Our neighborís wife rang up one day and asked my sister and me if we would visit her father on our way home from church. A few months before, her father had a stroke and was now paralyzed down his right side. He got gangrene in his leg, and they had to amputate it. He could not use his right arm, and the eyelid under his right eye drooped and ran tears all the time.
Old Vic was a grizzly, whining, discontented old man, and he always had been. No one went to visit him, because they got tired of his continual moaning. I did not want to go visit him either. However, our neighbor had three daughters, and the oldest one and I were special friends, so to keep in her motherís good graces, I agreed to go, and the next Sabbath afternoon we called in. He wanted us to come back the next week, so every week we had to listen to all his problems, and every few minutes he had to wipe the tears off his cheek with his good hand. All the while we sat and listened.
Then he started asking us who preached that day and what the sermon was about. After that he would ask who taught the Sabbath School lesson and what that was about. If we could not give a good account, he would ask us why we went to church. So, during the lesson and sermon, I would take special care to remember something I could later tell old Vic.
Trained by the Holy Spirit
It was not until years later, well after the old chap had died, that I realized that God had used old Vic to train me for a special part in His work. Ever since that time I have visited those who could not come to church for some reason and have given them the Sabbath School lesson at home. This I have done every year since that time, and for the last ten years I have recorded it on audio tape and delivered it and posted it to people all over New Zealand.
At one stage I tried counting those who were hearing the lesson each week, and there were over 60. Some ministers used to copy it and give it out to people in their churches as they visited, so it has gone far and wide.
I visited many people who had lost their faith, stopped coming to church, and I have seen a lot of them come back again and regain their faith. They can all thank a whining, moaning, old man, whom God used to train me to do that type of work. I have no idea how many have benefited from it over the years, but it must run into hundreds and hundreds of people in all parts of New Zealand, and at one stage, the Sabbath School tape even went to Australia.
The Sabbath School Extension Work
After leaving my old hometown, I went to live in Hamilton. Not long after arriving, I was nominated to the job of Assistant Sabbath School Superintendent, then another year to Assistant Sabbath School Extension Leader. The leader and I would go to homes in town to give shut-in members the Sabbath School Lesson. Some of these were too old to sit in church, or one could not hear in church with her hearing aid, or others could not attend for some other reason.
The next year they made me the leader and my wife the assistant, and we worked as a team. That year the Sabbath School Superintendent would study the weekly class reports, and if someone was away for more than two weeks running, she would give their name to me, and we would visit them to see what was wrong.
Sometimes they may have had the flu or been away on holiday and not told anyone they were going. But sometimes they had become discouraged and stopped attending for various reasons. We would visit them, and I think that work was the most rewarding work I have ever done for the Lord. Quite often they had become discouraged and had lost their faith and had not been to church for months or even years. Frequently, one visit from us and they would return to church and continue to do so for the rest of their lives.
Do You Remember Me?
My wife and I once visited a church where we had been members some years before. While talking to someone outside, after the service, I felt a hand rest on my shoulder from behind. Turning around I saw a woman whom we had visited some 20 years before. "Do you remember me?" she asked. Sure I remembered her, she had married a man who did not have anything to do with religion, and she stopped going to church. At the time she and her husband moved to our town, she had not attended church for five years. The Sabbath School Superintendent told us about her, and we visited her. The next week she was back at church with her two little girls, and she was still coming after 20 years.
Another family, who lived on a farm, lost their three-year-old daughter when she drowned in a cattle trough. They gave up their faith and had not been back to church again. My wife and I called on them one Sabbath and listened while they told us all their troubles.
As we were leaving, I asked him if he would like us to come back the next week and go through the Sabbath School Lesson together. He said they would like that. On Friday night the phone rang, and it was him. I thought he was going to tell us not to come, and he did. He said, "Donít come out tomorrow, we are coming back to church," and they did. When we visited that church some ten years later, there they were, up in the front seat, father, mother, and three teenage children, all still attending church.
A 70-year-old man, in another church, fell and broke his hip. They placed a pin in it, and soon he could walk again with the aid of a walking stick, but for a year he had never attempted to go back to church. One day, in Sabbath School, I talked another old chap who knew him into going with me to give him the Sabbath School Lesson. The next week he was back at church and continued attending until he died.
I could go on and on about all the similar experiences I have had. All have old Vic to thank for the training he unconsciously gave me many years before; a training that was to help many people. It might be something you would want to try in your church as a regular Sabbath afternoon activity. Someone might just be waiting for an invitation to come back.
To God be the glory; great things He has done.