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House to House/Heart to Heart Reaches Charlie

I am pleased to introduce myself. I am Charles Lumpkins; feel free to call me Charles or Charlie. I have been on the faculty at Pennsylvania State University since 2006, teaching history-oriented courses in the Department of African American Studies and a writing-intensive history course in my home department, the School of Labor and Employment Relations … I entered the program after working twenty years as a professional librarian.

In spring 2017, a heated discussion ensued in my #AfricanAmericanStudies class over several social-cultural issues of the day. Three or four students said disparaging words about the Bible and Christianity. At that time, I had been a practicing #atheist for at least forty years, and I did not care what the three or four said. Yet I could tell they were uttering talking points out of ignorance. I believed if a person expressed a hatred of a #religion, then he or she should explain the #hatred by pointing to specifics in the sacred text of that religion. But what was worse, despite my upbringing as a Roman Catholic, I was ignorant of the Bible and unable to refer to specific passages in the Bible to correct the students’ misunderstanding.

I decided that I must attend a church Bible study group to learn what the Bible says. I thought of a nondenominational church one of my sisters recommended that had a Bible study group for adults that met on Sundays. I did not go to that church because the Sunday bus schedule was inconvenient. (I owned neither a car nor bicycle.)

More importantly, I felt overwhelmed by my wife Rita’s hospitalization in December 2016 and in March and August 2017. With each hospitalization, the doctors said she was near death. Of course, I used her illness as an excuse not to go to any Bible study. I was challenged to be a caregiver for Rita who became thoroughly exhausted from her ordeal. For several months, she used a four-wheel walker and a cane for mobility and had visiting physical and occupational therapists instruct her on adjusting to her new situation.

In September, I became embroiled in a running family argument over money matters between two of my sisters and one of my brothers and his social worker friend. My sisters abruptly stopped talking to me. Then I fell ill for several days with the flu in October. Being that sick was unusual for me. I felt something—maybe God—was telling me to get serious about attending a Bible study group. I no longer felt that Bible study was an academic exercise but a form of emotional or spiritual healing. I needed to get serious about attending a Bible study.

Early in November, I glanced at an issue of the #HousetoHouse periodical that the State College Church of Christ mailed to residents in my neighborhood. This time I read the issue and noticed the schedule of church worship services and Bible study groups. I decided to attend the Wednesday night Bible study in mid-November. The irony is that I had often walked by that church since I moved to the neighborhood in 2006 and never thought about attending Bible study there until I read that magazine issue.

The men and women in State College Church of Christ Bible study group were very welcoming and curious as to what brought me to the Bible study. I got involved in the study and asked numerous questions. I continued week after week with the study. In retrospect, the members of the group were very patient with me, knowing that I was spiritually a baby inside an adult who desperately wanted to become spiritually matured ASAP.

I became excited about the Bible, but I needed much guidance. In December I invited two married couples, Todd and Tricia and Kelley and Maria, to my apartment where Rita and I could have Bible study with them. I struggled emotionally, feeling awful that I had neglected God for over forty years—forty spiritually wasted years. I started attending Sunday morning worship service at the State College Church of Christ in late December and Sunday evening worship in January 2018. Then I made the plunge—no pun intended—to be baptized in February. By April, I began to participate in Sunday worship service by giving scripture readings and opening and closing prayers and later serving the Lord’s supper and collecting offerings. In time I assisted as a facilitator, not as a teacher, in Bible study sessions on Sundays at the church.

I believed I had to make up for the lost years. Nonetheless, God is patiently guiding me and making sure I pace myself.