The Preacher Man and The Heathen

One Sunday afternoon back in the middle 1970’s some friends and I were in a little park in southern Illinois drinking beer and shooting the breeze when I looked up and saw a revival tent pitched about 400 feet from where we were sitting. I noticed there was a little man in a white tee shirt walking around outside the tent, and when he disappeared into the tent; I made a quick decision I was going to go have a talk with the preacher man. I was two sheets in the wind at the time and told my friends I would be back in a little while and staggered off across the park towards the little man’s tent.

Without so much as a ‘knock’, or a ‘hello’, I entered through the tent flap like I owned the place and saw the little preacher man sitting on a three legged milk stool reading a bible lying open on a fold-up canvas army cot he used for a bed. The man never looked up when I entered though he knew I was there, and my impression was that he was expecting me. I don’t remember the whole conversation we had that day, but I remember very clearly, asking him, “Why do you believe in Jesus? How do you know that He is even real?” He said to me, “I was sick and in the hospital in a bad way. One day when I woke up, Jesus was sitting beside my bed. He said to me, “You will not die; but live!” I told Him, “If I lived, I would preach His gospel until the day I died.” Many years have now passed and I am still preaching His gospel everywhere I go.” What the man said to me that day never made an impact, nor did he convince me that Jesus was real, but what He said about Jesus visiting him when he was at his worst has played through my mind, many, many, times since that day back in the 70’s.

I have not seen Jesus in person, but I know at the lowest points in my life that I was being ministered to by the Spirit of God. I would not be sitting here writing this today, if He had not ministered to me during those times in my backslidden past. I was not always faithful in serving Him, but my prayer throughout those days was that, “He would never forget me.” He hasn’t, and I am more in love with Him today than at any time I can remember in my thirty year walk with Him. Thank you, Lord, for the little preacher man in the tent, the young Baptist boy who came to my door some months later, and for the books my sister in law, whom I couldn’t stand, gave me to read. I now know it was an accumulation of all these events that opened my heart to you. Thank you for always remembering me, and thank you for never leaving me when I strayed.

I have come to understand that those events I have written about were all planned by the Lord. He knew who was available at the time to minister His love to me. I might have had evil in my heart the day I visited the little preacher man in his tent, but the Lord knew what I needed and turned it into something good. Though nothing appeared to change that day, a seed had been planted in my heart that would later lead to my salvation.

The ironic thing about my visit with the little preacher man is that just a few short years later, I, like the little preacher man, would be in that very same park during a town festival, preaching the saving grace of Jesus Christ to many of those same people who were present with me that drunken Sunday afternoon when I went to visit the little preacher man. As I looked out over the people that day, I thought, “God really has a sense of humor.” I have learned that He will move mountians to get to one of His children if they are crying out for help. I didn’t realize I needed help the day I visited the little preacher man, but I certainly did not long afterward. And I have since thought, I very possibly could have been and very well might have been the reason the little preacher man came to that park that week back in the middle 70’s, because it was his testimony about what Jesus did for Him that played over and over in my mind prior to my conversion to Christianity. DThrash

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