist Church, as known in those parts. It had no “corporate identity” as such, but flourished as “my church” for many of the locals there.
Several years passed; my Mother and Dad passed away; my Uncle Howard passed away; and we told the folks there that they had free use of that building as long as they wanted it. I felt like that was what my Mother and Dad would want, because they had originally dedicated it to God. The little “country” church went through a period of declining attendance as its members either died off or moved away. Eventually it closed because no one was left.
It fell our lot to “clean out” the building and that’s where this truly amazing story really begins.
Among the several items left in the building when it closed were some hymnals, some Sunday School literature and some “kiddie”things -- colored papers of Bible characters, and two Bibles – one with the name Shawn D. Thompson* embossed on its cover and the other with no apparent identification. It looked like the people had just gotten up and left after a service one Sunday morning and took nothing with them.
My husband and I took the two Bibles with us, partially because it just didn’t seem right to leave them there, and partially because we had hopes of eventually locating their owners and returning their Bibles to them. That was almost 20 years ago.
What happened next is truly amazing.
As time passed we frequently would return to that sleepy town in Louisiana ever so often, and I would always take those Bibles with us, hoping to somehow find their owners.
Fast forward to January, 2011.
A few months ago my Uncle died and when we packed our car to head to Louisiana for his funeral, I took those Bibles with us one more time. I thought: ‘Surely I can find their owners this time.’ The funeral service itself was at the local funeral home and the burial was at the family Cemetery, located several miles out in the country. My Grandfather had fenced off a space on the old home place for a family cemetery.
After a beautiful graveside service with Military Honors, the small crowd began to return to their cars to leave, but some of us stayed back, talking with friends and relatives that we had not seen in years, and some we had never met.
I was talking to one dear elderly couple that I went to church with when I was a little girl, when I noticed this beautiful young girl standing nearby alone, and she appeared to be listening to what I was saying. I had noticed her earlier because she was so beautiful, but I did not know her. We made eye contact and smiled. She stood there a minute and appeared to be starting to leave. I reached out (without a doubt even this was a “God thing”!) And clutched her hand as I finished my conversation with that dear couple.
I turned to the young girl and introduced myself and said, ‘I don’t think I’ve met you.’ She replied, “I’m Sarah, Shawn’s girlfriend.” I was a little taken aback. And I said, ‘Did you say Shawn?’ She said, “Yes ma’am, that’s him standing right over there”, pointing to a tall, nice looking, well dressed young man, at least 6’ 5”, probably in his early to mid thirties. He was talking to my husband, and I said to Sarah, ‘I want to meet him.’
As Sarah introduced us, the young man extended his hand and said, “I’m Shawn D. Thompson.” I almost fell over! I immediately thought, “Could this be the Shawn Thompson, on the cover of that Bible in the car?” I said to him, ‘I think I have something that belongs to you, son.’ He said, “What on earth could that be, ma’am?” I replied, ‘A Bible with your name on it.’ He said, “I haven’t had a Bible since I was a small boy.”
By then my husband was headed out to our car to get the Bible we had retrieved from that little church so long ago, and when he came back with it I handed it to Shawn. He was immediately visibly shaken and as he looked at it, he clutched it to his chest and exclaimed, “My grandmother gave me this Bible when I was just a kid.” He began shaking noticeably, and he welled up with tears as he opened its cover and saw where he had written something in it so many years before.
I said, ‘Son, I think God definitely has a message for you in this.’ He replied, “Yes ma’am, I think you are right. I talk to Him pretty often but it’s kind of hard when you don’t have a Bible of your own.” Evidently Shawn left his Bible at that little church when his grandmother took him there when he was but a little boy.
Sarah was equally shocked as she saw all this and she said, “Surely this was a “divine appointment.” We all agreed.
I shudder to think ‘What if I hadn’t reached out for her hand? What if I hadn’t taken the Bible to that sleepy little Louisiana town that one more time? What if my husband and I had not retrieved the Bible from what was left in that little church when they disbanded? So many ‘What if’s !!
By then we were all in goose bumps and tears. I grabbed both Sarah and Shawn and I prayed for them, but I don’t remember the words of my prayer. Ironically, Sarah had earlier told my daughter, Sandi that she and Shawn had been discussing Bibles a couple of weeks prior, and he seemed noticeably sad when he told her that he didn’t have one.
Well, after that very emotional exchange and as we were leaving I laughingly told Shawn, ‘Son, you’d best take care of that Bible because I may not be around next time to rescue it for you.’ He said, “Yes, ma’am” as he again clutched it to his chest -– “I’m never going to lose it again, I’m taking care of this Bible.”
I forgot to mention another “twist” to this: Shawn D. Thompson is my cousin, Bobby’s son and I had never met him. Thank God for this “country cemetery encounter!” Yes, truly “a God thing! “ We will continue to pray for Shawn and Sarah as we thank God for that “divine appointment”. Yes, God does indeed works in mysterious ways!
As we left I couldn’t help but think of the story in II Timothy where God’s Word gives the account of Timothy’s grandmother Lois and her influence on his life. Shawn’s influence on his life was renewed and refreshed at our Uncle’s funeral, and it was obviously still very real -- long after her passing several years before. Now, Shawn has his Bible back.
THANK YOU , LORD, for the blessing of being a part of something so amazing.
SHIRLEY T. HAYMAN
*for privacy reasons, some names in this post have been changed.Please respect that this story is published with permission and should not be copied.