Rachael Colby didn’t expect to receive good news.
After contemplating ending her life just a few nights before, Colby checked her apartment mailbox in Pensacola, Florida. The daily cycle of white envelopes seemed to be more predictable than her complicated family.
Her husband wanted a divorce. She was estranged from her mother. And she still bore the scars from when her stepmother had left, taking her younger brothers, too.
Pulling out her mail, 20-year-old Colby noticed a familiar name on a magazine. It was Billy Graham, the evangelist she listened to on the radio at her grandparents’ house in Jamaica, where she was raised. Suddenly, her mind was flooded with memories of his comforting voice delivering the Gospel message to her as a child.
Colby snapped back into the moment, gripping the Decision magazine that was addressed to a neighbor who lived across the apartment complex. She wasn’t sure how it landed in her mailbox.
Maybe it was just a mailman’s mistake. Or, just maybe, God had heard her cries for help.
Taking the magazine back upstairs to her apartment, she decided to find out.
“Hello,” Colby called her neighbor. “I have your Billy Graham magazine. But I’d like to read it for a minute before I give it to you, if you don’t mind.”
The man chuckled and said sure. They decided to later meet by the pool in-between their buildings.
“But I never showed up,” Colby said. “I was so caught up reading, his knock startled me.”
The magazine subscriber, Rev. George Horton, was at her door with a gentle smile.
“He was my first face-to-face witness,” Colby explained. That encounter started a long-term relationship with the retired minister and his wife, Evelyn, who took Colby under their wing and brought her to church at Pensacola Christian College.
“I knew they loved me, and I respected them and didn’t want to hurt them,” said Colby, adding that they often opened their home to her.
“Their presence convicted me, which kept me from making some bad decisions and out of much trouble,” Colby said. “I asked a myriad of questions and they patiently answered. But I didn’t quite grasp salvation.”
Still, the Lord didn’t give up on her.
Unable to Leave the Lord’s Grasp
Colby chucked the Bible the Hortons had given her onto her dresser. There was “no room” for it in her suitcase as she headed to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, for the summer.
She had a plan for her days in the Northeast: she would work, run from life, pretend she was fine, party and pursue her modeling career. Just like she had before meeting the Hortons.
But when she lived like that, she constantly found herself lying awake at night, feeling like the wind was blowing right through her.
“What is wrong with me? Why do I feel so empty?” she thought.
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None of her previous travels, ’65 Mustang or monetary belongings seemed to matter.
After arriving in Cape Cod, she found out she would be living with several Christians, or in her words, “trapped staying with a bunch of Jesus fanatics.”
“I called them every name in the book at the top of my lungs when they witnessed to me,” she said.
As their guest, Colby reluctantly went to church with them. And again, the Gospel message was familiar.
But Colby’s heart was hard.
“I was appalled and confused as to why I’d turned so mean, but I didn’t let on,” she said, even while thinking she was good enough to get to heaven.
Her explanation? “I’ve been through enough hell here on earth that God has to let me into heaven.”
Like it or not, Colby was told that’s not how God operates. As both a just and merciful God, the Bible states, “For all have sinned and fallen short of God,” (Romans 3:23).
That means everyone needs a Savior, including people who have faced many difficulties in life on their own, like Colby.
Even so, Colby confidently told her roommates, “I will never get saved.”
But just a week later, God changed her heart.
“I feared if I called my sin, sin, all I’d be left with was regret,” Colby said. “But how does one argue with Jesus and win? He leaves no grey areas. We either embrace all of Him or reject Him.”
A New Life
Colby’s decision to follow Christ changed her life, and she kept in touch with the Hortons even after she totally moved to the Cape Cod area the following year. Rev. Horton never stopped being there for Colby, and he continued to minister to her for years until he died.
“Without Christ, life was too great a burden to bear, and even when I filled up on all the good life offered, it left me lacking,” Colby reflected on her past.
“Suicide is a permanent mistake for a temporary problem,” she continued. “There’s something worse than whatever they’re going through and that is waking up in hell. But Jesus made us for heaven and a personal relationship with Himself. He wants to do life with us. He will never leave or forsake us.”
She says that the “peace and comfort and joy” she received through Billy Graham’s preaching, Decision magazine, and saw in Rev. Horton and his wife, Evelynn and those that witnessed to her the summer of 1987 now lives in her—and carries her through life’s storms.
Colby realizes that she never returned Rev. Horton’s Decision magazine. But today, she has her own writing ministry, using it to point people to the One who truly saved her life.