I saw glimpses of that beauty in Texas — testimonies that stood in sharp contrast to the dark injustice of Hannah’s ordeal.
From the beginning, Pastor Rod and Noreen Carver, along with several other couples, did the dance of court-ordered guardianship for the Overton children. Larry and Hannah — then out on bail awaiting trial — were not allowed to be alone with their own children. So the body in Corpus Christi surrounded them. In rotating shifts, these families enabled the Overtons to stay together around the clock, albeit with witnesses. Nothing was easy during that time — a trip anywhere required a minimum of three cars to accommodate everyone and fulfill the court’s requirements. But no one complained.
When lies prevailed and Hannah turned for one last look at her family, it was the body of Christ that did for her what she could not do herself. They held her children and comforted her husband and whispered the assurances most needed. They made meals and washed faces, brushed the girls’ hair, stood by Larry’s side at every court hearing, and clapped when Emma learned to roll over, and to sit up, and to crawl.
I met one woman who homeschools Hannah’s children. I met another who can’t wait for Wednesdays, when it’s her turn to have the baby. Emma has twelve mothers now. There’s something so clearly wrong about that, but also incomparably beautiful.
The body at Calvary Chapel of the Coastlands has written letters, petitioned officials, and endured hostility from those who believe the lies about Hannah. They’ve prayed faithfully. They’ve kept a steady flow of love-from-home letters to first one prison, and now another. They’ve brought Hannah worship.
It’s that last image that brought me to tears during my visit. Anita, our retreat worship leader, explained how they did it. Before Hannah was moved 350 miles from Corpus, a large group of worshipers would gather on Tuesday evenings and unfurl large banners they’d made during the week. On the banners would be the name of whichever song they were singing. From her window on the fifth floor, Hannah — standing on tiptoe — would hold the song sheets they’d sent earlier. And though she couldn’t hear a word of those songs, she’d follow the hand gestures the team had worked out for her … and worship along with her church family.
The image has stayed with me. Now, whenever I think of the fellowship in Corpus Christi, I picture them pantomiming worship songs on the grass below the jail; the headlights of their cars trained on those banners, perhaps illuminating the mixture of joy and sorrow on their upturned expressions. And I envision Hannah, with just her eyes showing over the ledge of her fifth floor window.
This life is full of sharp edges and harsh tones, cruel jabs and empty promises. But God has provided a haven — sweet words to replace the bitter; a balm to soothe the blows, the hope of promise to counter the lies.
How beautiful is His bride.
Header photo by Dan Winters, tmdaily.com