Thursday, May 13, 2010

The House That Jack's Friends Built

This is the House That Jack’s Friends Built

A few weeks ago in our Sunday School class I was teaching a lesson about the healing miracles of Jesus, using the Gospel of Mark as our primary source. As usual, the poor members of our class were at my mercy as I always select the content we will consider.  The scriptures to be discussed invariably exceed the amount of class time available.  This particular Sunday I chose to spend some time with Jesus' healing of a paralyzed man in Capernaum -- Peter and Andrew's hometown.  The story is well known and is found in Mark 2:1-12.  For some reason Mark's account of the healing of the paralyzed man is one of my favorite healing incidents recorded in the New Testament.  I wonder why? 

News spread like wildfire that Jesus was in town.  His reputation had preceded him and the home he was in was thronged with a multitude of people making it impossible to even get near the door.  The paralyzed man had four friends that took him on a stretcher to the home, attached ropes to the stretcher and hauled the man up to the roof top, broke open the roof, and lowered him down at the very feet of Jesus.  I like to think that the Savior had a smile on his face as he witnessed the ingenuity and faith displayed by these four men in behalf of their paralyzed friend.  Jesus healed the paralyzed man who eventually left the home -- and in my mind's eye I can see the five of them walking arm in arm down the dusty lane -- undoubtedly rejoicing in the great miracle that they had participated in and witnessed.  They must have talked about this Jesus and who he really was to be able to have performed such a mighty miracle.  Perhaps however, the greatest miracle of all was the miracle of faith, love, kindness, and compassion, exhibited by four friends that brought the paralyzed man to the feet of Jesus so he could be healed.

My focus on this incident is perhaps a bit different from what many others would stress, which would be the faith of these men and the great healing power of Jesus.  To me it is all of that, but also so much more. It is a wonderful and inspiring story of love, kindness, compassion, and friendship, involving four unnamed men and their paralyzed friend.  I have thought that if Jesus were to come to our "village," I have friends with faith and ingenuity that would get me to the feet of the Savior so that I could be healed, whatever effort it might take on their part. 

Having been the recipient of countless acts of kindness and compassion myself during so many years, I have a little feeling for how the now healed paralyzed man must have felt toward his four friends and the Savior.

Our home is a two story plan with all of the bedrooms upstairs. After the accident, Jo Anne felt that the only thing we could do under the circumstances was to sell the home and find a one level plan that would more adequately meet our needs. As she expressed this thought to some friends, they told her that they would never allow us to move.  Paul Colby and Gary Anderson, who live in our same neighborhood and are members of our church, proposed to Jo Anne that we build an addition onto our home.  They were both builders and fine craftsmen and had many friends who also were carpenters and builders.  They told Jo Anne that they were going to build an addition and that most of the materials would be provided as well as the labor.  We were touched by this demonstration of love and concern.  A fund raising project resulted in sufficient funds being raised to pay for the materials not donated to complete the addition, as well as buy a new modified van that I could travel in. It has always been like a miracle to me to think of this outpouring of love and support from so many people.  I will be grateful to them forever.

 In early December of 1989, Gary drew up the plans for a 750 sq. ft. addition that would include a special bedroom to meet my needs, as well as a unique office designed around my wheelchair, besides a large dining room that connected the two.  Gary hurriedly submitted the plans for a building permit as I was scheduled to be released at the end of January, 1990. That gave the men just six weeks to build the entire addition.  They were determined to get the job done so that I could be released on the appointed day.

Gary, anxious to know if the plans had been approved, finally went in person to see what the hold up was. No one was aware of them.  Gary explained to the man in charge the situation. After locating the plans on the bottom of a large stack of unapproved plans, the man  signed the permit on the spot. Therefore, on a beautiful Saturday morning, men and boys showed up in our back yard and with picks and shovels and began digging the footings for the foundation of the new addition.

Jo Anne would bring reports to the hospital, including video recordings of the progress of the undertaking.  A great spirit of love and unity developed among those who worked so hard and selflessly to complete this addition so that I could come home.  The women also worked alongside the men and provided many meals for those who were laboring to meet the deadline.

Finally, the day came for my release and homecoming.  To take me home, Jo Anne borrowed an old modified van that I was able to ride in.  Unbeknown to me, all those who had built the addition to our home, as well as many friends from our neighborhood and church, gathered to welcome me home.  I knew none of this was taking place and assumed that it would just be a very quiet event. 

Jo Anne had called ahead to let everyone know the approximate time of our arrival.  A reporter and photographer from the local newspaper were there to cover the event.  As we turned onto our street I saw it lined with friends of all ages holding banners that read “Welcome Home” and “We Love You” Murl Nelson, a close friend and musician, had his drums set up on the front lawn and was accompanying my mother-in-law who was singing “To Dream the Impossible Dream”, and “You’re Home Again Jack”, to the tune of “On the Road Again”.

Gary Anderson and Paul Colby and the other participants in building the addition could hardly wait to show it to me.  Gary pushed me around the side of the house where a wide cement walk had been poured to accommodate my wheelchair.  To me it looked as big as the Santa Ana Freeway.  As I rounded the corner I truly was amazed at what I saw.  The addition was just spectacular.  The entire back of the house was filled with windows to let in the light.  The door to the addition had not yet arrived so a temporary door was in place.  It had written on it the following, “The House That Jack’s Friends Built!”  Everyone who had helped signed their names below those words.  I have never been so overwhelmed and touched as I was at that moment.  To think of the love that had gone into the building of this beautiful structure was just amazing to me.

It was like a big party as Gary pushed me inside the house to show me each room and all they had done to meet my new needs.  Kids were looking through the windows, adults were visiting and walking about, and there was a festive feeling in the air.  I was overcome by my feelings of love and gratitude for my family and friends.  I will never be able to repay them for what they have done for me.  It is largely because of their support that I believe I have been able to deal with my situation in a positive way.  I know they will always be greatly blessed for this act of kindness and love.

 As time has gone by, I have come to appreciate more and more what my friends did in putting this addition onto the back of our home.  Good friends are not easy to come by, and my friends have meant everything to me.  Most of my life is spent in these three rooms that my friends built.  A day doesn’t go by that I am not reminded of their love and willingness to serve as I look around me.  This addition has such a beautiful spirit in it--the spirit of love, of sacrifice, and of pure service. 

"And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four."  [Mark 2: 3]

Perhaps a worthy goal in all of our lives would be to be one of the "four" who made sure their paralyzed friend was given the opportunity to come under the healing influence of Christ.  No one will ever know the feelings of joy and gratitude that must have filled the heart of the healed, formerly paralyzed man, toward his friends and the Savior.


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