Every December, after Ray took the youth-minister job at Bethlehem Baptist Church in 1998, he would give each active member of the youth group a “Hammy Award.” A Hammy Award was simply Ray’s way of highlighting a certain quality of each youth that stuck out within the past year. A Hammy Award could be either funny, or serious.
I still have all three Hammy Awards that I’d received, and all of them are serious. My favorite Hammy is the “Phoenix” Award that I’d received in 1999, shortly after Dad passed away.
The phoenix is a mythical bird that lived in Arabia. Every five hundred years, the phoenix would build a nest and burn itself and then a young phoenix would ascend from the ashes. For the Egyptians, the phoenix symbolized the sun, for the sun died at night and was reborn. Early Christian tradition adopted the phoenix as a symbol of immortality and resurrection.
I received the “Phoenix” award because of my ability to overcome adversity. I have not turned my back on God through the many unfortunate events that have occurred in my life. I haven’t tried to bully God into delivering me from my sufferings by staying home from church and away from my Christian friends that needed me. I stayed active in the youth group. I was, for the most part, quiet as a youth, but I hope that my presence and participation inspired other students.
All of the events in my life that I have told you about in my memoirs are merely a pinch of what I’ve witnessed. All of the people that I told you about are merely a handful of those who have, and will, pass through my life. Everything that I told you that I learned is hardly a smidgen of what God has taught me, or what He has yet to teach me. I hope you’re inspired by my testimony.
The strongest Christians are the ones that can keep their eyes on God in the midst of adversity, disregarding the negatives of their sufferings to consider what God is trying to teach them and how he is trying to strengthen them as Christians.
Like a phoenix ascending from the ashes.