FIRST-PERSON: At home, from suffering to blessing

KENNER, La. (BP)--"Paul, can you come to the lobby? There are two teenage girls down here who need someone to talk with."

Paul Jones, now retired, led the Christian Life Commission for Mississippi Baptists, based in the Baptist Building in Jackson. When the receptionist paged him, he had no way of knowing he was about to have one of those experiences that confirm all over again the nearness and reality of a great and gracious God.

"Jane here is pregnant," one of the girls said. "Help her."

"I'm not going to help her get an abortion," Jones said, "if that's what you had in mind. But we can definitely help her." The girl who had paged Jones was belligerent and told her friend, "Let's get out of here. I told you we wouldn't find any sympathy here." And they stormed out.

The next day, the pregnant girl, Jane, returned. "You said you could help me," she told Jones. "How?"

Paul said, "Tell me your story." Jane was from the Midwest, the daughter of a wealthy businessman. Six months earlier, her father had forced her to have sex with a client in order to seal a business deal. When she came up pregnant, he cursed her and threw her out of the house. In time, she showed up in Mississippi, needing help.

Jones contacted a Christian family he knew and they took Jane into their home. When the baby was born, she decided to keep it. The family and Jones found her a job and an apartment. The baby grew and Jane seemed to be managing.

Late one evening, two years later, Jones had spoken at a church on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and was returning home dead-tired when he decided to stop in Hattiesburg and get some sleep. The next morning he walked over to Shoney's for breakfast. Unshaven and wearing the same clothes he had on the previous day, he hid in the back behind a newspaper, hoping no one would recognize him. Nearby sat two gentlemen at a table, having breakfast. A few minutes later, one of the men approached Jones' table.

"Are you Dr. Paul Jones?" he asked. Jones sheepishly admitted he was and began apologizing for his appearance. The man introduced himself as a local minister. "There's a fellow here with a problem," he said, "and I thought you might be able to help." The minister called his friend over.

The man told Jones his name, then said, "I live in Missouri. Three years ago, I did a really cruel thing to my daughter and she left home. I've become a Christian recently, and I'm trying to find her and see if there's any way she will forgive me and come back home." Jones listened to his story, realizing he was hearing the other half of Jane's sad tale.

When the man finished, Jones said, "Would you like to talk to your daughter right now?"

"More than anything in the world," the man replied.

Jones pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number in Jackson. A moment later, he said, "Jane, this is Paul Jones. Would you like to speak to your father? He's right here."

It was a magical moment. The family was reunited and Jane and her baby moved back home.

In the final verse of the Old Testament, we are told that the prophet of God shall "turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers...." (Malachi 4:6).

The first place to suffer when a father rebels against God is the home. The first people to feel it are the children. But when God changes the heart of a father, the first place to see the difference is the home, and the children are the first to benefit.

Jesus once healed a crazy man, a fellow so wild no chain could hold him. He prowled the tombs, and townspeople could hear him wailing in the middle of the night. Mothers threatened their children, "If you don't obey me, the crazy man of the tombs is going to get you." When the Lord Jesus arrived, He recognized that the man was tormented by a gang of soul terrorists, demons from hell. He wasted no time in casting them out and healing the man. This beautiful scene is found in Mark 5. I want you to see what happened next.

The next time we see that poor man, he is cleaned up, wearing clothes and sitting calmly at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him teach and in his right mind. When the Lord got up to leave, the man said, "Master, I'm following you wherever you go. You've done so much for me."

Jesus said, "I want you to go home. Tell your people the things the Lord has done for you, how He has had compassion on you." The home had suffered from his absence and his pain, now let it benefit.

Luke 7 also tells us that when Jesus raised a young man from the dead, "he restored him to his mother."

That's the plan: the children reunited with the parents, the parents with the kids. It's how a loving God works.


Joe McKeever is pastor of First Baptist Church in Kenner, La., and a regular cartoonist for BP Lighter Side.

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