Editors note: This is the second in a three-part series. Part one appeared in the May 9-15, 2007, issue.
Lennox Barnett was surviving at the school for the blind in Kingston, Jamaica. Born blind, he recovered his eyesight, he believes, through prayer. After his mother died, Lennox was orphaned. Then, a family from Rockford, on a mission trip, decided to take him home with them.
Lennox Barnett continued telling me about his life at the school for the blind in Kingston, Jamaica. We lunched at Garretts in Rockford.
I learned Braille, how to use a cane, to be an independent blind individual, he said. My mom and I were best friends. She felt bad that I was blind, so she overprotected me. Being at the school was difficult for her and me, but she knew it was best. If I was blind at 12, there would be no future if I wasnt learning the skills I needed.
But at 12, 13, 14, 15, Lennox was seeing better than before, beating the odds.
My grandmother would say I was a miracle and that to whom much is given, much is expected, he explained. There was a church in my yard. They were always inviting me to do this and that. I wanted to do my own thing.
One summer, his mother insisted he go to Bible camp. Lennox refused.
He explained, I had a hard time…I loved Jamaican reggae music, forbidden music.
His mother washed, ironed and packed his things the night before camp.
She said, I know God is in control. Youre going to go, he recalled. It was probably 400 Jamaican dollars for the week. She only had $200.
That morning, a knock on the door brought her answer.
A lady with an envelope said, Please give this to your mother, he said.
Sister Brown felt God leading her to give them $500.
I was kicking and screaming, and got on the bus, he said. It was horrible. But when I got there, I realized for the first time in my life that to whom much is given, much is expected. God has given me a lot. I heard about the greatness and goodness of Godhow He is intimately acquainted with our ways and has a plan for us…that we go through circumstances to experience the best life possible. We have to yield…follow whatever it costs us.
Music spoke to Lennox, one lyric in particular: Im born again to win, the work has been completed, the Devil is defeated, no more will I be cheated, cause Im born again to win.
Because I am a miracle child, he said.
You felt victory in that song, I said.
I tried to coax Lennox to try my crème brulee dessert. He tightened his lips: No, no, no.
His huge smile returned as he continued.
I was baptized that week, he said. My mom was at the gate waiting with that look on her face…excited about good news. She knew God was in it from the beginning. Theres a great feeling that comes over one when you have answered the call, stepped out in faith, and watched God fulfill the reason behind it all.
Urgency was in his mothers heart.
Every year…she was always sick…in the hospital…diabetes, hypertension, he said.
A call to the school beckoned Lennox home. His mother was in a coma.
It was a 10-minute walk from the hospital, he said. On my way home, I had this sick feeling. I just broke down…something about this time. I remember going to the bathroom, kneeling on that (outhouse) floor, and praying…for hours.
His grandmother prayed with him, and he fell asleep.
I woke up about 3 oclock in the morning, he said. All the lights were on. I knew…it was not going to be good. My grandma told me that my mom passed away.
He felt thrown off course.
I thought God could not do that, he said. That is not the God I know.
His grandmother stepped in again.
God will never teach you to swim so that you will drown, he said. If God throws you in deep waters…He is going to be your lifeline.
You were close to her? I asked.
Oh, yes, because my mom was always in the hospital, Lennox said.
His world changed. His retired grandmothers pension was meagernot enough to feed one person.
Its a Third World country; youve got your own responsibilities, he said. I was at the mercy of the government…back at school, but considered an orphan.
His grandmother encouraged him. God would bring a breakthrough. When Lennox was 16, Dave and Julie Bartel led students on a Salvation Army mission trip from Rockford to the school in Kingston, Jamaica. They met Lennox, and fell in love with him.
They said, We love you so much, we just want to wrap you up in our suitcase and take you back with us, he recalled. They were joking.
Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
from May 23-29, 2007, issue