We get tons of e-mails at this site…and from time to time there is one that makes me cry! (Yes…I cry…back off!)
For those who may be wrestling with whether or not to invite someone to church—check out this story—we never know what an invitation will do. Happy good Friday…see you tomorrow and/or Sunday! :-)
I read your columns every day; first thing I check usually. You’ve been
encouraging the NewSpring folks to invite others to come with them this
Sunday. Yesterday I felt like I should tell you this story, but I didn’t
take the time. Today, I felt that same “nudge”, so here it is.
Almost 30 years ago, I was a pastor’s wife, living in a small town in NC.
Every day a man would walk past our house with his small Pomeranian dog. As
time went by, I would have occasion to talk with him when I would be outside
with my young children. After some time, I came to realize that Fred was an
alcoholic. Sometimes it was very obvious that he had been drinking, other
times not so obvious.
One morning the word spread through the community that Fred had been found
in the park not far from our house, passed out, and having spent the night
(a cold one) on the ground there. In my “protected little world,” I had
just never known anyone “up close and personal” who lived in that world.
Several weeks later, Easter was approaching. One day, I saw Fred walking
down the street, and as I watched him, I clearly felt, heard, or whatever .
. . I knew God was telling me to invite Fred to church. My first thought .
. . “He’ll never come to church.”
But I went out the door and stopped him and began to talk to him, something
we had been doing for a couple of years now. I finally asked him if he’d
like to come to church with me on Easter. He asked what time I would be
leaving and said that if he was going, he’d be waiting on my front steps.
Easter Sunday morning,as I was getting the children ready to go out the
door, I saw Fred walking across the yard and then sitting down on the steps.
I was amazed!
Now my concern was, “What in the world will the folks at church think?”
(This was not a NewSpring environment, if you know what I mean.) This was a
small town, everyone knew Fred was the neighborhood drunk, and I became
really worried that this was going to be awkward.
We got to church and when we walked in . . . the miracle began! I was
right, just about everyone did know Fred . . . and they were thrilled to see
him! He was warmly greeted, given hugs, and I just stood there . . .
Fred came to church every Sunday after that, and just a few weeks later, he
accepted Jesus Christ into his heart!!! The transformation began! Later, I
came to learn that during the week leading up to that Easter Sunday, Fred
had begun attending AA. I was just one link in a chain that God had begun
putting together to rescue this man.
Fred was a fixture at the church, doing anything he could to help. He
became one of our most effective greeters. What a testimony to the grace of
God! He was absolutely devoted to me, inviting every new person that
attended to come to the Sunday School class I taught. The class grew to
more than 60 people (in a church of less than 300).
And here’s the rest of the story . . .
A few years later, my husband and I moved away to plant a church in
Oklahoma. There was some ongoing contact with the church there in NC . . .
enough to know that Fred was continuing to serve Christ there in that
church. What I didn’t realize, until his death a few years later, was the
impact he had beyond the walls of that church.
At his funeral, it was revealed that Fred had, through the ministry of AA,
been responsible for leading more than 160 people into a relationship with
Jesus Christ, and getting them plugged into the “church of their choice.”
Baptist deacons, Methodist elders, and numerous others had been impacted by
the transformed life of Fred.
Perry, I can’t tell you how many times I think about that “nudge” from God.
Don’t stop telling your NewSpring’ers to invite, invite, invite. There are
lots of “Freds” out there.
Thank you Joan for sharing this story!!! WOW! And thanks for the prayers!