(God’s stories of grace and redemption are often played out through the ministry of His body the church in some of the most unexpected places. The following is one of those stories. Kim serves alongside her husband Tim who is one of the shepherds of the Seymour church of Christ in Seymour, TX. This is her personal account of how God can still be found in Nazareth expressing His grace in the rural communities of our nation. As this year closes and a new one is upon us may you find inspiration in the following story and join us in bringing more and more of Jesus’ truth and grace to “the least of these” in rural America! – Jim)
For the last three years the Seymour church of Christ has had an after school program for children in Seymour two days a week. The last week of the school year we have a hot dog supper and awards. Our RAM group had just arrived and as usual jumped in to help wholeheartedly. The boys were playing basketball with the kids when a boy I had never seen before rode up on a bike. He had on shoes at least 2 sizes too big with holes in them. He joined in the game and stayed to eat. He was invited to and attended every activity we had that month. He was exceptionally polite, but seemed defensive and would quickly retaliate for anything he felt was unjust. He often looked unkempt and wore the same clothes day after day. He formed a very close attachment to RAM member Nathaniel Hensley who was also our youth intern and happened to live with us during the summer. His name was Billy.*
Nathaniel worked with Billy and would bring him to the house to play and to spend the night whenever his mother would not be home. He blossomed under the love that Nathaniel and the RAM team lavished on him and soon his defensive stance faded. He attended every service and with his outgoing personality soon won the hearts of many in the congregation. As the time approached for Nathaniel to go back to college Billy wanted to know if he could move into Nathaniel’s room. I told him he was welcome anytime, but we had to make sure his mother knew where he was all of the time.
When it was time for school to start several church members collected money to buy him some basic clothing and shoes and others donated clothes their children had outgrown. He came to my house to get them and I have never seen such excitement of a little boy over a pair of Nike shoes. Two days before school was to start Lee Skelton our minister was talking to the school principal about Billy and he found out he was not enrolled in school for the year. Lee and the principal went together to Billy’s house and visited with his mom. She then brought Billy and his older brother to the school to be enrolled.
The boys had attended 4 different schools the previous year and Billy had not passed the 5th grade. He had already been held back in the past so it was decided to put him in 6th grade. At this time I felt a calling to help him with his school work. I really tried to fight it, but God just kept putting him and this need in front of me. On the first day of school I went to the principal and asked what I would need to do to be able to pick him up every day and help him with his homework. He said he would get his mother to give me permission and by that afternoon I was allowed to pick him up.
Billy wanted to do well and would do anything I asked him to do regarding his school work, but we struggled to find ways to help him. The world Billy lives in is so different from mine. I realize that I have lived a sheltered life. His life experiences have not helped him develop a very wide vocabulary. We’ve gotten advice from many teachers and have made great strides. He has passed all but one subject this past semester!
We have had a few rocky times, but have been able to love Billy through them. I have developed a relationship with his mother and she has given me permission to take him to the doctor and the dentist. He spends at least 75% of his free time at our house. He goes with us on family trips, but we recently went on a vacation and our church family stepped in to take care of him while we were gone. As I write this he is asleep on the sofa because my whole family is in for a late Christmas. He has been such a blessing to our lives and I pray we have been to him. The time that stands out to me as most precious is one day when he had on his Seymour church of Christ T-Shirt that the church recently got for our youth rally. He said, “A few months ago I didn’t know anyone here and now look at me,” as he pointed to his shirt. He knows he belongs!
*The details of this account are true, however, to protect his privacy, Billy’s name is fictitious.