Sunday, November 26, 2006


Let me introduce you to a good friend of mine. Her name is Keri-Ann, and she lives in Red Hills, just outside Kingston, Jamaica. Her friendship proves a couple of points, to me, which might benefit you as well.

In the summer of 1992, our church sponsored a mission trip to the Red Hills Baptist Church, to help on construction of a building, and put on Vacation Bible Schools for them. I "superintended" a VBS at a nearby sister church, Cypress Hall, and my older son Brian worked on the construction.

Our trip coincided with Revival Services at their church, and the first evening we were there was quite a celebration of praise and worship. The congregation worship leader invited us to sing and shake hands and meet people and we walked around singing praises and shaking hands. I decided I'd clap other people's hands, and absolutely had a blast doing that. When the singing stopped, I was clapping hands with a little 10-year-old girl so I just sat down by her. When the pastor read scripture, I had someone hand me my bible and I opened it; the little girl next to me didn't have a bible, so I put my bible on my knee and scooted her over next to me so she could read it too. When we sang a hymn, she got a hymnal and opened to the page and put it in my lap and we sang together.

After the service, I was standing on the side steps of the church as a car went down the hill to the street (there were only 2 cars among the congregation, there). The car stopped halfway, and Keri-Ann jumped out, ran up the hill, up the steps, hugged me, ran back down and got back in the car, and they left.

My sweetheart Peg was my first episode of love-at-first-sight. Keri-Ann was the second.

We've been back 10 times since then. Also, with the advent of the internet, we've kept up via email and online chats. To make a long story short, she has grown up into a fine young professional lady, a High School Math Teacher, a youth leader in the Red Hills Church, and just a dear friend. I love her as though she were my own grandkid.

I asked her, once, how it was that she was such dear friends with this old white guy from Alabama. She said "Because you always love and accept me".

I don't know if all people react the same way to love and acceptance, but I suspect most do. And isn't that how it should be with all our acquaintances?

Love, and acceptance?


At 4:47 PM, November 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that everyone does Bob. It's why I write what I write. You however have shown the result of the key to churches and evangelism: Love and acceptance. Thank you Bob for this wonderful story. I hope everyone reads this post in the next few days. :)

At 5:16 PM, November 26, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Thanks, Debbie. I know not everyone would understand a young lady from Jamaica and an old guy from Alabama, each of whom loves the other. I figure you do, and thus understand how blessed I am.

Incidentally, some day I'll blog about sister Eutelda, about Jasmine, and Althea, Natalie, Merrick, Alfonso, Kevin, Calvin, and Sister Dunn, Deacon Douse, and the rest of the folks I love and respect at Red Hills.

My, my. I'm getting homesick.

At 11:27 PM, November 26, 2006, Blogger Kevin Bussey said...

Nice story.

At 8:56 AM, November 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story you share. Wouldn't the world be a different place if we all saw people the way you see your friend? I think one of the lasting results of missions trips, more than any work accomplished, is that we "discover" our brothers and sisters in Christ, and get to see a glimpse of the great worldwide family that we are part of.

At 8:59 AM, November 27, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Thanks, Guy. Isn't it just a .. privilege?

At 9:23 AM, November 30, 2006, Blogger Micah said...

Amen, Bob. Amen.

I hope a whole bunch of pastors learn to be just like you.

At 9:48 AM, November 30, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...


I started to write something self-effacing, but I think God stopped me. What I really need to say is this:

If your observation, and comment, is correct, it would be tough for pastors to do that. They have too much they'd have to "unlearn". One of my assets, I think, is that I didn't have to learn the things that pastors learn, so they could head up a local body. I don't need to consider pleasing "sides"; nor do I labor under the paradigm that was drilled into me by professors. I needn't be concerned about personnel committees or budget goals or percentages of attendance. Or staff cooperation & spirit, offending the member that I cannot visit in the hospital as I cannot be 2 places at once, etc.

Men get most of their inner self-image from their jobs. Their careers. A pastor would naturally be concerned about how "well he does his job", and I fear that the only concrete evidence he can see is the results in the church.

I don't fault pastors in this at all. I aren't one, so am in no position to judge. But I have a couple platitudes (I'm old, I'm entitled, and besides, it's expected) that fit.

1) With heart and soul and conscience clear, fear God, and know no other fear.

2) Pleasing everybody pleases nobody.

I'm free to live by them. Pastors may be, too, but I can't really know that.

Thanks for the comment. You have once again pointed out the awesome power of the Holy Ghost to be extraordinary in the lives of ordinary men.


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