December 2, 2005

While I was attending the MB Seminary in Little Rock, Arkansas, I was approached to see if I would be interested in replacing someone who conducted Sunday services at the Children's Colony in Alexander, Arkansas.  There were two large buildings at the Colony for four types of mental retardation.  The first building was only one story and it housed those whose mental retardation was such that they could never be potty trained.  The second building had three floors.  The first floor was for those who had been potty trained, but would never be able to openly mingle on their own in society.  The second floor was for those who had progressed to a state of living at the Colony while being taken to places where they could work at jobs like washing dishes, cleaning, etc., for which they were paid a salary.  The third floor was for those whose minds might be perfectly normal, but whose bodies were horribly disfigured - heads larger than a big watermelon, hands and bodies like those of an infant, some that looked like Frankenstein, and assorted other types of terrible disfigurations.  It was called a Children's Colony, not because of the physical age of its occupants, but because of their mental age.  Some of them were past the age of sixty.

I was one of three preachers who volunteered for the non-paying job of going there on Sunday morning from 8 to 11 to teach the residents on the top two floors lessons about Jesus.  I had served in Vietnam and seen humans cut to ribbons with their hearts blown out on the ground, so I was steeled to horrible scenes that haunt me to this day.  The other two preachers made it fine until they got to the third floor.  It was just too much for them, so I got the job.  It was the most rewarding time of my life.  Some of those on the second and third floor had passed the mental age of accountability and were saved by grace through faith.  I continued to teach there until I became pastor at Dardanelle MBC in 1974.  Years later, when I was doing post graduate work at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Arkansas, as I was walking across the campus to a class, I heard bus brakes squeal behind me.  Suddenly the door of the bus swung open, and a large group of my former Children’s Colony students rushed toward me, jumped on me, and we rolled on the grass as they gleefully hugged me.  I have never felt so appreciated and fulfilled in my life at the love and affection they showed to me for what I had taught them about Jesus.  I do have a too tender side to my nature which I protect at all costs, because it has been wounded so many times.  I hide it well behind a thickened skin and a veneer of education and degrees.  The Children's Colony children are the only group of people I have ever opened up my tender side on a continuous basis because I knew they would never wound me.  They had a childlike kind of love that disappears as we grow to be self-centered protective adults.  I am thankful I had the opportunity to teach those retarded children from age 10 to 60 about Jesus while I attended the Seminary.  It would be a good experience for all preachers to go through in their early ministry.  It taught me I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did about what I was called to be, and helped me to shed some of my preconceived ideas I thought came from the Holy Spirit.

A young preacher in our church sent me the following article, "God lives under the Bed."  I related to this many years ago, because I have taught many with the mental capacities like the Kevin in the article, and I don't have to read it over and over to understand it - I have been there, and done that!

The article brought back one of the most lasting memories of my pre-accountable age years.  Mom had me kneel down each night at my bed and say, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."  Then I would crawl into bed perfectly content that God would do what I had asked him to do.  My Mom and Dad slept in the same room in another bed, and sometimes when I would not go to sleep he would say, "Tom Mc, if you don't go sleep, the Devil is going to reach out from under your bed and pull you under it."  So, until I was saved at age 12, I always slept with my legs doubled up and my heels doubled up to my buttocks.  Since most of our physical growth occurs in our early years, it caused the tendons behind my knees to constantly need stretching and caused me difficulties in my adult years.

I will never forget the night I was saved at age 12.  I went home that night and for the first time let my legs down as far as they would go.  Jesus has lived under my bed ever since.  Most people do not really know the child that lives in me, not even my wife and children, because I have a role to fulfill as an adult, and by the grace of God I try to perform it.  It is that frightened child that lives within me that still runs to Jesus daily to deliver him from all the trials and problems of life, while the adult I have become tries to teach others what Jesus says he is supposed to be teaching them from his word.  I think my Grandmother Amanda Athelia Osella Bray McElmurry taught me some of the deepest theology I know.  As we would sit on the back porch shelling peas, she would quite often look over at me and say the same simple phrase - "Tom Mc, Ain't Jesus Wonderful."  I believe the most important aspect of my calling is to teach people about Jesus and to let them know that while we cannot know the exact time of his coming, we can know it is drawing near.  I am anxious to meet him face to face.

Please read them following article I received from Michael Crites.  It is worth reading.  I have known hundreds of Kevins, and you cannot really grasp this article unless you have known a Kevin.  God means for his children to become AS little children, but he certainly does not mean they are to let the emotions of their youth direct their spiritual growth in the worship of God.  We are to worship God with the understanding of an adult in the word, and with the childlike faith of Kevin.

I Corinthians 13:11 - When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

John 4:24 - God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

I Tim. 3:14,15 - These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: [15] But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

I don’t know who originally wrote what Michael sent me, but they did request that it be forwarded to others, so I am forwarding it on our church web site at:



I envy Kevin. My brother Kevin thinks God lives under his bed. At least that's what I heard him say one night.

He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped to listen, "Are you there, God?" he said. "Where are you? Oh, I see. Under the bed..."

I giggled softly and tiptoed off to my own room. Kevin's unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something else lingered long after the humor. I realized for the first time the very different world Kevin lives in.

He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labor. Apart from his size (he's 6-foot-2), there are few ways in which he is an adult.

He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, that Santa Claus is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them.

I remember wondering if Kevin realizes he is different.

Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life?

Up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk our cocker spaniel, return to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed.

The only variation in the entire scheme is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child.

He does not seem dissatisfied.

He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05, eager for a day of simple work.

He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day's laundry chores.

And Saturdays-oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That's the day my Dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger inside.

"That one's goin' to Chi-car-go!" Kevin shouts as he claps his hands.

His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights.

And so goes his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips.

He doesn't know what it means to be discontent.

His life is simple.

He will never know the entanglements of wealth of power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be.

His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he is working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it. He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax.

He is not obsessed with his work or the work of others. His heart is pure.

He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue.

Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere. And he trusts God.

Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to Christ, he comes as a child. Kevin seems to know God - to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an "educated" person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion.

In my moments of doubt and frustrations with my Christianity I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith.

It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions.

It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap . . I am. My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances - they all become disabilities when I do not trust them to God's care.

Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he has spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of God.

And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I'll realize that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed.

Kevin won't be surprised at all!

Please pass this on if you feel it is worth passing on.