My wife and I were both led to Christ in 1977 while students at Eastern Illinois University. Like many other students who became disciples, our parents were at best confused and at worst quite concerned about our decision. My Italian parents, who were devout Roman Catholics, were even afraid that I had joined a cult like the Moonies.
For my parents, a real turning point came a year later, when we discussed their uneasiness. I told them that if they were really so concerned, they should come to our church’s upcoming weekend retreat and “check out” what I was involved in. During the retreat, God opened a door that led to their agreeing to study. I remembered my dad saying, in his rather strong Italian accent, that he had learned more Bible in one weekend than in his previous 55 years in the Catholic Church. After months of study, made longer by the fact that they lived some 100 miles away, I was able to baptize both mom and dad a few days before I was sent out to lead the campus ministry at the University of Missouri.
Amazingly, over the next 16 years, mom and dad would consistently make an 80 mile drive in order to be apart of a true New Testament Church. Then in 1995, due in large part to mom and dad’s faithfulness, the Chicago Church decided the time was right to plant the Springfield Church. Dad, now 89, and mom, now 81, continue to this day to be strong, faithful disciples and an active part of the Springfield Church.
Over our 35 years as disciples my wife and I had all but given up hope of seeing her parents become disciples. They had never really shown an interest in spiritual things over their 83 years and were not church attenders. Suddenly, this past fall, Connie’s mom became gravely ill. She was rushed to the hospital and was in critical condition. As Connie hurried to her side, many in the Dallas Church began praying that God would graciously spare her life in order to give her another chance to hear the gospel. Then, after a very long four-weeks, Mary was released from the hospital.
About a week later Connie called her mom to ask her how she was doing. However, this time she also asked how she was doing spiritually? Upon her uncertain answer, Connie offered for the two of us to drive up and study the Bible with her and clear up any uncertainty. She then asked her mom when she would like for us to come, and Mary replied, “there’s no better time than the present!” So, the next day, we began our 875 mile journey.
What transpired next were four amazing days of opening the Bible with both of her parents. If there was any surprise, it was that her dad gladly joined us for the studies. It soon became apparent that God had used the recent events to open a door of receptivity to the gospel. On Wednesday, October 31st, in a very surreal and joyful moment, both Harold and Mary were baptized into Christ. It was incredibly special to have all three of Connie’s brothers present for their baptism. Then, on Sunday, her younger brother Pat and his entire family accompanied Harold and Mary to their very first worship service at the local New Testament Church!
One of life’s greatest joys is being able to share God’s gift of eternal life with our families. For us, this was a moment 35 years in the making and well worth the wait! Want to see your parents become disciples? Whatever you do, don’t ever Give Up!