It was a Thursday night when the call came from my sister informing me that my younger brother Paul had just been diagnosed with terminal lung and liver cancer. My family was serving as missionaries in Japan at the time so I offered to come home right away. My sister said the doctor had told her that Paul could possibly live a year and that I should wait until more tests were completed. I decided to wait and pray...until the next Saturday when I received another call with the news that he had died.
I was the first one in our family to be saved. In spite of my attempts at sharing the gospel with my two brothers, sister, and parents, they all seemed far from believing. When our family moved to Japan, I realized that “all I could do was pray” for my family’s salvation.
After ten years of praying almost daily my dad came to know Christ. A few years later he died with assurance of Heaven on his lips. I had prayed for Paul’s salvation for twenty years. For years he would respond to any mention of God with anger and profanity. The last time we were together he had seemed a bit softer but was definitely not believing.
On the plane home for Paul’s funeral, through my tears, I asked God why He hadn’t answered my prayer for Paul’s salvation or at least my prayer that I would be able to share the gospel with him once more before he died. In His mercy God “spoke” to me during that flight. I sensed the God of all grace asking me two questions. First, He asked me if I loved Paul more and longed for his salvation more than God Himself. Secondly, He asked, “Didn’t I promise to answer prayer?”
After arriving home I heard an amazing story from several unsaved family members. They told me that Paul had been arrested for DUI that year and spent several months in jail as a repeat offender. While he was in jail there was nothing to do except read, and the only book available was the Bible. When Paul got out of jail he told mom that drinking had ruined his life and that he was going to ask God to help him quit.
God answered that prayer, and he was sober the last six months of his life in spite of being drunk every day for twenty-five years. He bought a Bible and began to attend church regularly. That Thursday when my sister told Paul that the doctor said he had terminal cancer he said, “That’s OK. I am not afraid because I am a Christian.”
God had indeed heard my prayer and answered! I prayed ten years before my dad was saved, twenty years before my younger brother’s salvation and death, thirty years before my older brother and sister were saved, and thirty-five years before my mom came to Christ.
I have learned many things through this experience. One is that God truly loves people and desires their salvation far more than we do. Secondly, I am learning that God has promised to answer prayer, and He will keep His promise.
Don’t stop praying.
Bob F. serves as our Director of Long-Term Mission. He is married to Suzi, and they have been active members of Brook Hills since 2006.