When Chris Seay started Ecclesia, he had a great idea. He purchased Houston Astros season tickets in the upper deck of Minute Maid Park and would use the opportunity to connect with new and old friends. Church growth via 81 home games and America’s favorite past time. The idea worked well. A number of lives have been changed forever as the Killer B’s (Biggio, Bagwell, and Berkman) rounded the bases and headed for home.
The very first product in The Voice Bible project was a book several of us worked on entitled The Last Eyewitness: the final week. There is a tradition that John, one of Jesus’ twelve, outlived all the other disciples and became the last person on earth who had seen Jesus of Nazareth as he traveled the Galilean hills preaching, teaching, and healing. He was the last eyewitness to the life of Jesus, the last person to remember the look of his face and the sound of his voice.
The book told the story of the last week of Jesus’ life. It was written in the first person, told from the perspective of an old man (John) who wanted to pass down to his own disciples the key events of that fateful week.
The Last Eyewitness is one of my favorite products in The Voice project because of the artwork of Rob Pepper. Rob is a Londoner who has a unique style of drawing; it is simple yet elegant. With just a few lines drawn in ink, highlighted with a minimal amount of metallic gold, Pepper provides our book with 17 dramatic illustrations of Jesus’ life. These illustrations were themselves inspired by great masterworks of Christian art. They add a great deal to the tone and texture of the book.
The first time I met Rob was at an Astros game—courtesy of Chris Seay—on a warm, clear night in Houston. Because it was not a hot day in the Bayou city, the roof was back which gave us a wonderful view not only of the field but of the Houston skyline.
Rob did not know baseball. But like any good Londoner he knew cricket, so we spent about half the game talking baseball—history, strategy, etc.—comparing it to cricket (You see, I had spent 7 months in Edinburgh, Scotland on sabbatical in 2000; so I knew a bit about cricket).
It was a good night of baseball for the Houston Astros. A lot of runs were scored and the Astros came out on top. Rob learned a little about a quintessential American experience, a night at a baseball game.
But it was what happened in the 7th inning that sticks out most in my mind about that night. Rob took out paper and pen and began to sketch the lines and contours of the baseball park from our vantage high above the field. I had become a fan of his during the project and was frankly amazed at the way he was able to capture the world around him with minimal lines and emphases. He went on to finish the piece and named it “The Juice Bowl,” a reference to the fact that Enron Field had recently been renamed Minute Maid Park.
The Voice Bible project has brought together some amazing people with enormous talents. We gathered writers, artists, musicians, poets, scholars, and editors to do a project which will never be done again. It has been a unique—or as the Brits would say—“a one-off” experience.
Often, I’ve learned, the most meaningful moments in life come when you least expect it but most need it. Meeting Rob that night, hearing his story and seeing him at work provided me—and others I’m sure—with some much-needed inspiration.