Monday, February 11, 2013

Faith And A Five Dollar Bill

Kathy Neal and Casey Lankford have never met but that doesn't mean there isn't a connection. I got an e-mail from Kathy this afternoon, which I didn't fully read. I saw Casey in the hall and asked him about Kathy and he drew a blank. (At this point I should introduce them to you. Kathy was a student of my father's at York College but more importantly, the wife of my high school basketball coach, Dale Neal. Coach Neal, outside of my mom and dad, has been the biggest influence on my life. Coach Neal now is the women's basketball coach at Freed-Hardeman University, currently the #1 ranked NAIA Women's team in the country. Kathy works in the administration at FHU. Casey is in his second year teaching/coaching/student ministering at Westbury Christian. I met him ten years ago on a mission trip to Honduras and modestly I must say, I was instrumental in his moving to Houston. But before he was born, his mom taught at Friendship Christian School in Lebanon, Tennessee where I also taught.) Casey came into my room and read Kathy's e-mail and laughed. He proceeded to tell me an amazing story and I asked if I could use it as my devotional tonight. Casey graciously gave his permission. This story consists of two e-mails but what a depth of faith and parental guidance and providence over a span of close to twenty years is encased.  In another introduction, Dr. Milton Sewell is the former president of Freed-Hardeman University. Here goes:

 Mr. Sewell,
My name is Casey Lankford. That last name might not sound too familiar
but the name Tucker might. I am the oldest son of Regina Tucker Lankford who is an FHU alum. I thought that I would share a quick story with you that might encourage you in your daily walk with Christ.

 About a week ago, I was at a gas station in Houston, Texas filling up
 my truck. As I began to fill up, I overheard the man at the pump
 across from me sigh as he saw that he only had about a dollar in coins
 on him and barely coasted into the station. He looked across the pump
 at me and asked if I had any cash I could give him. Normally I do not
 carry cash, but this time I did have a $5 bill in my wallet. I pulled
 it out and gave it to him. It was enough to simply get him home but it
 was also better than nothing.

This might not seem like a big deal to you and you might be wondering
why I am telling you this. That $5 bill had some sentimental value to
it. You see, when I was about 7 years old. I was running around
playing with my friends after church when I heard my dad call me over
to meet someone. He told me that this man's name was Milton Sewell. I
smiled, looked you in the eye, shook your hand firmly, and told you that it was nice to meet you just like my mother and father have both
taught me. You asked me a few questions about myself before you allowed me to go back to playing with my friends. After I ran off, you pulled a $5 bill out of your wallet and handed it to my dad saying "that's to help with his first payment toward coming to Freed Hardeman University."
My dad thanked you and put it in his wallet for safe keeping. Here I am now 17 years later working for Westbury Christian School in Houston as a Campus Minister, Bible teacher, and basketball coach. I actually did not go to FHU but Oklahoma Christian University. My dad came out to visit me at work as part of a fun getaway weekend for him (my family still lives in Nashville). At dinner one night about a month ago, he gave the exact same $5 bill that you had handed him close to 2 decades ago. He told me the story of how and why you gave it to me and that even though I didn't go to FHU, it was still mine to have.

Fast forward 2 weeks, I again pulled out that $5 bill and handed it to
the man who didn't have enough money to make it home. The way I figured it is this. Although I did not attend FHU, I do believe that the university is very intentional about its cause toward making disciples and helping those in need. In a way Mr. Sewell, that $5 bill went toward a greater purpose than my Christian collegiate education (I think I made out alright at OCU.)

I would love for this email to serve as a true encouragement to you,
Mr. Sewell. I want it to remind you of the importance of your
position, your demeanor, and most importantly, your calling. The things that we all do in life, even the smaller ones like giving a $5 bill to a little boy at church, make a mustard seed like impact on people in the world whom you will probably never meet.

 May God continue to bless the work you do both for Freed Hardeman and
 for everyone else in this world.

 "And whatever you did for the least of these, you did also for me" -Jesus

 In His Love,
 Casey Lankford.                                     
 1 Corinthians 2:9

Casey, what a surprise and blessing your message was to Laurel and me today! Thank you for taking the time to write and describe the circumstances surrounding the $5 bill. You and I both can count this as a treasure laid up in Heaven.
Even though you did not attend FHU, I applaud you for attending a Christian university. Congratulations now that you are working with a fine Christian school. They are lucky to have a man of your integrity and character employed in helping youth.
You are a very fortunate man to have the parents you have. They are two Christians whom I admire so very much
for their high quality moral character. I am not surprised that your Dad was as careful in being a faithful steward of these funds. And I am not surprised that you have used good judgment in helping someone who needed help.
Congratulations on doing right! I could not be prouder of you in your chosen work. Give your precious parents our best regards because they are special!
Milton Sewell

All I can say is WOW on so many levels. The kindness of an adult to a child, the humility of a distinguished educator, the training from Godly parents, the providence of God- what a parable! And if Kathy had not contacted me today to tell me about the e-mail which Dr. Sewell had passed on, I would not be sharing this wonderful story of God's goodness. Somehow, in the Lord, it just all came together.That might be the best application I could ever make.

Applicable quote of the day:
God bless,
Luke 18:1
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