Betsy grew up in and around church but her church experience gave her more scars than blessings. Things said in confidence to church leaders were repeated from the pulpit. She never made the commitment to follow Jesus. With maturity, she was able to realize that those experiences were not reflective of what church really is, but as a teen it left her very cynical. As leaders, we are called to remember that our actions really do validate – or invalidate – our message.
But as a young married woman, Betsy realized she wanted what Jesus had to offer. She had gotten to know a very sincere preacher and his wife who genuinely cared for the church, and for her. He baptized her into Christ and she began to get involved. That is how I met her. I was speaking for a Hope for Life campaign last October near her hometown, and she was there every night. Caring for people makes a difference. Faith caught as much as it was taught.
Heather never got the whole Jesus thing. A series of bad choices left her fighting for her life. Years of substance abuse had taken their toll. The doctors told the family that her life expectancy should be measured in weeks, not months. Hard lives, bad choices, and a world full of evil. People like Heather are all around us.
As part of the campaign, Christians, including Betsy, were praying for opportunities to share the story of Jesus. It was then that Heather’s mom reached out to Betsy. Betsy and Heather were cousins though they were not particularly close. But Heather’s mom wanted Betsy and her mom to try and talk with Heather about Jesus. When we pray, God acts.
Betsy was nervous and a little scared. What could she say to Heather? She had heard me tell the story of Legion and decided just to tell Heather that story. So late one night up at the hospital, Betsy shared with Heather the story of a man healed from his demons by the Jesus who knew him and loved him. Do the courageous thing. Talk about Jesus.
Heather had an immediate response to the story of Legion. She asked Betsy if it was true. Betsy assured her it was and that the same Jesus who loved Legion loved her. Betsy showed Heather in the Bible where she could read the story of Legion for herself. They promised to pray for Heather. They continued to visit and tell Jesus stories. Plant seeds and water them. Let God do the rest.
I got the email from Betsy right after the first of the year. Drugs and alcohol won the battle for Heather’s body. She died on December 28. But Betsy told me that God won the battle over Heather’s demons. She was baptized into Christ on December 12. A body lost but a soul won.
So I was reminded why we do what we do. Because of Betsy. Because of Heather. Because of Jesus.
Tell the story.