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One of the Greatest Sacrificial Acts I’ve Ever Seen

April 7, 2014

It was springtime in eastern North Carolina at the right point of the season: past the bone-chilling cold-weather snaps but before the sinus-terrorizing pollen attacks.  The students were past the Spring Fever in-class-but-half-asleep mode, and in an unusually chipper state of mind.  I was in a relatively new position as the campus chaplain in a fledgling school system that was finishing out its first year.  It was a great time; I enjoyed immensely the eager students and the excited parents who gave great enthusisam to every project and study that we had.

My wife Jill and I had joined a church that met in the same building on weekends.  The assembly had numerous parents whose children were attending the new Christian school, and we became fast friends as we chatted about the introduction of this ministry into an eager town.  Soon my wife and I were meeting other families and we were slowly merging into a fine, growing group.  The church’s Sunday morning adult Bible classes met in the athletic department of the school building, 1bbbwith a few of the classes meeting in rooms right next to the gymnasium.

“We’re going to have a Sunday afternoon get-together,” said our teacher, Jeff.  “I’d like all of you folks to plan to be here next Sunday with plenty of food for a fellowship after the church service.  Let’s have a nice pot-luck dinner and then get some games going so we can all get to know each other well.  It seems as if some of our folks aren’t getting acquainted with others, and I want us all to get a chance to meet. The children will have games over in the other part of the complex; this will be a chance for the adults to relax and make new friends.”

Afterward, Jeff approached some of us as we were having coffee.  “Tom, would you organize the barbecue and head up the hamburger cooking?  Sid, I’d like you to be in charge of the musical part, so gather Nate, Barry, and the others and let’s have some guitar playing.  Brad, I’d like you to be in charge of the volleyball games in the afternoon.  Could you oversee the games?”

The next Sunday was a festive one, and let me tell you, those North Carolina folk can make some pretty impressive home-cooked meals.  The tables were covered with delicious entrees.

“Alice and I brought chili, green beans and cornbread,” said Mary, pushing aside a few of the salads in order to make more room.  “And Bill’s got a whole mess of potato salad and corn on the cob.”

“Look at this,” gushed Tom, putting down a gallon of sweet tea.  “Ham biscuits, fried chicken, and for goodness sake, three kinds of pie.”

“Four kinds,” said Sid, licking his fingers.  “But I just ate the fourth one.”

Ah, we ate like kings and queens.  People sat and chatted for a while before Sid gathered his little band together for some entertainment.  People were singing along as I sneaked out to the gym to prepare for the afternoon’s games.

I set up the volleyball net and moved the chairs to the side wall as the adults filed in, stretching and limbering up.  For the most part, the folks wore casual clothes for the fun – if not, they ran out to their cars and made a quick change in the rest rooms – T-shirts, polos, jeans or sweatpants seemed to be the attire for volleyball.  However, a petite woman in her late forties walked over to me, wearing clothes straight out of the Sunday morning Bible study:  knee-length skirt, silk blouse, necklace and bracelets.  I recognized her from our class.

“Hey, Sharon,” I called as I moved a chair.  “Are you staying around?”

“Well, I wasn’t,” she said, but she whispered in her Carolina accent.  “But I am now.”  I could see she was tickled about something.

“What are you up to?” I grinned. “You look like you’re about to pop with excitement.”

“It’s my husband, Bob,” she said.  “He’s never, ever come to church, claiming that Christianity was something he never wanted to deal with.  Twenty-five years and he’s never set foot inside a church.  Until today.”

She pointed to him across the gym.  He was wearing a crisp polo shirt and creased pants with expensive loafers.  He was a tall man with silver hair and a bit of a belly.  It looked like he was stretching.

“He wanted to come and have some of the BBQ ribs that Jeff was bragging about.  Could’ve knocked me over with a feather when I heard him say he wanted to come,” she said, smiling brightly.  “And here he is!”

“Is he going to stay?” I asked.

“That’s what I wanted to ask you,” replied Sharon.  “He said he really, really enjoys volleyball but he didn’t bring anything to change into.  For that matter, neither did I, but Bob really wants to play.  If I head home to change he’ll want to come with me and he’ll change his mind about staying.  Would it be okay if we played in these clothes?”

“Sure!” I cried.  “Get onto the court and let’s start!”

The adults gathered and played with gusto.  Bob was right in there with them. So was Sharon.

We played games of fifteen, win by two. Bob took the front line and, despite his age, had a few impressive spikes, surprising us all.  You could tell he’d played on some competitive level in the past.  Other men cheered him on.

We played three games. Bob was right there, organizing and moving players about in a crisp manner.

We played five games.  We switched teams and played five more.

“Bob, you’re really getting into this,” I called.

“I love it,” he said.  He was pouring sweat.  His pants were a mess.  He was smiling and excited.

“Why don’t you be captain of this next team?  Choose the players,” I said.  Bob gave me a nod and chose a new team.  Sharon gave me a thumbs up.  Bob was talking, laughing and cheering on other players.

“Boy, am I tired,” she said, then she pointed across the net to the other side of the court.  “But this is the happiest I’ve ever seen Bob in years. Brad, he hardly ever talks, but just look at him chatter! He’s already made friends.”  She rubbed her wrist.  “I haven’t played this much volleyball since I was a kid in junior high.  Sure was hard to remember how to serve.”

We played five more games, switched sides and played five more.  Some exhausted people left the gym as the day wore on, but a core stayed on through the afternoon.  Bob was grinning like a Cheshire cat.  On and on we played, mixing the groups and forming friendships as we batted, spiked, and served the ball.

Finally it was time to go.  Bob came over and thanked me profusely as I closed up the gym and turned off the lights.

“Fella, I had a really good time, really I did,” he said, pumping my hand.

“And he made some new friends, too,” added Sharon, patting him on the shoulder.  “What fun.  What a good time!”

“I’ll be back,” said Bob.

And sure enough, on Sunday morning when the adult Bible class gathered, there was Bob pouring himself a cup of coffee and joking with some men.

Sharon came up to me.  “Thanks again for the fun time,” she said.  “Bob still talks about it.”

“Well, it wasn’t my… say, Sharon, what did you do to yourself?” I cried out in surprise.  Her arm was in a thick cast, covering the middle of her hand all the way up to her elbow.  She held it in a sling.

She blushed and looked down.  “Well, I kind of broke my arm,” she said.

“What, did you fall down?  Did you get in a car wreck this week?” I asked.

“No,” she said simply.  “It was last Sunday…”

“Last Sunday?” I asked.  “After you left the volleyball game?”

“No,” she replied.  “It was during the volleyball game. You see, I told you I was having a hard time serving.  Well, I broke my wrist serving so much.”

“Really?  Did you feel a lot of pain after the games?”

She shook her head.  “No, actually during the games.  About halfway through the afternoon.  I knew it was broken after the ninth game.  Goodness, it hurt like anything.””

“Sharon,” I said.  “Why didn’t you get it taken care of right away?”

Sharon looked at me with a face I will never forget.  “Brad, that’s the first time my husband has had any contact with any Christian folk in over twenty years.  It’s been something I’ve been praying about since we’ve been married, that he would come to Christ through what ever means God saw fit.  Well, God saw fit to make it an afternoon of volleyball.”

She smiled deeply as she looked across the room at him.  “Bob and I are so close, that I knew if I left to get any medical care, he would have stopped and gone with me, and that would have been the end of his time with the Christian men.  I couldn’t do that, so I kept on playing.”

“B-but, Sharon, you played for almost two more hours… the pain… you kept serving the volleyball even though you knew your wrist was broken…?”

She shook her head.  “I would have played until my arm fell off, if that’s what would give Bob the opportunity to see Christ…”

 

Oh, dear God above…

Give me the heart and mind just like that self-sacrificial attitude of Sharon, who loved her unsaved husband so dearly that she faced an afternoon of torturous pain so that he might get a closer glimpse of Jesus. 

Please make the path of salvation clear for Bob. And please, please dearly bless this Godly woman for her giving spirit.

 

 

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4 Comments
  1. Oh, that we would learn to love our brothers and sisters in Christ (and the unsaved around us) as this woman loves her husband. Can you imagine what the world would say if we all loved as this woman does? One in a million! Thanks for the encouraging story.

  2. Praying in agreement with you!

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