Good Morning Church! Let me show you my tattoo!

That’s actually the title to a blog I wrote a little over a year ago.

It’s a story I’ve wanted to share on my Sunday morning post and today seems an appropriate day to do just that.

Because I am writing / rewriting this at the very early hour of 5 AM — as my husband Mark and I drive to the baptism of a beautiful little girl born just 1 week before our own grandchild.

We were invited by her parents last week and were told the event would take place at 6:30 — but as so often happens with our new friends — sometimes details get lost in translation — our new friends are a young Coptic Christian family from Egypt.
I was working on my planned post for this morning late last night when I got a text reminding us the baptism would be at 6:30 AM. I quickly shelved the post I was working on in favor of a few hours of sleep and decided — yes — today is a very good day to share the (mostly already written) story of how and why I got my tattoo.
It all started when one of my most conservative friends in the world called and said, “Let’s get tattoo’s.”

She called just after a Day of Pentecost event we had hosted with a group of old friends and a group of new friends as a day of spiritual reflection at our farm in Tennessee.

The goal was to focus on renewing the fire of the Holy Spirit and to ignite support for those being slaughtered by Islamic extremist.

Because as I mentioned earlier our new friends are a group of Coptic Christians that now call Nashville home.

You may not remember the first time you heard of the Coptic Christians but I am sure you will remember their most recent tragedy.
They were the first group of Christians publicly beheaded when ISIS paraded them across a sandy beach in orange jumpsuits a couple of years ago.

And just to clarify, Coptic Christians are simply Egyptian Christians.

An ancient group of Christians founded in Egypt by the Apostle Mark in the first century.

But during the event at our home we heard the story about a cousin of one of our Egyptian friends and how he was murdered in front of his family for refusing to deny Christ and convert to Islam.

Coptic Christian’s are well known for being passionately committed to their faith and have displayed over and over again that even under the threat of death they will not deny Christ.

After hearing the horrifying story from our new friend, the conversation turned to the cross they all wear on their right wrist.

The image of the cross is tattooed on the inside of their wrist at a very early age, some within the first year.

All of the Coptic Christians I have met wear the cross and many wear more than one. It is a tradition that is almost as ancient as the Coptic’s themselves.

It began in defiance to the custom of slave owners marking their slaves with a tattoo on their wrist. The tattoo was used to identify who owned the slave so if a slave escaped and was recaptured they could be returned to the proper owner.

The Coptic Christians declared they belonged to no man but to Christ alone and began to mark themselves with the cross to declare, “We belong to Jesus!”

The tradition of the right wrist came from the belief that is was the thief on the cross to the right of Christ that was forgiven as they were crucified together.

As a result, Coptic Christians are easily identified and deal with persecution and discrimination in Egypt. Our friends shared stories of problems obtaining VISA’s because they were showing the mark of the cross. They had stories of jobs being denied to Christians. The general hostility they deal with and of course the new fear of execution by Islamic extremist.

A few days after the event I called Kathy Hardin. One of my oldest and I think it is safe to say my most conservative friends. Kathy and I have raised our kids together. She just had a few more than I did. I have four boys, she has six boys and three girls. Yes, that’s nine total.

Kathy is one of those women much like the Virtuous Woman described in proverbs.

She’s does it all, from home schooling, gardening and canning to grinding her own wheat to make bread. She is basically an overachiever. So much so that after she had her eighth child and it became obvious she was going to be unable to have more, she decided to adopt.

Adoption for Kathy and her husband David could not be mundane either. No, they wanted to adopt a child no one else would adopt and they did.

They found their daughter in Armenia at an orphanage ran by nuns. Karene had Spina Bifida and many other medical complications but just as the Hardin family was getting ready for Karene to join them in America she became very ill and nearly died.

It is a long story but basically because of some incredible miracles and timing that simply can’t be explained, Karene did make it home to America.

Four — now five — years later she is not only fully recovered but she is thriving.

Shortly after the miracle of Karene’s coming to America Kathy began to pray for God to use her again.

She said being a part of a big miracle was such a powerful experience that she wanted to feel that power again.

But as she prayed for God to allow her to be a part of another miracle… it wasn’t long before she discovered how desperately she needed one. She had stage four-breast cancer.

Doctors told her from the beginning they could offer no hope of a cure but might be able to buy her more time, extra months not years, with aggressive treatment.

Kathy has lived for a long time under the advice of Hippocrates who said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” So, after making the decision to say no to aggressive medical treatment Kathy began her education on everything cancer related and how to fight it the natural way.

Over and over doctors have told her there is no hope and twice she has passed her expiration date as she calls it.

On the day I called her right after the Day of Pentecost event, she had just had a cancer scan that showed the cancer had not progressed. There is no explanation for why she is not only not getting worse but now seems to be getting better.

As she shared with me the news from her doctor she abruptly said, “I want us to do something.” I said, “Sure, what do you have in mind?” and honestly if you had ever told me I would hear these words come out of Kathy Hardin’s mouth I would have laughed and declared you were crazy and obviously didn’t know my friend.

But she said, “I want us to get tattoo’s.”

At first I thought she was joking. That maybe our kids were asking her to participate in a prank and I half expected one of them to jump out announcing they had recorded everything. Getting my shocked, surprised reaction on video but she quickly explained her reasoning and I was all in.

She told me how impressed she had been with the people from the Coptic Church and how incredibly special she thought they were.

She said, “When I think about how they are so strong and proud of their faith in Christ, that they wear the cross permanently on their arm, I decided I have to do that too.”

She asked, “Who is a bigger miracle and testimony to what Christ can do than me and Karene?”

She then told me she didn’t ever want there to be a doubt who she gave the glory to and couldn’t think of a better way to make her point crystal clear and permanent.

Then she explained — she needed to do something — she had to do something — because if she ever got to a point where she couldn’t declare it herself she didn’t want the rocks to have to cry out.

Immediately I agreed and we began discussing details but we wondered if the Coptic Christians would mind us adopting their tradition.

It didn’t take long to get an answer.

They were thrilled with the idea and wanted us to encourage others to do the same.

So a couple of weeks later, we gathered at a local tattoo establishment, with a group of friends. Including several from the Coptic Christian community and we got our cross.

Many in our community still don’t fully understand why we did what we did but our Egyptian friends do.

It has quickly become a connection and an act of solidarity with those who have faced persecution like we could never imagine.

Joe, our friend whose cousin was murdered in front of his family, shared the idea and his story with a group of college students and later that evening they decided to join us too!

Luke 19:40 And Jesus said. “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

As I mentioned earlier in this post the idea to join our Coptic friends in a bold permanent display that we too belong to Jesus was the idea of my precious friend Kathy Hardin — when I wrote the original post she was miraculously still with us and seeming to improve. Earlier this year her life became even more miraculous as she stepped through the veil to claim the biggest miracle of all — an eternity with Jesus Christ.
In Loving Memory

Kathy Wilson Hardin

1963 — 2016

God Bless

LaVern Vivio

October 9, 2016