In October of 2001, as I closed my eyes and lay my head back in the shampoo bowl at the hairdresser’s, I was startled to see the face of an estranged, divorced relative (by marriage). I hadn’t thought of him in many years, no one in the family had contact with him, and I hadn’t seen him for almost 40 years. Then I heard these chilling words: “Call him. He doesn’t have long to live.” I wondered what I was supposed to say. Immediately, I heard: “Tell him I love him just the way he is.”
This whole incident really disturbed me. This former relative by marriage was not well-liked, he had been very abusive to his wife and son and dog, and I’d felt very uneasy around him. He also drank, and I had always felt apprehensive during those times, as a young girl. (He was about 15 years older than me). I had no idea where he lived. Was my mind playing tricks on me? Is that You, Lord?
A couple of days later (I had to work up to it!), I called the relative he’d been married to 40 years before. She had no idea where he was, but she mentioned a state where he had wanted to spend his retirement. I called several major cities in that state, with no success at finding his name or phone number. I mentioned to my sister one day that I wondered where he was. She said maybe her husband could find out on the internet.
I said, “Lord, if that was You, You’ll have to show me where he is. I’ve done everything I can do.” Actually, I was somewhat relieved I couldn’t locate him, because then I didn’t have to dread an awkward, way-out-of-my-comfort-zone call. I prayed the Lord would put other Christians into his life to witness to him. He had never been a religious man, or a church-goer. He was just the opposite.
Weeks later, my sister surprised me by giving me a list from the internet with a few men by his name in the state I’d originally called. My thought was, “Oh, no, now I’ve got to call.” Still I put it off, primarily out of fear. How would he respond? Would he be angry if I mentioned Jesus, and how did I go about doing it? What if it had been my own mind thinking he didn’t have long to live, when I had seen his face as I closed my eyes?
By December 29, 2001, the nudging to call him was so strong that I spent a couple of hours working up the courage to call a man I hadn’t seen or had contact with in almost 40 years, and asking the Lord to speak through me. My fears were for nothing, and the Lord really led the conversation.
The former relative was very pleased to hear from me, and had experienced the death of two more wives since I’d last seen him. He said, “You were always such a good little girl.” He called me “Sweetheart.” I was encouraged. I asked him how his health was, and he said, “I’m in great health!” (He was in his late 70’s). Lord, was that You? He says he’s in great health!
Then I said, “I know this is going to sound strange, but I feel the Lord was telling me to call you and tell you He loves you just as you are.” He responded, “Oh, I’m sure He does. My mother put me in an out-of-state Catholic boarding school as a young boy after my father died. She wanted me to worship the Catholic church or something.”
I then shared some of the trials and traumas of my life, and how Jesus had answered my fervent cries when I was on the verge of suicide 20 years before. He was amazed, and sympathetic. I told him Jesus was alive and real, and loved him. I shared that when I asked Jesus to come live in my heart and fill me with His Holy Spirit, that I had been encompassed by a blanket of unconditional love. Never again was I the same, and the Bible became alive to me. I had to tread cautiously, because part of my extended family had belonged to a very legalistic, finger-pointing church that preached about hell a lot, and he hadn’t liked that at all.
When I asked him once again about his health, he said, “I’ve given up everything, including drinking. The only thing I haven’t been able to kick is cigarettes.” He reiterated that he was in great health. I told him I was glad he was in good health, but then mentioned that none of us ever really know the number of our days, just like the people who died on 9-11-01. I implied it was good to get right with God.
Before saying good-bye, we invited each other to each other’s houses, and he wanted to take down my address and phone number, which he did. He said our house would be much too far for him to ever come by this way, but my husband and I would be welcome in his home. I breathed a big sigh of relief when I got off the phone.
Three and one-half months later, the relative who had been married to him took a vacation in his state, and tried to contact him once she was there with her daughter by another marriage. Apparently, after I told her I had located him, she had called him. (I didn’t know any of this, since the relative is out-of-town and we rarely talk). He had invited them to visit him. What I didn’t know was that he had called her on April 4 (before she went there), and told her he was “just out of the hospital and in bad shape.” Apparently, his legs were really swollen. When she called him once reaching that state, there was never an answer, and no lights were on at his home.
Later, she learned from Social Security that he had died! On December 29, he told me he was in “great health.” By April he was dead. I can only trust that the Lord brought back our conversation to him, and put other Christian workers in his life as well. It showed me how the Lord will go to great lengths to seek after his lost sheep, and how very, very much he loves even the worst of sinners, including me. God is good, and He speaks today!