How to Persevere in Horrible Circumstances

A Memorial Service

Last Friday, Don and I had the privilege to attend a memorial service for a man we did not know. Our church, Killeen Church of the Nazarene, provided a place to remember a man who the world knew very little about, but his perseverance through life was something to appreciate and learn from.

Tommy passed away at the end of May, but had no known family to take care of his funeral. His “brothers” from his group home were his only family, but they have been scattered across the nation over the past several years. Tommy was relocated back to Killeen by his request as he always felt that Texas was his home.

A friend of our pastor called him asking if there was any way our church would be willing to host a memorial service. Pastor Rick was more than willing to help send Tommy home in a gracious and loving way.

Three of Tommy’s “brothers” were in attendance, his newest group home leader spoke, the man who investigated the work conditions spoke, songs were sung, including “I’ll Fly Away” sung by Johnny Cash, and memories were shared.

Memories not my own

During the memorial, several people involved in Tommy’s life spoke about him sharing what they remembered about him. For some it was quick and insightful; some shared a lot not only about Tommy, but the other boys in the bunkhouse.

It was mentioned several times that Tommy was a quiet man. He also had a subtle sense of humor. But the one memory that resounded was his constant sense of joy. Regardless of how hard life was at times, Tommy was content.

Tommy was the man who watched and listened. And only when he felt that something needed to be said, would he say what was on his mind. From the memories shared, it sounded like his statements were profound and impactful.

Appreciation for Tommy’s lesson

Tommy was a man I never met. Within an hour, I learned about him from other people’s stories, and from a picture of a content man sitting at a table wearing a t-shirt, jeans, suspenders, and a baseball cap.

Whatever horrible conditions Tommy and his “brothers” went through while working at a turkey plant in Iowa, I can only imagine. But the impact that he made on my life was profound.

To be able to find joy and contentment in horrible conditions is a gift only found through God’s promises and love. Whether he realized it or not, Tommy persevered through constant moving, horrible working conditions, no known biological family, and different group homes.

“to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” – Romans 2:7 (NASB)

Realization of My Effect on Others

I have always admired people who come across as content and find joy in all they do. It’s even better when I get to know them and find that it is their way of life, not just how they appear.

Tommy had an impact on me. Though we never met, I was asking myself:

  • Do I listen and learn before I speak?
  • Are my words important, helpful?
  • Do I find the joy in every circumstance?
  • Do I persevere regardless of what is happening around me?

Wow, who would have thought all those questions would come to me after attending a memorial service for a man I never met.

Thank you, Tommy Johnson, for all you shared with others, even in death.

Rest in God’s peace, Tommy, Rest in peace!

An Article About Tommy and His “Brothers”

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/03/09/us/the-boys-in-the-bunkhouse.html