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Unshackled From My Bologna

An 8-year-old girl helped unshackle Rev. Daniel Humbert from his selfish thinking:

When I discovered last year that our Sr. High youth would be participating in the Appalachia Service Project (ASP), I was tremendously excited!

I was excited on the one hand because it would allow them to emulate the values of our church—radical love, servant ministry and Biblical relevance. I was also excited because I knew they were about to have the same kind of transformational experience that I personally have encountered in my 13 times of participating in ASP.

My life was literally unshackled from my own bologna through the radical love of Christ I experienced at ASP. It must have been 1988. It was my second time to participate in ASP. We went to Grundy, VA. The family, whose home we were attempting to make warmer, safer and drier, had a daughter named Kathy. She was about 8 years old at the time. Their home, which was about 1200 sq. ft, was constructed of raw, untreated lumber, and had no running water.

Kathy was very shy and took several days to warm up to the strangers from Dallas who had come to help her family. Each day our team would travel to Kathy’s home to be in relationship with her family and to help renovate her home. We always tried to play and visit with her so that she would know we weren’t just strange workers, but rather people who loved and cared for her.

Monday and Tuesday went by with Kathy having no desire to play with us. On Wednesday she finally warmed up to us enough to “investigate” us a little. Finally, on Thursday she not only played with us, but she had lunch with us. Major victory! No longer strangers, but friends!

The lunch that we ate each day on-site was made earlier in the day by one of our team members. The only real choice for lunch was a sandwich. It was either PB&J or bologna and cheese. The remainder of the meal would consist of an apple, chips and water. Being the man that I was, I always wanted bologna and cheese for my sandwich. I had it every day that week.

Thursday, the day that Kathy chose to eat with us, I became unshackled!

As we sat down to eat lunch I did a stupid thing…a very selfish thing.  I had the audacity to complain about my bologna and cheese sandwich. I was tired of eating the same thing every day! I said it out loud. I said it in front of Kathy, who I personally knew not only didn’t get to eat every day but what little she did get to eat was the same thing. I saw it. She had beans and cornbread—when it was available—morning or noon or night.

Nothing but beans and cornbread. That’s all her family had. When they had it.

And here I was complaining about having a bologna and cheese sandwich a few days in a row. I didn’t even know I needed unshackling until Kathy set me free. As we were sitting there together and I made my selfish cry heard, sweet little Kathy looked up at me and said, “Would you like my beans?”

She didn’t hesitate. She didn’t ask for a trade. She didn’t want anything. She just wanted to unshackle me from my bologna. She wanted to share. She wanted to love. She wanted to serve. She did it all, and she was 8 years old.

In an instant I was both humbled and loved. Little Kathy had set me free. She had unshackled me from selfishness and pride, from sinful shame and obtuse obliviousness.

A poor little girl from the backwoods had graciously “schooled” me in the grace and mercy and love of God. I needed that unshackling. I needed to discover that “[Christ] must increase but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

I needed to be set free from my sin and the deadly journey on which I was traveling.

It was a simple lesson. A needed lesson. But then, so is Easter! There is an unshackling…from sin and death for life and love. Jesus was raised to new life so that you and I might have the same.

There are second chances. We can be set free. We can become unshackled from hate, bigotry, selfishness, violence, bitterness, sin, shame, death.

I was full of bologna. I sometimes still am. Thank God someone saved me. Thank God Jesus still unshackles us today. He is risen!