Maria waved good-bye to her sister-in-law, Beth, as the cruiser pulled away from the harbor to sale for Italy.
Bon Voyage, she mused, Hope she has a good trip.
But she also felt a tinge of jealously---she should have been on that ship. After all, she was the one with a family there.
She hadn’t been back home for forty years, since she’d left for college at Clemson University. After falling in love with Charlie Rogers, a ministerial student at nearby Bob Jones University, she’d found Jesus as her personal Savior. She’d married, settled down in South Carolina and raised a family, hoping when Charlie retired, they’d travel back to her country. She wanted to share Jesus with her family.
Her traveling dream was almost a reality last spring when her husband announced he was retiring and they could finally travel. But when her elderly father-in-law’s heart grew weaker and her husband injured his back falling off their roof, she had to put her trip on hold. And, she was also baby-sitting her nine-year-old nephew, Rusty, while his mother, Beth, was on her Mediterranean cruise. Rusty was enjoying his last day of Vacation Bible School and was excited about playing the apostle Paul in tonight’s closing program. The kids had been studying Paul’s missionary journeys.
But with no time for a pity party, she drove home, praying that God would use tonight’s VBS program to draw her ornery father-in-law, known as “Grandpa”, to Jesus. He’d begrudgingly gone to church all his life, but didn’t have any joy in his Christianity.
Later that evening, driving to the church with Grandpa and Rusty, she overheard Grandpa grumbling in the backseat. “I still can’t figure out why Charlie threw away a promising law career for preachin‘…..”
“Now Grandpa, you know God called him into the ministry, “she noted, thinking that if his own son, who was a preacher, couldn’t show him the joy in serving Christ, then how could she?
”I’m just an old man …nothin’ to look forward to…,” he continued, mumbling.
“But Grandpa, you’re closer to eternity than I am---closer to meeting Jesus!”
Grandpa just sighed and shook his head, as they pulled into the church parking lot.
They went inside, settling in their seats, while Rusty went behind the stage to change into his costume.
The curtains opened. Maria was proud of her nephew as he clearly proclaimed his opening lines…“But the Spirit forbade me to speak the Word in Asia so to Macedonia, I (the apostle Paul) go…” (Based on Acts 16:6-15)
Okay, God, I get it. You’re in control of my travel plans, too.
She remembered the story of how the Holy Spirit had changed Paul’s travel plans to Asia, leading him to Philippi where he ministered salvation and baptism to the seamstress, Lydia. Then she realized how the Christian life was a journey with God as her pilot and not a joy trip where she was in the driver’s seat.
Her thoughts were interrupted by Grandpa’s blood curling screams, “Help! My heart!”
He gasped three heavy breaths, and then fell out of his pew as everyone in the church auditorium turned around.
The kids on stage froze as Rusty leaped off the stage, and rushed to his grandfather’s side.
"Grandpa!" He cried.
“Call 911!” Maria yelled.
“I’ll take care of Rusty,” a VBS teacher said. “You go with Grandpa to the hospital. We’re praying for him.”
In less than 10 minutes an ambulance was lifting Grandpa onto a stretcher, enroute to the hospital.
“My heart’s done give out, Maria,…gonna die….. I’m a Christian…. gone to church all my life, but ain’t religious…not ready to die.” He muttered broken sentences of desperation, gasping for breaths, as he held Maria’s hand.
“Grandpa,” Maria said softly, “just as sitting in a garage doesn‘t make a car, sitting in church doesn‘t make you a Christian. You don’t need religion---You need a personal relationship with Jesus…. Would you like to ask Jesus to come into your heart right now? “
“Yes,” he muttered, weakly.
Then nod your head if you agree with this prayer…
“Lord Jesus, I confess I’m a sinner. I ask you to come into my heart… be my Lord and Savior. “
Grandpa nodded and mouthed the words of salvation….. A sweet peace flooded his tired brown eyes.
Then his gnarled hand grew cold,…… his eyes closed.
“Bon Voyage,” Maria whispered.
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