Little Joey was a drug addict whose chemicals of choice were crack cocaine, cheap wine, and vodka (when he could afford it). He was a member of Fellowship Bible Study (FBS) for eight years. Joey rarely missed the study, and when he showed up he was always clean, sober, and clear minded.
Joey wasn’t an easy person to get to know, and not too many FBS leaders really knew what made him tick. He never shared his deepest concerns with anyone. Nevertheless, he was pleasant and friendly, and enjoyed being at the study. We liked him and he liked us.
Like many of our homeless and drug addicted guests he had an incredible database of Bible information (King James Version) and could quote chapter and verse without error. If I wanted to know where a particular verse was I would ask Joey. But he didn’t know Jesus, and he continued in his addiction drinking alcohol and smoking crack.
The next winter was brutally cold and Joey was in and out of shelters, sometimes sleeping outside. We worried about him and tried to get him to enter a Christian recovery program. He said he wasn’t interested. Then tragedy occurred. One night in December he was found frozen to death with an empty bottle of vodka in his hand. We grieved over his passing, not knowing what went through his mind that night, or whether he had come to saving faith in Christ before he died.
Annie was a nursing home resident who regularly attended our worship services. She loved to dress pretty for the services and participated as much as she could. One Sunday, however, she was unable to dress herself or get help in dressing. Her arthritis was just too painful. And because of that she missed the worship service.
In her room she cried. Her tears were caused by the pain and her inability to get out of her room to the worship service. The time passed quickly and soon she realized the service had ended and the Nursing Home Ministry volunteers were leaving. She recognized the worship leader as he was passing her room and called out hoping to get his attention, "Hey, can you come here?"
The leader heard her cry, looked around, saw her and entered her room. They knew one another from previous visits, and he was pleased to see her. She shared the facts of the morning, how she was unable to get dressed, and how she missed the worship service. She said she was saddened not to hear the sermon, sing the hymns, and enjoy the fellowship. She asked what the sermon was about. So, he told her—not a summary, but the entire sermon. At the end, they discussed the meaning of the sermon, and Annie said she would like to pray to receive Jesus as her savior. The worship leader prayed with her for that, stayed a while longer, smiled, and left her room. That night she died.
We have no control over the lives of our ministry guests. We don’t know whether they will come to saving faith in one, three, six, twelve months, years, or ever. We only know that God calls us to be obedient as we serve him and share the gospel. And while we grieve the loss of those God has brought to us, we also rejoice in the opportunity and privilege of serving.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By David Apple. © 2024 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org