I knew exactly what I wanted as I entered the store. The ultra-giant print King James Version New Testament Bible with a hard cover was perfect. It would be a special Christmas present.
It was for Pa.
My Grandfather was a towering figure in my young life. The Indian heritage of my family tree runs through him. Before you trace the family tree back to names like “Standing Doe” and “Five Killer,” there is Pa.
He taught me so many of the things that make little boys get all wide-eyed. He knew all about fishing, bicycles, guns, and how to make things. Anything in my world that was broken; Pa could fix. He was a cotton farmer and had learned to cope during hard times. He once operated on a dying chicken with his pocket knife and sewed up the chicken’s throat with the same needle and thread that he used to patch his overalls. Another time I rushed, terrified, to his house while smoke billowed from it to find Pa up in the loft beating the flames with a blanket; putting out the fire. Pa could shoot, and taught me how. His stories made him laugh sometimes till the tears came, and listening to them would hold me for hours in front of his warm stove or on the front porch rocking chairs.
Christmas was always special. He never had a car so his gifts were simple; oranges, peppermint candy sticks, and the chance to play with his toy train that only ever came out at Christmastime.
But the Christmas of his 84th year was different. That was the year of The Bible. In the Fall of that year, Pa got sick. In his hospital bed, Pa hugged me close and told me he loved me. That was different. Pa didn’t ever need to tell me that. I knew. That night made everything seem a little too final. I figured there was one thing that maybe I was supposed to teach Pa. That was when the burden came. The witnessing started on the day I got off his lawnmower in the middle of a lap around the yard and went through Pa’s front door with a mission in mind. I was scared to death. Pa might reject the truth. He might be offended that I even brought it up. But nothing I imagined was as scary to me as Pa being lost. So I told him the gospel. He received it eagerly, but left me with no assurance that he had trusted in Christ. He seemed to not understand the total sufficiency of Christ’s cross work. His faith had not rested in Christ.
The next witness came through a letter sent from Bible College. I wrote about Jesus and how we can know we have eternal life, and how I wanted Pa to have it too. He saved the letter and kept it on his television. Everyone who came through the door was forced to read that gospel letter.
The Christmas Bible was eagerly received also. It carried another personal letter, featuring my favorite Bible verses, on the blank page in the front. He liked it!
In February I saw Pa again. On the front porch I asked him if he had been reading his Bible. “Every night”, he said; and showed me the “x” marked in pencil at the end of the prior night’s reading. “I’ve read it through twice, and parts of it 4 times.” I asked him if he could memorize the special verses that I had marked. He told me he would. So on the lonely nights of a fading Winter he began memorizing John 3:16, Romans 5:8, II Corinthians 5:21, and Ephesians 2: 8 and 9. He even challenged others to memorize them too.
Near the end of March, suspense was killing me. Pa had no phone and my schooling made a visit impossible. I asked my dear friend, Jack, to visit Pa. He did. Pa even made him read my gospel letter too! Jack later wrote of his visit with Pa in these words: “…We spoke of Jesus and His love for us. I said, ‘When I see your grandson next week he’s going to want to know for sure if you know Jesus… What shall I tell him?’ With a smile of joyful confidence he replied, “Why, you tell him I sure do!”
The following Wednesday morning I was summoned by the Dean of Students at school. “Your brother called.” Pa had died that morning. But before death could swallow Pa in his 85th year, Jesus became his guarantee of Heaven.
I miss him every day. I still love peppermint candy sticks and oranges and little toy trains at Christmastime. But mostly I’m looking forward one day to some more of that good front porch time with Pa. I hope Heaven has rocking chairs.
– Freddie CoilePresident of Focus Evangelistic Ministries, Inc
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