Sometimes I’m surprised my son, Ethan, wasn’t born with a Bible in his hand. From the moment he could speak he was witnessing to people: family, friends, neighbors, strangers on the street.
To tell you the truth, I used to get extremely embarrassed. Sometimes even to the point of not taking my son out in public (I know that sounds horrible!). I mean, I’m all for sharing my faith when I’m in an intimate, comfortable circle of friends or family who share the same beliefs I have. But to approach someone I didn’t know? Noooo way.
When Ethan was three, we took him to a nice restaurant for dinner. He sat up tall in his booster seat and proceeded to belt out the song, “Jesus Loves Me.” It would have been cute if he had stopped there. But when he finished the song, he loudly went on about how Jesus loved every person in that restaurant and that they needed to repent and be “bathtized.” A few people chuckled, some murmured, and one couple got up and left.
I escaped to the restroom with a very red face and let my husband handle it.
For his fifth birthday, we hired a magician. While the other children were “oohing and aahing” over the tricks, Ethan observed silently, not even cracking a smile. After the performance, Ethan stood up and faced the other kids.
I felt myself start to sweat.
“You know, people,” he said. “This isn’t REALLY magic. Jesus is the only one who can perform magic. Actually, they’re miracles!” And Ethan explained several of them right then and there. The amazing thing was, as mortified as I felt, the kids were mesmerized by the Bible stories Ethan told.
And the magician got saved that day.
Eventually, I realized I couldn’t prevent Ethan from ministering to people, no matter how hard I tried.
I couldn’t have stopped him when he paused on the sidewalk to lecture someone about how smoking was polluting the temple God gave him.
I could not have prevented him from tossing his church offering quarters out of the car window at a homeless man huddled in a doorway in the middle of winter.
And I couldn’t have held him back when he felt compelled to run up to a woman in the grocery store and tell her God loved her. The woman broke out in tears and gave Ethan a great big hug, saying that was exactly what she needed to hear that day.
When he was ten, Ethan was diagnosed with leukemia. In the hospital, he preached to the nurses and doctors and maintenance men. No one that ever met Ethan walked away not knowing about the love of Jesus Christ. Throughout his hospital stays, Ethan prayed the prayer of salvation with four nurses and one doctor. And he planted hundreds of seeds among the others.
I learned a lot from my son. I am no longer afraid to tell people that Jesus loves them. I don’t care anymore what they think of me or whether or not they’ll call me a freak. The only things that matter are those with eternal value. And people have eternal value.
The leukemia continued to attack Ethan’s body and during his final hospital stay, our pastor paid him a visit. He told Ethan how proud he was of him and what an impact he’d had on so many people. The pastor had developed a little ritual at the end of each visit of asking Ethan a certain question. And that day, he asked it again.
“What do you want to be when you grow up, Ethan?”
Weakly, Ethan smiled. His face was pale but his eyes lit up the room. The answer was the same as it always was. “When I grow up I want to be a missionary.”
I felt the tears sting my eyes and I smiled through them at my son.
Want to be? He already was.
Ethan Joseph Mills
1995 – 2006
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