My mother and father were originally from the coal fields of Eastern Kentucky. Both moved to Chicago to find work after high school. They married in the 1960s.
My dad landed a good job in an up-and-coming company. He began to make money and climb the social ladder, and before long, we bought a brand new house on the outskirts of Chicago. But everything about the American dream really wasn’t well in our little home. You see, my dad had a problem with alcohol.
He often came home in the evenings with alcohol on his breath. I remember how his brothers would come over on the weekends and they would drink beer and play cards together, and they’d fill our house with the smell of cigarette smoke. Gradually, my dad’s drinking began to possess him and to disrupt our family. I remember being afraid of him.
Eventually, my dad left. It shook us kids to our very core that he wasn’t there anymore. It shook my mother so much that she decided to try religion. She asked a neighbor about churches in the area, and one Sunday she, my brother and I mounted a bus that came down our street, and we rumbled along to a church down the way. It was a new experience for me. I didn’t remember having gone to church before.
That week, something interesting happened. A lady from the church showed up at our house. She knocked on the door and said she just wanted to get to know my mom a little better. Her name was Goldie Robison, and she had beautiful red hair.
She came in and sat down with my mom at the kitchen table. My mom wept and told her how our family had disintegrated. Goldie said that she had the answer for my mom, that she knew Someone who could bring healing to my mother.
Goldie explained the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She explained that my mom was a sinner, that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and that the result of sin is death. According to the Bible, Goldie said, those in sin are actually enemies of God. But she told Mom that God commended His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ came and died for us (Romans 5:8). God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, that whoever would believe in Him would have everlasting life (John 3:16). And life was exactly what my mom was looking for. She bowed her head at the table that day, and Jesus Christ came into her heart. Her world was changed immediately.
Through the days that followed, my mom found hope in Jesus Christ. But things were still difficult. I remember one Sunday, kneeling on the couch and looking out our big picture window, waiting for my dad to pull in the driveway. I knew Dad was coming because we had boxed all of his things and had put them in the foyer of our home. He was coming to get them and then he would be gone for good.
As I knelt there looking out the picture window, Dad pulled up in his blue ’64 Daytona Chevelle SS. He got out of the car, T-shirt on and a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his sleeve. And, lo and behold, just as he stepped out of his car, a green station wagon pulled up behind him. Out of that station wagon stepped a lady with red hair. My mom had told Ms. Goldie that Dad would be coming by at some point that day to get his clothes.
Goldie stood in the driveway, while I watched through the picture window, and she told my dad the same thing she had told my mom, that the wages of sin is death, that if he would confess his sin and believe in his heart that Jesus Christ was the Son of God that he, too, could be saved.
As I watched, my dad got angry and ran Goldie off. She backed out of our driveway and drove off down the street. Dad marched himself up the driveway, down the sidewalk and through the front door. He walked right past the boxes that we’d so neatly stacked with all of his belongings. He walked past us and went downstairs to the basement of our home on Edgebrook Lane.
He was down there for a while, and when he came back upstairs, he told us that he had accepted Jesus Christ as His Savior. Dad had never heard the Gospel before that day. If what Goldie said was true, God loved him, despite his past. Downstairs, he had looked out the basement window and began to talk to God: “I’m sorry for the way I have always celebrated Jesus’ birth with a bottle,” he said. ” … I want you to come into my heart.”
Dad moved back in, and everything was different. I remember having all new friends. Suddenly, we were going to church every Sunday. Dad had a real gift for evangelism. He began taking classes at Moody Bible Institute and later left his job to become pastor of evangelism for that same church we rode the bus to that first Sunday. He was instrumental in starting five churches, and he is still married to my mother to this day.
My brother, sister and I are all following Jesus Christ. My wife, Jenny, and our five children are all believers and Jenny and I have a ministry called Remember that helps persecuted Christians around the world. All of this started because Goldie Robison sacrificed her time to go see an upset woman she didn’t know and lead her to Christ. I often wonder what would have happened if Goldie Robison hadn’t interrupted the carnage in our lost family to tell us about the saving grace of Jesus Christ.