Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: GRADUATE (08/01/19)
TITLE: Mission Accomplished
By LINDA GERMAIN
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It’s a long trip. My seatmate appears to be headed in the same direction. She is more than chatty and informs me her name is Myrtle Sue. Her long dissertations of sad stories do not affect my joy. In fact, I feel sorry for the poor lady as she recounts the many episodes of despair she has felt because of her son, Jake. She refers to him as a bad seed. Bragging about the way my grown child turned his life around would make her feel worse, so I say as little as possible about the impending pomp and circumstance.
“How many kids you got?” she asks when we stop for a lunch break.
“Four,” I answer.
“Any of ‘em preachers?”
What a strange thing for her to say.
“As a matter of fact, I’m on the way to see my oldest get his seminary degree.”
Clearly, she is not familiar with that word. “Is that like a cemetery or something?”
I try very hard to keep a neutral expression so as not to offend her lack of knowledge on the subject. How do I boil it down to a simple explanation? I’m pretty sure any reference to theological matters would be a waste of breath.
“Actually, it’s an intense study of the Bible to prepare someone to teach or counsel others.”
There’s no response for a few seconds as if she is processing this new information. Finally, she has a one-word reply that could mean a lot of things.
After lunch, she moves to an empty double seat in the back of the bus. I assume she intends to take a nap, and that one of us will have disembarked before we meet again. I spend the last hour of the long trip remembering everything from the birth of my sweet boy right through to the pain and confusion after his father disappeared. The evil of drugs and gangs and crime attracted my handsome son like a magnet. In the natural, all I could see were terrible consequences waiting for him. Oh, how I prayed and believed.
When he was convicted of his role in the robbery of a small grocery, I wept for days. Hadn’t the Lord heard my pleas? Now, these years later, I can see how that guilty verdict turned out to be a blessing. It triggered the turning point.
The bus rolls up to my destination. I straighten my hat and gather my few belongings.
“Hey,” I hear from a familiar voice, “I thought you were going to a gradgiational thing or something.”
Bless her dear heart. I pat her arm and whisper, “Come on, let's walk together.”
As we enter through the well-guarded doors and submit to a check for contraband, I am sent to the right to an auditorium where friends and family of the honorees are sitting. Myrtle Sue is routed to a much different area to see Jake.
After welcoming remarks and acknowledgments, the stirring music begins. A processional of men in caps and gowns marches in, heads held high. They take their seats in front. My son looks so wonderful to my tired eyes. I can’t help but cry.
At the special visiting time with our loved ones, I am allowed to hug my new graduate and listen to his plans to continue studying and witnessing until his release next year. He tells me he already has the promise of a job on the outside as a chaplain’s assistant and a chance to work with newly freed prisoners.
Dear Lord, you did hear me!
I can’t stop smiling and even humming a bit on the way back to catch the bus. Myrtle Sue shuffles up beside me. She is shaking. Her face is bathed with tears of hopelessness and grief. I put one arm around her shoulder and tell her she can lean on me. She doesn’t need to say a word. I understand.
Later, we’ll talk.
*Story based on the vision of the Southwestern Seminary at Darrington Penitentiary in Texas.
From their website: “In partnership with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee they support the deployment to outlying Texas prisons of all those who graduate from the Darrington Seminary as Field Ministers.”
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