If you find yourself spending Friday's mystical date of 12/21/12 cursing the Mayans, dodging thunderbolts and trying to evade one of those evil seven-headed beasts presiding over the end of the world, you might just want to take a break.
Duck into Lombard's Grace Baptist Church at 7 p.m. and you can watch local son Tom Meyer recite the book of Revelation by memory. It might seem tame compared to the specter of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse galloping past the church, but memorizing the entire last book of the Bible is pretty miraculous, too.
"Dude, it is so hard for me to memorize. It takes a month for each chapter," says Meyer, 36, who has memorized all 22 chapters and 12,000 words, which take him an hour to recite. He also has memorized 15 other biblical books or long passages as part of his post with Wordsower International Ministries, a tiny collection of Christians who make money through donations they receive for reciting portions of the Bible from memory to congregations and other groups. Visit thescripturecannotbebroken.com for more information on Meyer.
A 1994 graduate of Willowbrook High School, Meyer never envisioned Bible memorization as a career.
"My family wasn't super-religious, but we went to church every Sunday," says Meyer, who notes that he chose to return to his family's Grace Baptist Church, 1100 S. Fairfield in Lombard, to perform the "end days" book of the Bible on the latest in a series of hyped "End of the World" prediction days.
The oldest of four children born to Thomas and Debbie Meyer, Tom grew up working for his father's asphalt business, Meyer Paving in Maple Park. He often operated the heavy asphalt roller. He always saved his money. At 19, Meyer had enough for a down payment on his own three-bedroom house in Lombard and a 1966 Mustang convertible. But he soon decided that he'd rather go to Shasta Bible College in Redding, Calif.
"It wasn't like a donkey talked to me or I had a visit from an angel," Meyer says. "I just sold my house and car and went."
While he says he was a lousy student in high school, Meyer got serious while receiving a bachelor's degree from Shasta in 2006 and continued his religious education at Jerusalem University College in Israel, where he literally soaked in the experience. "I went swimming in the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean on the same day," he says.
Meyer got master's degrees in biblical history and geography as well as Middle Eastern cultures and religion.
"This is the Big Leagues for learning Torah, the Bible," says Meyer, lapsing into the baseball vernacular he knows well. He played catcher in a baseball league in Israel and credits his love of baseball cards with starting him on the path to his current career.
"Growing up as a kid, I could memorize the back of baseball cards," says Meyer, who is still a White Sox fan and remembers the baseball card of the team's Hall of Fame catcher. "Carlton Ernest Fisk. Why do I know Fisk's middle name? I don't know, but I still do."
He performed in 30 states last year, from small churches to a week of performances at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. He realizes some people think it's foolish to memorize something that's so easy to access. The Bible is the most-published book in the world, and there are plenty of apps that can instantly transport to your cellphone everything from the shortest Bible verse (John 11:35) and the longest (Esther 8:9) to the most-quoted (John 3:16) and even my personal favorite (Deuteronomy 25: 11-12).
"We live in a copy/paste, Facebook, tweet, file-and-forget world. We don't even memorize phone numbers," says Meyer. "That's the exact opposite of the Bible world."
He met his wife, Sarah, when they were both students in Jerusalem. They got engaged on Christmas Eve 2010 in Bethlehem, which is the biblical birthplace of Jesus Christ. He appreciates what the world was like 2,000 years ago when information was passed through spoken parables and not text messages. His performances are like theater in that he recreates the passion he envisions those early biblical figures had.
"It's an exciting event. It really is," says Tom Arnold, paster of Grace Baptist Church, who has seen Meyer recite other books.
"I like Jonah," Meyer says of the first Bible book he memorized, with the character of the same name who is swallowed by a giant fish. "It's very human. There are pirates and a sea monster."
Revelation, which is thought to have been written by the apostle John during his exile on the island of Patmos, is filled with "all of that passion and energy and hate and love," Meyer notes. That book foretells the end of the Earth as we know it and prophesies God's final judgment. While Meyer has every word down cold, he notes, "understanding it is a different thing."
Meyer doesn't offer an opinion about whether the world will end during his 12/21/12 performance. But you might find comfort in knowing that he's booked for a gig to play in Peoria on the day after.