Anne Phillips - Why I Loved Sunday's Sermon
Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time there lived a family in crisis not a five minute walk from Maranatha Baptist Church. This family was discovered by church members going door to door looking for riders for their bus routes. The family consisted of a father, three boys aged 12 to 8 and a little girl named Bonnie, age 6. The mother had deserted them.
Another lady from the church and I were asked to make a call on them and see how the church might help. The father, who had a steady job, was in need of someone getting the children off to school and keeping them until he got off work. I volunteered providing he could drop them off at my house early each school day and pick them up on his way home from work. He was happy to do so. Social Services had already been to see him and were threatening to take the kids away. He loved his children and didn’t want to lose them.
Preparing them for school required they each have clothing so I was allowed into the house to find suitable play and school clothes for each child. My first experience in the house was a shocker. I can describe the interior in one word: Filth. Since I had been tasked only with finding clothes, I tried not to see beyond the stacks and piles of dirty clothes on the floors in every room. I hauled garbage bags of clothing home, very gingerly placed them in my washer, turned the water temperature as high as possible and prayed I was killing whatever vermin they contained.
Amazingly, the clothing once clean and pressed was exceptionally nice. The father later told me that all their clothing had been given them by neighbors. Bonnie had a wardrobe of brand-name dresses to rival any little girl in her first grade class. And how I enjoyed dressing a little girl after my all-male household! But there were problems other than dressing the children. I was not surprised that they all arrived each morning hungry and needing breakfast, but Bonnie arrived most mornings smelling of urine. A bed wetter. In addition, it was obvious she had some degree of learning disability. Naturally shy anyway, she seldom talked and never asserted herself even with her rambunctious brothers. But bathed and dressed and with her blond hair washed and tied in a ribbon, Bonnie gave the appearance of any little six-year-old girl. Her school bus driver even told me that now other children would sit with her instead of avoiding and teasing her as they had before.
However, after several weeks it became apparent that Bonnie was not thriving on healthy breakfasts, clean clothes and special help with her school work. She was listless, often had no appetite and the bed wetting was getting more frequent. At first I chalked this up to missing her mother. By now I had developed animosity toward this woman I had never met who would desert these precious children. None of the children ever mentioned their mother. I tried to imagine birthing four children in 8 years. What must it have been like to live in that shack of a house. Did it even have a bathroom? Was her husband kind? I had cut him a lot of slack simply because he worked, but maybe he was a creep. In short, I tried to justify her deserting her children, but I couldn’t forgive her.
The school year would soon be over and I didn’t want to send an unhealthy Bonnie back to her father’s care .(I even considered asking if I could keep her over the summer.) I asked him about taking her to my doctor. He had insurance from his employer and would take her. I insisted on going along and talking to the doctor myself. Testing showed that Bonnie had an infection and also needed a minor procedure to help with the bed wetting. It would require an overnight stay in the hospital. She had several pairs of pajamas and it was easy to pack a cute little overnight bag for her.
Waiting in the hospital for Bonnie to be admitted, I noticed a young lady smiling at her from across the room. Bonnie was smiling back shyly. The lady opened a bag and produced a pair of brand new pajamas. I realized that this was The Mother who had deserted her children, but now that someone else had cared for them, she was ready to play the hero at this time of crisis. Without thinking, I nudged Bonnie to go to her mother which she did.
I left them there and returned home in a blind fury of frustration and hatred. Never before nor since have I been so hurt and so angry. The only thing I could think to do was to open my Bible to a passage at random. I opened to Psalm 37 and read verse 1. Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
I really identified with this Sunday's sermon.