Remember Paul Harvey?
Years ago there was a famous newscaster named Paul Harvey who often reported on little-known stories from history. He always closed his radio shows with, “And now you know…the rest of the story.”
In previous blog posts I’ve shared my testimony about coming to Christ at the age of 18 in the midst of the Jesus People Movement, also known as the Jesus Revolution. I was bullied throughout my childhood and teens, which led to some serious mental health issues as well as other problems, and by the time I graduated from high school I was severely depressed and suicidal.
I thought going away to college would provide a new start, but the old problems followed me there, and after three weeks I had not made a single new friend and was very lonely, and the suicidal thoughts resurfaced.
Then I remembered a high school acquaintance talking to me about a “Christian coffeehouse” located in the same town as the college. He described it as “a cool place where a lot of young people hung out,” and that there were meetings there every Friday night. Despondent, and having nothing better to do, I decided to give it a try.
When I got there, the place seemed deserted. Thinking everyone was parked somewhere behind the building, I parked in front, rationalizing that I could always make a quick getaway if the place was too weird for me.
I opened the door and walked into an empty room. The lights were on, and I knew I was in the right place because Steve had described the bright painting on the back wall– but no one was there. For a moment I just stood there, wondering what was going on.
Then a door in the back opened and a young woman came out. She seemed surprised to see me, but we sat down and began talking. Four hours later, she prayed with me to receive Jesus as my Savior.
That’s what I’ve shared in previous posts…but there’s more to it than that. The young woman was named Marti Bell, and years later she told me her side of the story…
Marti’s Side of the Story
Marti was a regular there. She’d become a Christian a few years earlier, and she went to every Friday night meeting as well as Monday night Bible studies. The pastor had decided to have a conference in another town, inviting a guest speaker from Maine and distributing posters all over the state advertising the meeting. It was called a “Charismatic Life Seminar,” and everyone was very excited about it because it was the first time they’d ever had such an event. The regular Friday night meeting was cancelled so that everyone could attend.
A few days before the event, the pastor told Marti he wanted her to stay at the building, “in case anyone shows up.” Marti protested. “Nobody will be here. Everybody knows we’ll all be at the Seminar!” Despite her objections, the pastor insisted that she stay behind.
Marti was crushed. This was to be a major event, and she was going to miss out. Sitting alone in the empty building, she struggled with her deep disappointment. She went into the bathroom and tried to pray, but what came out was complaints. “Oh, God, why me? You know I was so looking forward to going to this. It’s going to be awesome, but I have to be stuck here. I don’t understand!” As her prayer turned into a pity party, Marti thought she heard the front door open and close.
Coming out of the bathroom, she saw me standing in the middle of the empty room. She was shocked to see anyone, but as she looked at me the Lord spoke five chilling words to her: “Tonight is his last chance.”
So she sat me down and began to talk. She shared everything she could think of to persuade me to pray. “I wasn’t going to let you out that door until I knew that you knew Jesus!” she said.
She spoke of being “saved” and “born again,” but I really didn’t know what she was talking about at first. There were two things she said, though, that got through to me. The first thing was when she said, “If you were the only person on the face of the earth, Jesus still would have come and died on the cross for you, because He thinks you’re worth it.” That totally shocked me, because I believed I was worthless.
The second thing that got my attention was when she told me, “You’ll know what I’m saying is true because you’re going to see things in your life start to change, things that you’ve been unable to change on your own.” Sure enough, even though I didn’t fully comprehend what she was saying, things did start changing, beginning that very night.
And so on that Friday night 49 years ago, Marti prayed with me. And now you know…the rest of the story.
Eventually Marti moved on to another state, marrying a doctor. She continued to be a blessing, ministering to many in her local church. She passed away from a massive heart attack a few years ago. But I know that when my time comes, I’ll see her again, waiting at the gates to welcome me home.
A dear friend and former pastor, Kevin White, recently encouraged me to share my story again because he believes it will touch many lives. That’s definitely my prayer. If you have a wayward child, know that God has not abandoned them. He is working in their life even now, whether you or they see it or not.
Perhaps you yourself are that wayward child. Know that God has not forgotten you. His arms are always open, ready to receive you. Let today be the day you turn to Him.
Look for opportunities to come when you least expect them, and let God use you, as Marti did. Someone may come to Christ today because of what you say and do…and then you’ll be part of their story.
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“I Sat In Darkness” http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/i-sat-in-darkness
“Plant Those Gospel Seeds!” http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/plant-those-gospel-seeds