He was at church pretty much whenever the doors were open. I can not remember his last name though back in the 1980’s I knew it. Everybody knew it. We attended a very large church in the suburbs of Atlanta and Charles was a part of that experience. At many of the altar calls he would go to the altar to have someone pray for him. It was funny in that he would walk the aisle and look around to make sure he was being seen.
Challenges and issues? Absolutely. His was emotional issues as well as mental. I remember seeing him once throwing up in the parking lot of the church after a service. Never did determine what that was about. His biggest challenge was that he had a speech impediment. He stuttered very badly. Some might have seen this as a weakness. I saw it as a strength.
Earlier today I went to Google and typed in “famous people who stutter”. Multiple websites came up whose association help those who work to overcome this challenge and how they can be helped. There were many recognizable people on the list. Current Vice President Joe Biden once stuttered very badly. He must have overcome his problem because he never stops talking now. Another is James Earl Jones. The voice of Darth Vadar and such an accomplished actor. Moses was one of the greatest stuttering leaders in all of history. It always amazes me as to how God chooses someone to be a mouthpiece who has such difficulty in speaking.
In my life I have known those who stuttered. According to my brother-in-law, he stuttered as a child and his other brothers and sister, (my wife), used to call him Jibber Jibber Butt Butt. He overcame this challenge and has gone on to accomplish much in life. A young woman I know when she was younger and to a degree now, stuttered. In her younger years she became addicted to meth and other addictions which threw her life into a tail spin. She found help through a credible rehabilitation program and today helps other young women graduate from the same program. She is a hero to overcome these obstacles and in turn help others.
Possibly my favorite was Juanita.
Juanita was one of my mothers dearest friends, at the time, both of them single mothers trying to raise children in the early 1960’s. We were always in church and in those services the people were given opportunities to “testify” and declare the wonderful works of God. Well I have always been comfortable in church environments, and, being all of three years old I thought I would help the preacher on stage in encouraging those present to speak out for God. As one person finished, I was standing on the pew between my mother and Juanita, and said loudly, “Juanita, stand up and talk to that man!” I didn’t know. Heck, I was only three years old. Juanita shot up out of her seat and to hear my mom tell it now, Juanita never did put a full and complete sentence together but I am confident it was one testimony that those present would never forget.
So there is much to be learned from those who stutter.
Charles was about to teach me one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned in ministry. It was a crowded service filled with excitement and as the altar call was given Charles was in fact, again, making his way down the aisle. Many of the young men, ministers in training, were at the altar listening to people, praying with them, offering the best comfort we knew how. Charles ended up going to Bobby, in this case his real name. Bobby knew Charles as many of us did, Charles said a few things and then Bobby began to, with good intentions, give Charles an encouraging speech filled with religious cliches, something like this. “Charles, I am going to pray for you, and I am going to ask God to be strong on your behalf, to let you know He loves you and that He sees you and knows right where you are and what you need. And to heal your stutter. You are His child and He loves you.” I am not faulting Bobby. I would have told Charles the exact same thing. Religious phrasing comes easy at times like that.
But how Charles responded changed my outlook on ministry as it did several others who were there. Charles looked at Bobby and out of his stuttering mouth he said, “Wel-wel-well, B-B-Bo-Bobby, wh-wh-what I – I – I – n – n- need… is a job.” All that Bobby was going to pray for was not what Charles needed. Bobby needed Charles to be healed. Charles needed a job.
Any of us at some point have gone headlong strong for God on someone’s behalf and we have not even determined yet what the need is in the persons life we are attempting to help. Charles, in his child like manner taught me such a valuable lesson about people and ministry. That if you are willing to listen, people will plainly tell you of their needs, and by listening intently to them, God will listen intently to you as you pray on their behalf.
Wherever you are Charles, I think of this lesson often and for that I am appreciative and hopeful.