Steve HamiltonMy parents sent me to summer camp one year, not knowing how concerned I was about what would happen to me when I die. There at a campfire story, a leader shared the simple truth of God's love in a way that motivated me to get up, and throw a log on the fire, to symbolize my desire to give up my ways, and follow God's ways. Those next years were filled with participation in Church activities and generally decent living. I was not a rebellious teenager, just easygoing and relatively compliant.
Later on, during the college years, exposure to bigger issues of life had an unanticipated effect on me. I was enrolled in R.O.T.C. at Northeastern University, while Viet Nam was in full force. Students across the country were demonstrating against the war and rioting for peace, love, and justice. At a large demonstration on my campus in 1969, I found myself amidst the crowd and chaos, dressed in my Army "class A" uniform watching friends screaming and fighting about these important values. Police with dogs came and hauled many to jail in buses and paddy wagons. The events of that week really shook me.
I went home for the weekend conflicted, still wrestling with the meaning of that experience. It brought me to reason that NO GOD could allow such hatreds in the name of peace, love and justice, and I began doubting His existence and wanted nothing to do with God. Two weekends later a friend (Dan Nagel) who was aware of these struggles, showed up at the door; pushed past my family, and demanded to see me. (Dan was my age; an 8th grade dropout who had run away from home; stolen cars and served 3 years in a NY jail. Later he became a Christ-follower; a football rival and a caring friend.) Amidst a heated exchange, he sat me down; pointed his finger; looked me straight in the face and said "Don't you know that Jesus Loves You?" In the short pause that followed, that simple phrase and firm reminder melted me to tears, knowing Christ actually died for me.
The campus riots were not a group of individuals seeking God's values or turning to Him for solutions. It was simply students crying out against an unjust war; touting virtues they neither knew nor practiced and in frustration joined to look aimlessly for answers. I knelt with Dan in our living room and prayed, asking God to forgive me and renew my confidence to put my trust in Him.
Shortly after college, God arranged the circumstances in my life to meet and marry Jackie (a great story to share another time). We worked at our careers; had 2 children and built our first of two homes in Carlisle. I worked as a homebuilder. Jackie became a "work-at-home" Mom with several interesting part-time jobs, so she could be home with the kids.
As our kids were reaching adulthood, Jackie and I worked together in our family homebuilding enterprise, nearly everyday for 20 years. Along the way, I got back into motorcycling and belonged to the Christian Motorcyclist Association for over a decade. It was through this adventure, that I came to 656 Wachusett Street in Leominster.
In the summer of 2005, I was a rider in a group of 50 motorcyclists, who were following a "road captain" who had discovered something remarkable. He had pre-arranged the visit and guided the rumbling bikers into the Tellier's property, excited to find God's Word on grand display! It was my first visit, and introduction to Bob. His infectious and passionate stories captured my imagination. After the visit, Bob shouted out to the group, "Come back... bring gloves!"
Several visits later, talking with Bob and meeting fellow worker Peter Dewey, the Lord seemed to instill the desire to help regularly. I tried to come a day per week for those first years, wishing I could be there more. But, running a business made that difficult, so I came when I could. These years of "apprenticing" opened up access to Bob's vision, stories and love for God and His Word. We shared ideas and drew sketches, attempting to solicit God's direction in the building of Ecce Homo. The week before he went to be with Jesus, we were sitting near the Isaiah stone. I asked him, "If God took you home soon, would you be disappointed that God did not let you finish the Building?" Bob smiled large, paused and said (paraphrased) "Look what he's helped accomplish. He helped me gather all the stones needed to finish and he'll bring the workers to finish the work." He felt totally fulfilled! We even planned a workday the following Thursday, but on that next Wednesday in 2010, he was with Jesus! We had no idea! Since then several of us have gradually continued on Ecce Homo, where Bob left off, putting in whatever time we had. It is a labor of love; being surrounded by God's Word everyday!
In 2015 Jackie and I closed our business and I "re-wired" (not retired) to pursue more time working as a stonemason at Living Stone. I get to work with Jack Bombara, Chet Carlton, Jimmy Tellier and so many caring Board Members and Volunteers. Others will likely find their way to THE Living Stone and discover God's written word crying out in engraved granite, inviting them to live for Jesus. What joy it is to be working on something so meaningful! Thank you heavenly Father, for guiding our paths.
-- Steve Hamilton, 2016