We always knew that Dad loved us, he just didn’t like to say it out loud. Many people would have described him as grumpy, short-tempered and prickly. I only knew him as Dad.
He was an extremely hard worker and always provided well for his family. He loved to plant a garden, but would fuss when it was too hot, too dry or when the squash bugs ate the fruit of his labor.
Daddy didn’t go to church, and he didn’t want to hear anything about Jesus. Sometimes he would tell me there was no such thing as heaven or hell. Church was full of hypocrites, and he would have no part of it.
As a child, he heard the gospel at the local church. He would eventually stop going there, as church members began to make fun of his clothes. He didn’t have “appropriate” church attire. His pants were a little too worn, a little too dirty and maybe a little too short for his long legs. That’s all it took to turn him away from the love of Christ.
For years, Mom and I would pray that God would soften his heart. We pleaded with God to do a miracle, to make his heart tender to the message of Jesus. I would play an instrument or sing at church in a feeble attempt to get him there. Even when he did come to support me, his ears and heart were closed.
Dad was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in March 2015. As a nurse, I knew his time on earth was short. I felt hopeless. When you come to the realization that there is absolutely nothing you can physically do to help someone, it leaves you extremely humbled.
When you come to the realization that there is absolutely nothing you can physically do to help someone, it leaves you extremely humbled.
Mom and I prayed even more fervently. What would it take for his heart to change? We pleaded with everyone we knew, “just keep praying.” We weren’t praying for his physical healing. We just wanted him to know the real Jesus. The One who will never leave you or forsake you. The One who sticks closer than a brother. The One who laid His life down for ours.
Eight days before his death, a dear friend came by the house to talk with Dad one last time. He talked to him about Jesus and the two thieves on the cross. One thief chose Jesus, the other did not. A decision had to be made — right then, at that moment. Dad’s time was running out. This was it. And in that moment, he said yes to Jesus.
Just when I felt like there was no hope, there was Jesus. Don’t ever give up on anyone. It may take just one more word of encouragement, one more hug or one more smile. When all you can do is pray, pray. I don’t know what it will be like to one day see my dad standing beside Jesus, but I know it will be an incredible moment. It will be incredible because so many people stood in the gap for my dad, interceding with the Father on his behalf.
God hears our prayers. He loves us and wants to show His might and glory through us. He’s still in the miracle business. He is just waiting for us to ask.
Dad didn’t say he loved us very often, but we knew he did. The tears that flowed down his cheeks the day he said yes to Jesus made the whole journey worthwhile. Don’t ever give up.
Editor’s Note: Crystal Horton serves as the health screening ministry coordinator with Baptists on Mission.
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