Profanity and raucous laughter shot through my bedroom floor. I prayed for relief from the noise downstairs. “Who is this neighbor, anyway?” I wondered.
The next day I sensed God nudging me to find out. In the summer heat of southern Oregon, my neighbor had his front door open. As I approached, the middle-aged man inside looked up from his TV set. A half-empty liquor bottle rested beside him.
“Hi,” I said cheerily through the screen door.
“Hello,” the man replied. “I’m Cole. You must be the gal who lives upstairs.”
“That’s right, I’m Jane. I’m working in the area this summer doing my college internship as a park ranger.”
As our conversation in the doorway progressed, Cole asked, “What do you like to read?”
“The Bible,” I ventured timidly. Cole’s eyes widened. “I want to talk with you about that sometime.”
My heart surged as I realized God was providing me with someone who was open to hearing about the good news of Jesus Christ.
But back in my apartment a cloud of doubt rushed in. I was no Biblical expert, and only three weeks remained before it was time to go back to college. How could I make a difference in such a short time?
I could relate to Moses’s conversation with God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh? I can’t talk well; I don’t have any training – someone else must be more qualified” (Exodus 3:11). And I remembered Jonah, who didn’t even stick around to make excuses. As soon as God revealed the ministry waiting for him in Ninevah, he fled in the opposite direction.
These men were certain that God had pulled the wrong spiritual resume out of his files. Yet the ends of their stories proved otherwise.
I thought about Cole again, and Galatians 6:10 took on fresh meaning: “While we have opportunity, let us do good to all.” I asked the Lord to fill me with his wisdom and courage.
Cole and I began talking together frequently. Sometimes I would bring my guitar and sing songs about faith in the midst of a smoke-filled room. I discovered that it didn’t matter how little I knew about his life (or the Bible). What mattered was showing him that I cared.
One day, as I shared Scripture about God’s forgiveness, Cole began shaking his head dejectedly. “You don’t understand all that I’ve done!”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said firmly. “God loves you anyway.” Tears welled up in Cole’s eyes as he seemed to catch a glimpse of God’s grace, maybe for the first time.
When the day came for me to move out, Cole hadn’t yet given his life to Christ. As we stood at his doorstep to exchange good-byes, he said, “Guess I won’t hear your bouncy step on my ceiling anymore.”
“And I won’t hear your loud voice!” I teased.
We stood silent for a moment. “I wrote down some Bible verses for you,” I said, handing him a folder containing Scriptures outlining the Gospel. “And here’s a plaque with your favorite song on it.”
Cole silently read the words of “Amazing Grace.” “I don’t have anything to give to you”—he glanced back into his apartment—“except these.” He reached for two black-covered psychology books, remnants of his lifelong search for truth.
As I drove away, my heart ached. Yet it also burned with a new passion to spread the Good News of Christ.
Shortly after I moved, I received a letter from Cole. “Dear Little One, You reached me as no one has. I sought answers through philosophy, psychology and every political and social panacea. Then one day a pixie-faced little girl comes traipsing along, and she has it! I had just about given up.”
More than a year later, I heard from a friend that Cole had accepted Christ as his Savior. And I learned that accepting God’s opportunity to tell others about him changes not one life, but two.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 (NIV)
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6 (NIV)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9 (NIV)