I guess my childhood in a small village in the Philippines was similar to the way things were for him when he was growing up. We especially enjoyed sharing our fishing stories. Grandpa loved hearing about how I caught mudfish in the rice paddies with my bare hands.
Grandpa had a great life and was very happy according to the world’s standards, but something was missing–the security of his eternal soul. The first time I brought up the issue of eternity to him, he said he wasn’t interested because he couldn’t know for sure if heaven or hell really existed.
“No one can possibly be sure about that,” he said. I challenged him to think about whether his understanding provided him any real comfort about the brevity of life.
In every life situation, I have learned to hope in God, especially when it comes to the salvation of family members. My wife and I prayed so many times that God would open Grandpa’s heart and that I would not pass by any chance to talk to him about God.
Then we moved to the East Coast, and I became even more burdened about his soul. He wasn’t going to live that much longer, so it was vital I saw him each time I returned to Minnesota. If I had been there two days and had only one day left, I thought, “I have to visit Grandpa before I fly home, so I can share the Gospel with him again. This could be the last time I see him.”
In the summer of 2003, we went to Minnesota for vacation. Eight years had passed since I began sharing Christ with Grandpa. At this point, I understood that he was resisting Christianity because he thought it was about accepting doctrines and keeping a list of do’s and don’ts.
“It is never too late to accept Christ,” I explained to him. “One day all of us will stand before God and make an account of our lives. While we are alive we must make that decision, not after we die” (Hebrews 9:27).
Grandpa acknowledged that this had been on his mind. I asked if he would like to confess his sin to God and surrender his soul to the Lordship of Christ. He admitted that he had been thinking about that, too, and he was ready. We prayed together as he finally made his decision.
An insight from 1 Peter 3:15 became clearer to me through this experience. The verse says that we should always be prepared to “give the reason for the hope that [we] have” (NIV). The reason we aren’t more free in testifying to our friends and relatives is because our own understanding of hope in Christ is so shallow. If we fully grasped the depth of this hope, our urgency to share would be much greater.
Just one year ago Grandpa passed away at the age of 99. At his funeral, I had the joy of sharing his conversion story. Many there realized that although Grandpa made the decision to follow Christ when he was very old, it wasn’t too late. But there is a deadline for us all, and we must turn to Christ now, while there is still time.