Driving home at 3 a.m., Shawn Samuel stopped at a red light on Welsh Road in Northeast Philadelphia, a busy intersection even at that hour. He pressed his foot on the brake, laid back his head and closed his eyes.
He jolted awake when he heard a knock. A man, looking as startled as Shawn felt, was rapping on the driver’s side window, asking Shawn if he was OK. He must have been asleep for 10 minutes, the man said, and the light was green.
“I felt that God was there watching over me, and that wasn’t by chance or coincidence,” he said.
Shawn relayed the story to three high school seniors who had gathered on a recent Sunday at Christos Mar Thoma Church, where he has led Sunday school classes for the past seven years.
On this Sunday in mid January, Shawn gathered with students Jessica, Ann and Jobin at a banquet table on the church’s second floor. A felt partition, similar to a cubicle, bordered them on three sides. One wall displayed a small sign: “Life is fragile. Handle with prayer.”
Today’s lesson: the Gospel of John Chapter 9, Jesus’s healing of a man born blind. Verse by verse, they read through the chapter, analyzing the meaning behind one of the Bible’s most prominent healings. Jesus proclaiming that blindness isn’t caused by sin and applying mud to the man’s eyes. The man’s obedience to wash his face in the Pool of Siloam instead of demanding an instant miracle. The persistent doubts of friends and neighbors when he returned seeing.
And the core of the chapter: “For judgment, I have come into this world so those who are blind can see and those who can see will become blind.”
“Is Christian faith blind faith?” Shawn asked rhetorically. No, he continued, it’s faith through experience.
From there, the students discussed ways in which they have seen or experienced God. A doe caring for a fawn. A bus driver assisting a mother with a stroller.
Shawn’s example was God’s protection when he fell asleep at the wheel. His faith, of course, started much earlier than that. Shawn’s grandfather was an evangelist in India, and his father was also a believer.
Shawn got involved in men’s fellowship at a young age and was eventually asked to give a sermon before the group. He had found a calling – and a responsibility. In the years since, Shawn has felt a duty to share the good news.
“Even at your humblest point, just the thought that He loves you and takes care of you – here and in heaven,” Shawn said during his lesson. “Think of that feeling. That’s what it’s all about.”
– Brandon Lausch
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