Jim Bowman is the most inspirational Christian I know.
I’ll never forget the first time I met him.
“Hey, neighbor!” The big man reached across the fence line to shake my hand with bone crushing intensity.
“Good morning, Jim.” I tried to sound friendly but secretly Jim Bowman made me nervous. Perhaps it was the tattoos, or possibly the missing teeth. Certainly the broken nose didn’t help.
“What are you doing tonight, good buddy?”
“I’ll have to check with the wife,” I hesitated. Whatever Jim was selling I wasn’t buying.
“No worries,” the big man beamed. “Bring her along. I’ve invited all the neighbors for a street party - my treat.”
Somehow it felt wrong to turn down a genuine offer of friendship. Didn’t the Bible have a lot to say about good manners?
Two hours later the distinct aroma of a backyard BBQ greeted our senses as we carefully made our way through the side gate.
“Barry!” Jim Bowman greeted me like a long lost brother. Then with remarkable efficiency he introduced us to the people who now comprised our new community.
After the steaks were served I somehow found myself seated next to my host.
“Tell me, Barry. Are you a believer?”
The question surprised me. “I’m a Christian, if that’s what you mean.”
My new friend beamed a toothless smile.
“I knew it,” he blurted with delight. Suddenly the afternoon’s activities took on a new meaning. “I’ve invited everyone here because I want to share what God has done for me,” he continued.
“Wow.” My response seemed inadequate.
“Barry, will you pray for me while I give my testimony?”
“Of course,” I said without hesitating. “But first can you give me the thirty second version.”
Jim Bowman paused as he gathered his thoughts. Then he spoke quickly as he counted on his fingers.
“Jim Bowman, 39 years old, married to an angel. Took up interstate truck driving, drank too much, chased women and lived like the devil.”
“Who would have thought,” I interjected looking at one particular tattoo.
“Mother prayed for me, wife prayed for me, pastor prayed for me, I thought I could ignore them and live without God.”
“So what changed?” I ventured.
“Heart attack,” he replied. “It gave me the biggest fright of my life.”
“That’ll do it every time,” I laughed.
“The day I got home from the hospital I found my motorbike was stolen.”
“Ouch,” I knew from experience how quickly the devil attacks.
“It was just kids,” he said. “The little beggars dumped it in the creek.”
“So what did you do?” The surprises just kept coming.
“I went to my pastor and asked him to teach me how to reach kids for Christ,” he said matter of factly.
Now it all started to make sense; the BBQ, the choice of music, the church bulletins discreetly spread about.
“And how did that work out?” I tried not to sound cynical.
“So far I’ve baptized six. We meet every Wednesday night for prayer and bible study.”
Now I was truly lost for words.
Suddenly my host was on his feet. “Has everyone had enough?”
Several heads nodded with appreciation.
“Well there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” Jim through back his head and laughed. Somehow I didn’t see anyone disagreeing with him.
As he shared the gospel I began to pray. I noticed several people listening intently.
“Lord, thank you for this man,” I whispered. “You have given me fresh hope.”
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