Last week during the Bruce School Essay contest (Bruce Elementary School is our partner school and neighbor in midtown Memphis - the children of this school, of diverse ethnicities, and socio-economic classes make up the parish geography of the church I pastor), I mentioned to gathering that Saint John’s was in prayer for the Bruce School family as they grieved the loss of one of their own, nine year old Acquiria, who was killed in her home the previous week. Compounding the trauma of the death for her family was that while they were tending to her and saying their goodbyes, someone broke into their home and robbed them.
An account was set up at First Tennessee to help this family. Among the family Acquiria left was her identical twin sister, Acquirius. We’ve heard much about the mystical link between twins, one can only wonder what this little girl is thinking, feeling.
I offered prayer the night of the essay contest, and sent the gathering on their way, when Laurie Graves, who coordinates much of the after school work we do at Saint John’s, came up to me and said, “Johnny, you may not remember, but Acquiria was here almost every time we did something. She was one of St. John’s Brownies. Laurie wanted me to be sure to let Bettye Masters know the connection because as you know, she loved all the children of the community so much.
She was right, I hadn’t remembered, or not ever sure I knew that. That is, until Laurie sent me some pictures of Acquiria and her sister laughing and making arts and crafts here in our building. Yes, they are ours. And yes, the grief of violent death of one so young should shock and outrage us.
It should also move us to do more than we’ve done thus far. For the next two Sundays, I’m asking you to consider an above and beyond gift. Place it in an offering envelope that you’ll find in the pew, and mark it for Acquiria fund. We will then forward what is collected to First Tennessee in her memory.
There’s a story I used to tell in sermons about a time during the war in Sarajevo when a man, holding a child injured in the fighting, hails a reporter in his car to catch a ride. “We need the hospital, now, my child is dying.” The reporter obliges, helps them in and rushes toward the hospital. But it’s too late, and the man holding the child keeps saying, “hurry, my child is dying.”
When they arrive at the hospital, it is too late, and the child is dead. The reporter, trying to console the man, overhears the man tell the doctors that he found the wounded child in the street and tried to get to the hospital as soon as he could.
The reporter interrupted and said, “I thought you said this child was yours.”
And the man’s response, “they’re all our children, they’re all our children.”
I became familiar with the song “Prayer of the Children,” through my band, Glad River. It was written by one observant in the hell of war in Sarajevo. The lyric seems especially appropriate today as we remember all the children who are ours, and especially today, Acquiria—
Can you hear the prayer of the children
on bended knee, in
the shadow of an unknown room?
Empty eyes with no more tears to cry,
turning heavenward toward the light.
Cryin' Jesus help me to see the
mornin' light of one more day,
but if I should die before I wake,
I pray my soul to take.
Can you feel the hearts of the children
aching for home, for something of their very own?
Reaching hands with nothing to hold
on to, but hope for a better day, a better day.
Cryin' Jesus help me to feel the love again in my own land,
but if unknown roads lead away from
home, give me loving arms, away from harm.
Can you hear the voice of the children
softly pleading for silence in their shattered world?
Angry guns preach a gospel full of hate,
blood of the innocent on their hands.
Cryin' Jesus help me to feel the sun again upon my face.
For when darkness clears, I know you're near,
bringing peace again.
Da-li cu-je te sve dje-cje mol-it-ve?
Can you hear the prayer of the children?
Lyric and Music by Kurt Bestor