In many ways I had a privileged childhood. I grew up on a farm, living in a comfortable house with my parents, three grandparents and my older brother. We all attended the local Anglican (Lutheran) church and my brother and I went to the church primary school and later to Protestant boarding schools. While we were taught right from wrong and encouraged to have moral standards, the possibility of knowing God in a personal way was a foreign concept to us. I may have heard the gospel before I went to university and met a Christian who introduced me to Christian Union, but I had no real understanding of what it meant to know Jesus as my personal Saviour. However, praise God, the light shone and I became a Christian at the end of my first year in college.
That was thirty one years ago! I dont remember how soon after becoming a Christian I started to desire my parents conversion, but it goes back a long way. Far from seeing an answer to that prayer straight away, for many years my faith in Jesus was an area of tension or outright conflict between us. Even in times of tranquility there was no evidence of any spiritual interest on their part.
In June 1995 my father started to lose his sight. Before going to summer camp that year I remember thinking that this was Gods way of really getting my fathers attention and that I would prefer him to have spiritual sight and physical blindness rather than the other way around. That year at camp there was a lot of emphasis on the word of faith and intercession. I spoke a word of faith that my father would become a Christian, and sometime later added my mother to that word. At camp that year, Bretts teaching included biblical evidence that when God says something will be, initial outward appearances often seem to demonstrate the opposite. The following years certainly bore witness to that in my parents lives. Conflict between us seemed to intensify, as they became more antagonistic to any attempt to convince them of their need for salvation.
During these years, I too turned away from Gods highest and best for me and chose instead to go my own self-centred way. All the time I was bent on my (really Satans) way, I maintained an outward façade of God first. I know this could only have been a hindrance to my parents and indeed to many others at that time. But, God in His mercy persisted with me and forgave the sin in my life and turned me back to trusting Him. Relationships with my parents were very difficult at that time. They opposed Gods dealings in my life and firmly resisted any mention of the gospel, claiming to be okay as they were. However, as my life was cleaned up and Jesus Christ was free to live His life through me, I knew that they too were in His hands and my word of faith stoodwhatever the appearances.
In the fall of last year things began to change very quickly. Dad hadnt been feeling well and was in hospital for tests. At the time I was busy teaching school and studying for an exam. God arranged it that Dad was in hospital ten minutes from where I live. The day I finished my exam was the day I heard that Dads diagnosis was cancer. There followed a remarkable six week series of events demonstrating Gods great mercy and faithfulness and His continued attention to every detail.
Dad knew his diagnosis was cancer and his health was rapidly failing. I thought that surely this would produce a desire to be right with God. The first time I spoke to him after his diagnosis I asked if he was now ready to ask Jesus into his life. His reply, Oh Irene, dont start that again. The battle raged! While I felt intense disappointment and discouragement I knew I had a choiceto believe appearances or believe God. I silently but firmly made my faith choice there at Dads bedside. Within days our fall conference took place and that was a time of great encouragement and assurance of others standing in faith with me. I came away knowing Dads salvation was Gods deal, not mine, and any attempt to manipulate it would be sin. My part was to believe and trust Christ through me to be and do and say exactly what He wanted.
My parents home is in the town where I work so I basically moved in and went to work from there, returninghome at weekends. As Dads health deteriorated I witnessed a wonderful softening in him. Now he welcomed it when I suggested reading scripture with him. Twice I saw him cry after his local minister, a born again Christian, read and prayed with him. On one of those occasions the minister prayed a salvation prayer, encouraging Dad to make it personal for himself. Once I was reading John 14 with Dad and verse 3 seemed to light up: When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. I knew for sure that Dad would not die a moment before everything was ready. As I read John 15:7 I was struck by Gods promise, Ask any request you like, and it will be granted. I already knew that my word of faith for Dads salvation was a done deal but now I asked to see the evidence of it before he died. As I shared this with Breda in school next day, she joined with me in believing for visible evidence. The day before Dad lost consciousness he was in the kitchen in his wheelchair and was very distressed. He asked me to hold his hand and said, Im dying, Im dying. I talked simply about what Jesus had done to make it possible for us to go to heaven and asked if he would trust Jesus to take him there. His reply, I will, I will, was the evidence I had asked for. Everything was now ready. Dad died two days later on 18 November.
But thats not the end of the story! My mother, now living alone after 53 years of marriage, was naturally devastated. I didnt know how much she was aware of all that had happened during Dads last weeks. One day, several weeks after his death, encouraged by Sanda to be bold, I told her why I was so confident that Dad is now in heaven. I asked her if I could read Billy Grahams Steps to Peace with God with her and she agreed. When it came to the prayer at the end Mum wasnt ready to say it, but agreed to think about it that night. Next day we talked on the phone and she said that she had prayed, asking Gods forgiveness for her sins and asking Jesus into her life. Thank you God!
Irene is a teacher in County Kildare, Ireland. She and her husband, Richard, are Zerubbabel Contacts for Europe and are actively involved with the UK fellowship.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 17 No 2
- Our Foundations
- Editors Note
- Amazing Grace
- The Swaying Battle of Faith
- Zerubbabel Focus: The Book Ministry
- Tape Talk
- British Easter
- Commit Your Way to the Lord
- A Look at a Book
- BIBLE STUDY: MAN-A VESSEL
- Message from Norman
- A Movie Classic
- Garbage In… Garbage Out
- Gods Sovereignty in Success and In Failure
- Great is His Faithfulness