At the University of South Carolinas small Methodist chapel Sunday night, the Rev. Tom Wall was gently told to take a seat while current and former students gave him a surprise gift.
On one level, it was a material gift the keys to a 2001 Mitsubishi to replace Walls clunker of a 1991 Honda Civic with 315,000 miles on it.
[Click here to watch video produced by current and former students as they presented him with his gift]
Wall, everyone agrees, is the kind of pastor whose life and example has made a difference in young peoples lives for the 20 years hes been ministering at USC.
So, on another level, Sundays service turned out to be about the gift of unexpected love, one of the things religion is supposed to be about.
Unbeknownst to Wall, 58, current and former students had taken up a collection to present him with the safer, newer Mitsubishi. The group raised about $3,000 to purchase the 11-year-old car.
At Sundays service, they played for him a succession of personal video thank yous on a screen at the chapel front. More than two dozen videos from Columbia and around the globe had been collected via the Internet and Facebook, where a special page A Pledge to Rev. Tom Wall had been set up. No video was more than about 30 seconds, and all spoke about the difference Wall made in their lives:
Had you not encouraged me to go on a mission trip to Brazil, I might not be in medical school right now, said Samantha Ward.
The Methodist Student Network was my family when I was at USC, said Kayla Harwood.
Hey, Tom, you da best! said Molly Doggett.
May God bless you many times over, said Mary Allison Joseph.
The African folk hymn Kanisa Litajengua and various Christian hymns and religious songs in English, Spanish and Portuguese were accompanied by playing on acoustic piano, cello, mandolin, banjo, guitars, drums and even a tambourine. The joyful singing filled the chapel, with its 30-foot-high ceiling shaped like a triangle and large cross suspended in mid-air over the altar area.
After communion and the last song This Little Light of Mine the service ended.
Wall whose resume includes West Point, Duke and the University of Edinburgh said, Im just amazed. I remember all those students just like it was yesterday. They all made a great impact on me and our ministry. They were such great gifts to me and the ministry when they were here.
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.