The following article was written by Brooke Hamlin, a graduate of Patrick Henry College's Class of 2011. It's a story of faith, perseverance, and beauty in the midst of a broken world. We hope you're blessed by it.
I chose to attend Patrick Henry College because I felt it was my best chance to one day accomplish something “big” for Jesus. I had heard stories about the incredible things its students were accomplishing for the Kingdom of God, and I wanted to be a part of it.
As a student, I discovered that graduates of Patrick Henry College go on to do “big” things for the Lord, not primarily because they are the most talented, or the most ambitious, but because they are taught to do the “little” things well. I was not only met with the challenge to pursue excellence in academics but with the understanding that outward success ultimately means nothing if it is not fueled by a passionate, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. In the end, the things the world calls “big” are dwarfed in comparison to the magnificent privilege and awesome responsibility of walking with Jesus, of abandoning ourselves to Him in the secret place, even when no one else is watching. The professors were excellent models of faithful, loving obedience in both the big and in the small. They would take the time to counsel us through difficult situations, persistently pray for us, and remind us that the secret to success was found only in a “white-hot” relationship with Christ.
About a year after I graduated I was privileged to meet a very “small” thing, that would make a huge impact in my life and for the Kingdom of God. I was teaching a Vacation Bible School class and felt like no one was paying attention. When I asked for the names of the three men whom God rescued from the fiery furnace, one little voice shouted above the rest, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!” The speaker’s name was Noah. He was five-years-old, about two feet tall, and weighed about 20 pounds. After singing Veggie Tales together and watching him lead the other kindergarteners in a chant for more cookies from the snack lady, I concluded that I was hopelessly and irreversibly in love.
Noah is a pretty incredible person. His parents, Frank and Tammy Spiker got him at Walmart, literally. The couple had made the decision early in their marriage that they would take in the children that no one else wanted. Nine adoptions later, just as the Spikers felt their capacity had been reached, they received an unusual call from social services. Officials asked Tammy if she could meet at a secure location to pick up two children in desperate need of a home. It was late. It was dark. Walmart it was.
When she first met the children, she was very confused. Though she had been informed that she would be taking home a three-year-old and a one-year-old, the infant in the car seat before her appeared to be a newborn. She soon discovered that due to severe malnutrition and a case of criminal neglect, though born at a normal weight, the 11-month-old baby before her weighed only 11 pounds.
The family described him as being little more than skin over bones, with pencil-thin arms, and dark eyes rolled lifelessly up into their sockets. He couldn’t even lift up his head and was unable to do anything more than lay still and cry. Due to maternal drug abuse, they discovered that his optic nerves had failed to develop, leaving him completely blind.
The first few months were rough going. Medical personnel soon arrived at the house with a feeding pump and explained how to use the elaborate, metal contraption. Noah required a feeding every 3 hours and each feeding would take an hour to complete. They suggested laying Noah on the bed while allowing the nutrients to slowly leak into his system. After considering the amount of time this would leave Noah alone throughout the day, Tammy made the decision to hold him through each session. Frank went out and bought a rocking chair with high arms rests, and Tammy sat…and sat….and sat.
“We lived in that chair for year,” Tammy jokes. She used the opportunity to pray and read scriptures over Noah, constantly encouraging him with sayings like, “Noah, you can be anything that you want to be. No, your eyes don’t work, but that doesn’t define you. God says that you are amazing, and that you are the apple of His eye.”
Though the Spikers had no guarantee that their son would ever progress beyond this vegetable like state–ever walk, ever talk, ever understand a word of human language–Tammy continued to pray and continued to hope for a miracle. The double dose of consistent food and human affection caused an almost instantaneous transformation. His eyes rolled down from his head and he began gaining muscle control. Noah gained weight and started responding normally to human interaction. Though everyone was pleased with his physical progress, no one knew what was going on inside of his mind. After a year of intense speech therapy, Tammy admits that she began to wonder if all of her efforts were crazy.
Pictured Above: Brooke Hamlin (left) and Noah Spiker (right)
The Spiker’s prayers were more than answered one day when a two-year old Noah turned towards his mother and announced with perfect diction, “I want a drink.” The family was delighted to discover that he had been listening in their conversations all along, and that the size of his personality outweighs even the depth of his extensive vocabulary. He is extremely intelligent, possesses an incredible sense of humor, and is very musically talented.
One of the most amazing things about Noah is the size and scope of his imagination. He constantly tells elaborate stories and invites everyone to join in his adventures. The backyard is actually a jungle filled with friendly bears and hungry tigers. His room became the African savannah and his bunk bed doubled as a spaceship. Everyone in the Spiker house remains in constant danger of being eaten by the dinosaurs that lived behind the couches and the hyenas that roamed the hallways. Noah is not merely a little boy. He is a rabbit, a policeman, or a knight who flies around the house on pixie dust wings. Edmund was constantly being captured by the wicked witch, but not to worry, Aslan was on the move.
Even more impressive than the size of his imagination, is the size of his faith. For us, faith may be difficult, since it requires trusting in something, or rather Someone, we can’t see. Noah has never had to see anything to believe and trust in its existence. His handicap has somehow become an incredible blessing. Jesus is as real to Noah as the physical world is to the rest of the population. He shares his love for Christ without the slightest hesitation or fear.
A few years after meeting Noah, I was newly married, and had just relocated with my husband to serve at a small church in the even tinier town of Hazen, Arkansas. I often wondered,” Lord, why do You have me here? What is there for me to do in this place?” I can clearly remember the moment God answered this prayer by crashing into an ordinary afternoon. I was sitting on our couch, thinking about Noah and his incredible story, when I can only say that I was hit with a divine download. One moment I was daydreaming and the next I had an entire book in my head that used Noah’s story as a creative means of sharing the Gospel with children. I immediately took out a piece of paper and began scribbling down some basic illustrations and writing an outline.
I had no idea how to illustrate a children’s book, or how to illustrate anything, really. I had no idea how to format a picture book, or how to submit it for publishing, but because of my time at PHC, and my classes on graphic and web design, I was confident that I could figure it out. My skill as a writer had been stretched in every imaginable direction, and I knew that I would be able to get His message across in a way that was appealing to a child. Most importantly, because of my time here, I knew that if God has truly called us to do something, He will give us what we need to complete that mission.
So I drove to the closest Walmart, which was an hour away, bought a one-dollar watercolor set, because that was about all the money we had at the time, and got to work. From that time on, I spent any spare moment working to complete this vision that I truly believe God had placed in my heart and in my mind.
Within a few months, by the grace of God, “Noah’s Invisible Adventures” was born. The book’s design is to show children there are more ways to see than with our physical eyes. Like Noah, we can learn to open the eyes of our imagination and transform our ordinary lives into grand adventures. More importantly, we can learn to open the eyes of our faith. Faith is the most important thing we can have, since it is the key that unlocks the door to our hearts so that Jesus can come in. Knowing Jesus is the greatest adventure in the whole world! There’s nothing that would excite Noah more than to know that you have chosen to join him in this great adventure of following Jesus.
Pictured Above: the cover of Noah's Invisible Adventures, a book written
and illustrated by Brooke Hamlin
My ultimate goal in publishing the book has been to raise funding to help support Noah’s family through the often expensive process of homeschooling a blind child. Though we are still working towards this goal, we have been so blessed to watch as Noah’s story has helped to open the eyes of many children to the glorious gospel and a relationship with Christ.
We have absolutely no idea how God is going to use us. We don’t know what impossible dream He has in store for us, or what “big” moment He has just waiting for us to step into. The important thing is that we are ready.
We can cultivate this sense of readiness, not just by constantly seeking to accomplish big things, but by learning to walk with the Spirit of God in the everyday moments of life. It’s about striving to the “invisible” life—to be totally here in the moment, completely willing to pour ourselves out for Jesus in whatever way He calls. If that’s going and speaking to that person who seems lonely in the dining hall, do that and do it with all of your might. If that’s helping your family or your spouse out with a household chore after a long day, then do that. If it’s nailing an impressive internship, or writing a book, do it and do it for Him. Embrace invisibility. Embrace death to self every moment so that Christ Himself can live through you and be seen and recognized by the people around you. Don’t live your life worrying about being seen, live your life concerned that Christ be known through you.
As I wrote near the closing of Noah’s book,
Even though no one alive has seen God’s face, or knows the same of His eyes, or the curve of His nose, when Noah started acting like Jesus, people could watch him and get a good idea of what Jesus looks like. As you know, the most important part of a person is what happens on the INSIDE. So when Noah started to show people Jesus’ heart, they could see the most real part of their Creator. Miracle of miracles, a boy who has never seen a sunrise or the colors of a rainbow, has glimpsed the heart of God. A child who has never seen his own face in the mirror has been used to make the Invisible God, visible.
This isn’t just Noah’s calling, but the calling for every believer. Do you want to do something big? Start right now by simply pursuing the One who is the biggest, the most supreme. Pursue Jesus, and you will discover that He Himself is the “big” Adventure you’ve been searching for all along.
Pictured above: Brooke Hamlin as a student at Patrick Henry College
outside the Barbara Hodel Center
Brooke Hamlin, like every student at Patrick Henry College, received training to live out God's calling on her life to the best of her professional ability. She is a great example of a graduate who has used her gifts to positively impact the world for Christ. To learn more about how we encourage each and every student here to do similarly, click below and read about the importance of Christian education in the spiritual journey of developing Christians.