Monday, February 15, 2010

hannah overton/cc of the coastlands (part 1)

This Friday, February 19th, ABC will run an updated profile on Hannah Overton on 20/20. This woman means a great deal to a great many of us. I hope you'll watch this week ... and I hope you'll pray. Here's part one of a series I wrote after visiting with Hannah's church family, husband and children two years ago:

I've traveled to many places and spoken to many groups of women, but I've never before sent my heart on ahead of me the way I did on this trip to Corpus Christi, Texas. Long before I surveyed those 130 faces, they meant something to me.

We've been praying for this body of believers for months now. We've followed the story of Hannah and asked God to shake the earth and fling open those prison doors. We've waited for news. And as days and weeks have gone by with no such earthquake, no such miracle, we've shared in the frustration and fear and grief that Larry and Hannah Overton, Rod and Noreen Carver, and the body at CC of the Coastlands have felt.

So I awakened early (and I mean early) Thursday morning feeling jumbled up inside. I couldn't wait to finally meet these women; I dreaded saying anything that might highlight their pain. I was eager to meet Larry and the five Overton children; I didn't know where I'd find the words I wanted to say.

Before the clock even struck 4:00 a.m., Dave was at the stove, making a batch of farina for us. Grain is a good way to start the day. No time for coffee, as we had to pick up my sister, Nancy, by 5:00 and we still had a big pile to load in the car and a half-hour drive to her house.

Another 45 minutes down the road took us to SeaTac airport. Dave came into the airport with us, helped me shuffle my Bible and a few other items from one too-heavy suitcase to one with a bit of weight room, and kissed me good-bye.

Our Continental flight served breakfast, which was a good thing, because I'd squeezed every ounce of energy out of that farina by this point. But breakfast was cereal and a muffin. More grainy stuff. I ate it with visions of bacon and sausage and ham and chicken fried steak in my head. I might mention here that I'm just a teeny bit of a carnivore.

The first leg of our trip took us to Houston, where we had to dash to a far corner in the lower bowels of the building to catch our connecting flight. While scurrying there, we passed a number of restaurants offering all kinds of protein. I could see and smell dozens of not-grainy offerings, and I was so longing for meat that I toyed with the idea of "missing" our connecting flight. But I'm not quite that irresponsible.

We made it to the gate in time--time enough to hear an announcement. "Flight 5577 to Corpus Christi isn't here yet, but we expect it shortly and will announce when we're ready to begin boarding." With no more information than that, we couldn't risk leaving the terminal. So we sat, not eating meat, and waited for news. Eventually, growling noises forced Nancy and I to eat a granola bar each. I decided then and there that I hate grains.

Our flight arrived; we boarded. Just a few minutes into the flight, we were told that due to turbulence, there'd be no beverage service except for water. My hopes for a peanut evaporated.

We landed in Corpus Christi and headed to the baggage area. On our way, I heard my name, and there was Noreen and Julie, the assistant pastor's wife. We hugged and talked a bit about our flight. And then Noreen began to ask me a question. "Are you hungr ..."


She laughed. "What would you like to ..."


And that's how we ended up at the Texas Roadhouse. Nice and loud. Peanut shells all over the floor. A booth in the corner which enabled us to actually hear one another. I was so happy to be in that carnivore's heaven.

At Julie's suggestion, I ordered the rib eye steak. In the spirit of "When in Corpus Christi, do as the Corpus Christi-ans do," I also ordered a baked sweet potato. But I drew the line at ordering it with the works: butter, brown sugar, marshmallows, and caramel sauce. I can't go along with this notion of turning vegetables into dessert. Julie offered a bite of her loaded sweet potato; I tried it to be nice but couldn't restrain a shudder as all that sugar hit my tongue. My own, however, with just a nice shimmery layer of whipped butter, was pure bliss.

We talked about a whole variety of things in the way that women do so effortlessly. That means we tossed several topics in the air and took turns juggling. We spoke over each other as often as possible and finished each other's sentences at appropriate intervals. All this while eating. And laughing.

It was during all that talking, eating, and laughing that I broke down for the first time. I was just sitting there loving on that steak and listening to Noreen and Nancy and Julie, and all of a sudden I thought, I wonder what Hannah is having for dinner? The tears came; I couldn't stop them. It seemed so wrong to sit there soaking in all that pleasure, loving that moment in time and anticipating a weekend at the Port Royal resort, right there on the Gulf of Mexico, when Hannah was staring at walls that had no right to enclose her.

I finished my dinner. I couldn't finish my thoughts. They followed me out the door, into the car, and down the road to the resort. And I'd only just begun crying.


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