Peter and Louise Johnson* have lived in the same neighbourhood for almost two decades. And right next door to them has always been the same older couple, Bill and Mary Robinson. Over the years, the neighbourly relationship between the two couples has developed into a deep friendship. In many ways, they consider each other just like family.
The Johnsons knew from early on that their friends were not believers. Over time, Bill and Mary revealed that while they had grown up in ultra-religious homes, at some point they’d left church life due to “the bitter taste that had been left in their mouths.” Though this experience was now part of their history, the Robinsons maintained the “good works for Heaven” mentality that they’d been steeped in. The Johnsons longed to see these dear ones come to know the Saviour.
When Mary had a heart attack years before, the Johnsons had taken the opportunity to share the gospel. However, they quickly realized that while a seed may have been planted, nothing had changed regarding the Robinson’s views on the Bible.
What was obvious to Peter and Louise, however, was that their friends were searching. Bill was a big reader and often his books were of a religious nature relating somehow to Jesus or the Bible. Usually they were books off the New York Times Best Sellers and not necessarily biblically sound, but he seemed to have maintained an interest in spiritual things, despite his aversion to church.
Then, during a grad party for the Johnson’s son, Bill brought over a book that purported to explore the life of Jesus. He wanted to know what Peter and Louise thought about it.
It was Louise who took on the task to read through the book and prepare a little critique. In the process, she cross-referenced page numbers in the book to some Scripture verses so he could see for himself what the Bible actually had to say. She also took the opportunity to weave in the gospel, hopeful that this would finally create a desire for the Robinsons to dig further into the Bible.
Later, when Louise returned the book, the opportunity never came for a follow-up discussion regarding the Bible’s true message. Instead, she was able to give Bill another book–The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus–and told him that she thought he’d really like the book. Upon leaving the house, Louise chose to give them some time and space before she would ask what they thought.
Several months went by. Early one morning, just as Peter and Louise were getting up, one of their children ran into their bedroom to tell them that a sheriff’s deputy had just arrived at the Robinson house and was carrying in a defibrillator. Shooting a quick prayer to God, Louise threw on some clothes and ran next door, arriving just as the ambulance pulled up. Thankfully, Mary was alert but having trouble breathing—the defibrillator was there just in case. The doctors were able to address the issue quickly and Mary mended fairly quickly over the next few weeks.
When the initial emergency happened, Louise had quickly e-mailed a prayer partner and asked her to pray for several specific things. The first was for their friends’ salvation; the second was for some physical relief for Mary. The final request was for another opportunity to speak with the neighours again about the gospel.
Some weeks later, the Johnsons’ daughter, Deborah, came home with an assignment for one of her college courses. She was required to share the gospel with at least five people–two of which had to be neighbours. So, in short order, she was standing in front of the door of their dear friends, ringing the doorbell.
When she explained her assignment, the older couple graciously welcomed her in and they all took seats in the living room. Deborah pulled out a sheet of paper and began to draw out a bridge illustration, similar to the one found in many GoodSeed materials. She opened her Bible and asked Bill to read aloud Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8-9.
When Bill finished reading the last passage, he commented, “You know, a lot of people think they have to work their way to heaven. I used to think that for a long time, but now I don’t. “Then, pointing to the bridge illustration, he said, “I believe this instead!” He was very emphatic about it. Though Mary was much more reserved, she said that she, too, believed what Deborah had just presented.
Bill then shared that he’d read twice through the entire Stranger on the Road to Emmaus and absolutely loved it. He said Mary wanted to read it, too, but they thought they’d better get the book back to the Johnsons since they’d had it so long. Deborah assured him that it was theirs to keep. This prompted an excited response. Mary expressed how thankful she was that she would also be able to read the book, though she felt she’d need her husband to help her understand it. Bill quickly spoke up, assuring his wife that he would read through it with her. Deborah listened as Bill repeatedly expressed his appreciation for the clear gospel presented in The Stranger. Every time he read it, he said, he gained more understanding.
It was a thrilling day in the Johnson household as they celebrated this wonderful landmark in their long friendship with the Robinsons. Louise’s excitement leapt off the page as she wrote to us: “I CAN’T TELL YOU HOW THROUGH THE ROOF WE ALL ARE WITH JOY AND THANKFULNESS! WE PRAISE GOD WITH ALL THAT IS IN US! I don’t know whether to cry or do cartwheels!” Deborah’s college assignment had turned into a time of rejoicing for both families.
Like Deborah, we’ve all been “assigned” the work of telling those around us about our wonderful Saviour. There are so many opportunities surrounding us, whether it is in the workplace, with family, out in public or with our neighbours. Who have you spoken to lately?
(* All names changed as per GoodSeed policy.)