For John Perkins, it's black and white

"For John Perkins, it's black and white" Continued...

Issue: "Global shame," June 15, 2002

Today, he picks up Steven, an 11-year-old student who has already experienced more suffering than most people know in a lifetime: Before receiving assistance from Mendenhall Ministries' volunteers, who built him and his single mother a new home, Steven lost an older brother to a house fire. Another brother went to jail for burglary. But for three hours a day, Steven finds solace working with Mr. Schupe.

After a short Bible study, they stroll together through rows of sun-glistened corn stalks and tomatoes. Steven is defensive around strangers, crossing his arms and looking away when asked a question. But when someone compliments the corn, he whispers a shy "thank you," as if taking responsibly for the entire crop. Later, he points to a docile-eyed Jersey cow. "I got a trophy for her," he says. Farm work helps children understand the connection between work and production, explains Mr. Schupe: "Because you are working with creation and living things, there is a rhythm that allows kids to see visible results-if they plant crops well they see them grow, but if they do something wrong they see them die."

6 p.m.: Neighborhood residents gather at the Mendenhall Bible Church for an evening Bible study led by Mr. Perkins's first protégé, Pastor Art Fletcher. Pastor Fletcher says he's simply following the example set 40 years ago when Mr. Perkins spoke at his preparatory school. Back then, Mr. Perkins didn't just speak and leave; he moved into the boys' dormitory and began teaching the 16-year-old Mr. Fletcher about Christ. "What caught my attention was that he talked about a relationship with a person," recalls Pastor Fletcher, now 58. "Before, all I knew was church membership, baptism, and Southern segregation. But when John talked about salvation, I knew that was what I needed-it was the word of God and it was the truth."

- Candi Cushman is an associate editor with Focus on the Family's Citizen magazine


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