My father became a Christian out of a totally pagan cultural environment. He had begun listening to Sunday sermons on his car radio and one day he simply pulled off to the side of the road and gave his heart to Jesus. He was a changed man from that moment.
His family was horrified. Religion had ruined him. He was no longer fun at parties. He didn’t smoke or drink and was always harassing people about his new found faith. Overnight he had become a religious nutcase. He preached to them constantly and they ridiculed and laughed at him and told him he was crazy. But he would just smile and keep talking about God.
He also talked to God about his family. A lot. He prayed that Jesus would reveal himself to them and that they would come to know how much they were loved and how much they needed the gift of salvation Jesus had bought for them.
His biggest target was his young nephew, a teenager who was especially uninterested in the whole religion thing and laughed at how crazy his uncle had become. Rollin was not a reader, so my dad bought him a comic book Bible and prodded him to read it, but there was no sign all those pleadings and prayers were working.
My father passed his faith on to his children when we were small, but he never saw any of his other family members come to know Jesus. On December 22, 1953, the day after his 41st birthday, he was killed in an accident at work. A week later his family were all standing around his grave, looking into the face of death.
Rollin was there too, but he was in a much different frame of mind. He had finally given in and started reading the comic book Bible his uncle Walt had given him, and shortly before my father’s death he had opened his heart to Jesus. He never got the chance to tell my father of his decision. But as he stood over the open grave, God said to him, “Now who is going to take your uncle’s place?” In that moment the teenager decided he would become a preacher.
Cousin Rollin is retired from the ministry now, after a long and illustrious career as a Presbyterian minister. During the years after my father’s death, two of his three sisters gave their hearts to the Lord, each in their own time and way. All nine of his other nieces and nephews eventually did the same, and their children are all believers now as well.
Heaven will be a great family reunion for all of us because my father loved God and loved us all enough to pray for our salvation. I cannot think of a greater legacy.
Tremendous power is made available through a good man’s earnest prayer.
James 5:16 Phillips Translation