John Ed Mathison, former pastor of Frazier Memorial UMC, tells the story of Tommy Waite, an African-American man serving time in jail and converted through Frazier’s Prison Ministry. They didn’t stop there though. They discipled him and even helped him to get his GED.
When he got out through the work release program, the church decided to hire Tommy as a janitor. Tommy enjoyed sweeping and cleaning around the church, but what he really enjoyed was talking to the people of the church who crossed his path and thanking them for all the church had done for him. As he did, he would share how he came to faith and what his faith now meant to him. It wasn’t long before Sunday School classes started asking Tommy to come and share his witness.
Now Tommy is a very imposing man standing 6’ 4” and 260 lbs. As Tommy was sharing his testimony one Sunday to class of more than 120 people, he said for all that God has changed in his life, the biggest change was his hatred of white people. He didn’t like white people and didn’t trust them.
As he shared this a man by the name of Wes Straine came from the back of the room to the front. Wes had been a policeman and he stood just about the same size as Tommy. There was a hush in the room as people didn’t know what was going to happen.
Wes said, “His Son was going to get married marry but he told Wes that he couldn’t come to the wedding unless he came to church once. So Wes committed to attend worship once. At the end of the service, the pastor called people to come forward for prayer at the altar rail. A young crippled boy stood up and was struggling to come down the aisle, so Wes stood and helped the young crippled boy down the aisle and to kneel at the railing. Wes knelt down next to him. It was in that moment that God did something in his heart. You see, as a policeman, Wes’ biggest problem was that he hated blacks but he hated black men the most.
Tommy and Wes started out toward each other. Tommy stuck out his hand. Wes said we can do better than that. In that moment, these two bohemoth of men hugged each other. John Ed Mathison said, "You can’t legislate that or even educate that, but ultimately it’s the redemptive love of God than changes us."
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