By Bob O’Connell
“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11.
Mike and I had built a friendship working together in our thirties. His company was my public relations client. He was an energetic man driven by career ambition and a positive attitude on life. We’d go our separate ways, but thirty-seven years later, we’d come together in a way that would impact many lives, including his own.
I lost touch with Mike when he left to build his own advertising incentives business. In 2015, my wife and I were going to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I had heard Mike was now a proprietor of an old time candy store in Calumet, MI. Doing an Internet search, I found his store and reached out to see if we could get together; he was delighted.
Mike told me that he had just had two successive strokes six months earlier. He was now in a wheelchair with only 15% of his sight remaining.
As we were leaving for the trip, it occurred to me to bring a copy of the daily devotional Jesus Calling. I had no idea of his spiritual condition, but the book is a non-threatening read for everyone.
We talked for several hours. I told him of my own conversion and commitment to the Lord. He appeared interested, and thanked me for the book. I had no inkling of all that would come of it.
A “HUGE FAVOR”
A year later, in 2016, he called me asking a “huge favor.” He wife was going to California for three weeks and there was no one who could care for them in their remote location. In addition finances were tight. A “wonder clinic” had drained their savings after offering an experimental surgery that promised much but delivered little.
I had never done any caregiving, much less for an invalid. Cooking was my specialty only if I didn’t stray too far from a grill.
It was Lent and it was the first time I couldn’t figure out what to do. So, I had asked the Lord to guide me day-by-day.
I prayed about Mike’s request for a few days. Even though I got no clear direction, I reasoned since I asked the Lord to design my Lenten regimen, this could be it. It would take me right up to Holy Thursday. I packed up for the 8-hour drive north. I’d help him with his meals, in and out of the bathroom, and take him to church on Sunday.
Over the next 18 days I learned how God’s word never returns to him void. Mike and his wife had been reading Jesus Calling daily and loved it. They bought additional copies, gave them to their employees, and their neighbors. I was a celebrity with Mike’s friends when they learned I was the one who introduced him to the book.
Mike was growing spiritually by leaps and bounds. He had the Old Testament on video so he could sit close to his large TV and see it. Best of all, we had great daily and evening spiritual talks.
While there he decided to drop an angry effort to sue the “wonder clinic” and forgave them. Each day he phoned those he’d met while in the hospital, encouraging the discouraged and praying for the sick. Mike was now paying forward the blessings he was receiving from God. It was my best Lent ever.
THREE DEATHS AND A DREAM
In the end of 2017, Mike’s father-in-law suffered a heart attack. His mother-in-law called for an ambulance, but the trauma of the event caused her to have a heart attack and die before the ambulance arrived. Mike’s father-in-law was taken to the hospital, where he died two days later.
Mike was distressed. He had never gotten along with his father-in-law. Mike had tried numerous times to reach out to him, to no avail. Now his father-in-law was gone, along with any chance of reconciliation. Mike told his wife he was anguished he wasn’t going to ever be able to make amends.
That night Mike had a dream. The Lord took him by the hand and walked him to his father-in-law, where Mike forgave him and asked for his forgiveness for their broken relationship. The next morning, Mike told his wife about the experience, and told her, “Now I’m at peace. I feel I can go home anytime now.”
Two days later, Mike suffered another stroke and was rushed to the hospital. He died as they took him out of the ambulance, just after receiving last rites from his pastor.
My friend Mike’s work was done. With a few gentle nudges, God had reconnected us after more than thirty years. Clearly, our working together wasn’t done then. A workplace relationship had blossomed into life together in Christ. We were working for our Father as coworkers in Christ.