But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25
Anyone can sing when things are bright and the sun is shining brightly and our circumstances are easy. But our song…and heart…become tested when trials come. It’s crunch time. Or it can become crunch time. We decide. If it’s crunch time, we develop our loser’s limp and move to the side and lick our wounds. Or we can take crunch time and use it as a platform to sing the song we have in our heart.
That’s how I met Mabel… in the first days of her crunch time.
Nivea Mabel Nunez is a twenty-one-year old Honduran immigrant who lived in the Jefferson Parish town of Gretna. Her family, all members of Horeb Spanish Baptist Mission there, came as a group to Dry Creek to escape Katrina.
Mabel is beautiful—tall with a winning smile and positive personality. My mom commented, “That girl could be a beauty queen.” To me what makes Mabel beautiful is the inner beauty she has from the Lord.
I noticed her on the first Sunday our Katrina folks were at Dry Creek. We held a camp evacuee/community worship service in the Dry Creek Tabernacle. I’ve been in hundreds of services at the camp of every age group and event. But I’ve never been more touched than by this worship time on September 4.
Horeb Mission has a wonderful praise and worship band. It consists of about ten members including three percussionists. There is something about Latin percussion that makes their music touch your soul. As the Horeb band led in worship I looked across the large crowd of close to four hundred.
There were white faces, black faces, and brown faces. A few were dressed in their Sunday best but most wore jeans and T-shirts. Many folks here on this Sunday had lost everything they had except what they brought to Dry Creek. Others present were from our community and I silently thanked God for how Dry Creekers had reached out to these new friends.
The music was so joyful. They’d sing one verse in Spanish, then one in English. Best of all, as everyone sang together, there was a spirit of worship that united us all. The fact that we’d not known each other a week ago did not matter now.
And out front in the Horeb Band was Mabel, playing her acoustic guitar and singing. There was a joy on her face that can only come from inside—a joy that isn’t tied to circumstances. All over the Tabernacle there was joyful singing—a joyful singing that the loss of material things cannot wash away.
And I thought about Paul and Silas in that Philippian jail punished for doing right…Deep down in the darkness of a foul-smelling dungeon cell, beaten and chained to the wall, hungry, thirsty, and rejected.
And then they started singing.
In the dark
When the situation seemed darkest and worst.
Singing praises to God…
From their heart.
I watched the Horeb Band sing and glanced at others in the audience who had lost so much. My friends of Outreach Truth Ministry who had lost their church building and homes were singing out with uplifted hands.
When we came home after the service, my 16-year-old son Terry commented, “Daddy, I’ve never been in a service that touched me quite like that one.” I agreed and asked Terry what it was that touched him most. His statement was, “To see those people singing from their hearts when they’ve lost so much touched me in a way I cannot describe.”
I agreed with him. It is impossible not to listen and be affected when we see raw, unvarnished, simple praise to God in circumstances like these. Just as the other prisoners listened in amazement at Paul and Silas’ midnight prison singing, the world looks and listens when a child of God sings in spite of the storm or circumstances.
In the coming weeks I got to know Mabel well. She worked in the office for us as a receptionist.
Our office staff fell in love with her. Mabel shared how her family had come from Honduras five years ago. New Orleans is a very popular place for Honduran natives. It has the largest Honduran population outside of the country itself.
What impressed me about Mabel was her rock-solid faith. On mornings when I drove the camp school bus I would see her sitting on the front porch of the Ranch House having her quiet time.
It was evident this was a daily time alone with the Lord.
Mabel and the Horeb Praise Band and their songs of joy in the midst of a great storm touched us. There is something about the human spirit. It may be the most amazing thing about this earth. No wave, wind, rain, or storm can seem to drown it away.
But music, this gift from God, is most touching when it comes from the heart of faith. A heart tested yet true. A heart that has walked that line between faith and fear…
A song from prison…
Sung by someone who is in prison
But still has their song because prison hasn’t penetrated into their soul.
Just like Mabel’s song.