Friday, 31 July 2009

Something far better than cookies and Kool-Aid

Monday, August 3, will mark a milestone in my life. Forty years ago, I made a decision that profoundly changed me. From my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, here is the story of how I started on a spiritual journey that continues to this day. My hope is that you'll follow the same path that I did back then.

"Sharon's mom is having a Vacation Bible School in her basement. She wants me to invite everybody I know. Would you like to come?" Diane invited.

At first I felt ambivalent, remembering what happened the previous summer. "I suppose so," I said after thinking it over, "I can always go home if I don't like it."

Diane and I attended all five days of this home-based Vacation Bible School. I came expecting to enjoy Kool-Aid, cookies, and stories. To my amazement, I received a much more valuable truth in the curriculum.

Once we were settled down, Mrs. Blacklock began her lesson. "Did you know that you can have a personal relationship with Jesus?" she asked. As I had never heard that doctrine before, I listened all the more intently.

"The Bible says that we are all sinners and that nobody is good enough to go to heaven," she continued. "Going to church is nice but it won't save you on Judgment Day. Only believing in Jesus Christ will save you from going to hell."

I felt shocked. Could this honestly be true? No one told me about that before. I thought only wicked people went to hell.

"If you give your life to Jesus, he will come into you and live in your heart." This sounded impossible too. Jesus was up in heaven and God appeared uninvolved with his creation.

As she outlined how Christ died to pay for our sins and that we could be forgiven because he took our punishment, my heart stirred within me. Could this actually be true?

Then Mrs. Blacklock told the story of Nicodemus and how he was an outstanding religious teacher in Israel. Even with all his education and status, he had no understanding of what it meant to be born again. Suddenly, I realized the meaning of what Jesus said.

A few years previously, a Christian clown visited Jericho and performed magic tricks in the boys' Playroom. Along with the usual vanishing objects and interlocking hoops, this man told us how Nicodemus met Christ late one night. It was merely one of many Bible stories to me then. Now I realized that it applied to me as well.

I pondered what Mrs. Blacklock taught us all during the week. As at previous Vacation Bible Schools, I coloured, memorized Bible verses, and listened to Bible stories. Mrs. Blacklock handed out Gos-pills for correct answers. They were actually jelly beans but I savoured the play on words. Mrs. Blacklock also pretended they were vitamins as she handed them out and urged us to, "Vite 'em in to Sunday School." She then told us about her church and the fun we would have while attending it.

On Friday, Mrs. Blacklock asked us a life-changing question. "Would you like to invite Christ into your heart and accept him as your saviour?" Though I could think of no serious sins of which I was guilty, except for stealing the glass lumps, I decided I had nothing to lose. I raised my hand and said yes. Our teacher led us in the sinner's prayer and then she welcomed us to the family of Christ. Though I felt nothing dramatic happen, joy and a sense that God was pleased with me filled my heart.

I ran all the way home, a distance of a few blocks, after the school ended. "I've been born again!" I exclaimed to the family as I rushed through the front door. They all stared at me, saying nothing. Doubtless, Mom and my sisters thought I had lost my mind. I felt let down because I thought they would understand this important life-transforming decision I had made. Either nobody told me or I failed to understand that not everybody would comprehend my spiritual transformation.