Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Would you preach at my dad's funeral?

Years ago while as I was in my office studying, a man from my church named Greg called and asked if I would preach his dad’s funeral. I didn’t realize that Greg’s dad lived local or that he was even sick. Their relationship had been strained for years but now his father, Walt, was in the hospital and was not expected to live much longer. I asked if it would be alright if I went and visited Walt. Greg warned me that his dad did not care much for religion and really had a dislike for preachers.

My first visit with Walt was at the hospital. We were able to talk a little about Greg and a lot about Notre Dame football, but he wouldn’t allow me to get to any kind of spiritual topic. I visited several times with the same outcome. Eventually, they sent Walt home where his dear wife, Mary, would care for him. One morning my schedule took me to the side of Elkhart where Walt lived and so I stopped by to visit. I knocked on the door but there was no answer. I jotted a note on the back of my business card and stuck it in the door and went back to my car. As I was opening my car door, I saw Walt at the front door of his house and he looked very sick. He said, “Reverend (Walt was the only person in my life who has ever called me ‘Reverend’), I don’t feel well today. Could you come back another time?” I graciously agreed and gave Walt a Gospel tract and asked him to read it and suggested that when I did come back that we could talk about it.

The next day Greg called me. The story he told me was awesome. That night his dad called Greg and asked him to come over. As they sat at the kitchen table, Walt told Greg that “the Reverend” had been by and that he had given him a pamphlet to read. Walt then took the tract that I had given him out of his pocket and slid it across the table to Greg. He told Greg to look at the last page. On that page was an opportunity to pray and receive Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior and a blank line where you could sign your name saying that you had accepted Jesus. Greg looked at that page and about fell off of his chair when he saw Walt’s signature.

Walt started to get better physically and began coming to church every Sunday. He was a big man but his legs were weak so he could not stand when we sang, but he would sit there and smile through each song. A few weeks after Walt had received Christ he called me up and said, “Reverend, you need to come over here and talk to my wife about getting saved. She needs it bad.” I did go over and had the privilege of leading Mary to Christ while sitting with them in their living room.

I baptized Walt about a month later. His legs were still very weak. In fact, his son had to get in the baptistery with me as I baptized his dad. The only way for me to get Walt under the water was for Greg to go under right along side of him. What a special moment that was. It wasn’t long afterwards that Walt and Mary went to Arizona to visit their son. While there, Mary had a massive heart attack and died. I preached her funeral. I got a call recently telling me that Walt too had passed away. With tears running down my face I thought about Walt and Mary; and about the great Savior we have in Jesus!

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