Sunday, May 2: 1st Lt. Joe Merrill is on patrol in Iraq when he spies an Iraqi farmer running towards his unit at top speed. The man is waving his shirt over his head. And the man, interestingly enough, is shouting "I'm an American! I'm an American!"
As you know by now, he is telling the truth. He is an American! The man is Thomas Hamill, a contractor with Haliburton who had been captured 23 days earlier by Iraqi insurgents. His escape is nothing less than a miracle.
At least, that is the belief of his hometown of Macon, Miss. In a small town where blacks and whites rarely talk, they united to speak to God. Churches organized prayer relays to keep constant prayer alive.
And every evening a biracial group would gather on the front lawn of the Noxubee County Courthouse. All grievances forgotten, their faces lit by candlelight and a brighter light from within, they would sing together.
On Sunday, May 2, they met in their church buildings to pray prayers of thanksgiving to God as the news of Hamill's escape raced through the town.
What happened in Iraq was a miracle. So, too, was what happened in the little town of 3,100 near the Alabama state line.
A community united, became one in heart and voice. External differences were ignored. They were truly one community, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Will it last? Can it last?
Some believe it can and will and that God has touched the town in a way that is permanent. But one resident, Ms. LaGrone, expresses the doubt of others.
As quoted in the New York Times, she says: "I think it's wonderful how everyone came together. But to tell you the truth, as soon as Tommy Hamill comes back and the parades are over, it's going to go back to the way it was."
It is a crucial question. Can change last?
From the deepest fiber of my being I shout with thousands and thousands of others, "Yes!"
Change can last. Like the town of Macon, we must realize that the enemy of any one of us is the enemy of all. The grief of any one of us is the grief of all. And so, too, is the rejoicing.
The Macon mayor was reported to have promised Macon a celebration "that will not end."
Now we realize, here on this earth, celebrations of course end. But change doesn't have to.
That is part of why God came to this earth, making himself a man, Jesus. Jesus did not come to, as the character says in the movie "The Passion of the Christ," "make all things new."
He came to break down dividing walls and hostility and to make, of all mankind, one new person, where there would be "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus," Galatians 3:28.
And by his death, he has purchased a way for us to escape our captors and go home, to turn to the Father's house. There we will live in amazement as the parade never ends, the celebration never comes up against curfew and mankind never loses one voice to sing.
Sing on, Macon. Until that wonderful day and a new song, we sing with you.
Rick Cupp is a minister at Kenai Fellowship Church, Mile 8.5 Kenai Spur Highway. Sunday Bible classes for all ages are at 10 a.m. and Sunday worship is at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday worship and Bible classes for all ages are at 7 p.m.
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