Ever try to figure out how to witness to someone you work with everyday that doesn’t seem to care a thing about your faith. You may be shocked to find they do, down deep they want to know all about it.
Johnny Hendrix was that for me. At the time of this story I had worked with Johnny for five years. One of the great car salesmen, everyone in Mocksville loved him. Although he donated us the money for the first Christian Business Men’s Committee meeting in Mocksville he didn’t attend, nor did he attend our weekly Bible study and seemed to leave the room anytime we talked about the Lord.
Then came the divine appointment, (that I totally blew), in July 2003 when he stuck his head in my office and asked if I had a moment. Oh how I later wished I had set aside my schedule and given him all my time and attention.
“Robby, I have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.” Were the first words out of his mouth.
Although shocked, I quickly thought to myself, “Oh, that’s no big deal I had cancer and it was a little tough but I was OK”. So all I said was, “I am so sorry to hear that Johnny, you’re going to be fine I’ll pray for you. Don’t worry about it, I had cancer almost eight years ago and I’m fine.”
This had been my moment; I can still see his face, dejected. This was the time I should have listened to his thoughts and his fears. This was the time I should have been there for Johnny, but I was too busy. I had a New Building going up and a Dealership to run. Johnny got up and left my office looking like he had been given a death sentence and he had.
Early that August Tammy and I were at the funeral of another employee’s mother when we got the call from Geraldine, Johnny’s wife, frantic. “Robby please come to the hospital, Johnny came out of surgery to remove his pancreas and has lapsed into a coma and they are not sure he is going to make it!”
We rushed to the hospital and made our way to the ICU. There we found Geraldine, and the whole clan of Johnny’s brothers and sisters, (a truly wonderful family seven of them originally) and a few of his closest friends all braced for the worst. Shortly the doctor came in and asked Geraldine to come in, he wanted to let her see Johnny along with one other visitor and Geraldine asked me, surprisingly.
The doctor told us along the way that it didn’t look good, he said Johnny, may not make it through the night and the next few hours would tell the story. We glanced in on Johnny; he was certainly in a coma and didn’t look good at all.
We made our way back to the waiting room with the desperate news.
Bruce Rollins was there, Johnny’s best friend, whom I knew to be a believer and I asked him if he knew whether Johnny knew the Lord. He said he really didn’t know. So I asked Geraldine and even she said she really didn’t know, that years ago Johnny had gotten mad with the preacher and they had never gone back to church.
Geraldine asked if I would pray, and pray I did, both out loud and to myself, asking God both for mercy on Johnny and mercy on me because I realized I had worked beside this man for five years and had never shared Christ. The night dragged on hour after hour Johnny was still alive but it appeared just barely. As the morning dawned we were all still there praying.
I had to go to Mocksville that morning and as I drove along when I came to my regular place to pray, I asked God, “Lord if you would please give Johnny more time, I promise I will share You with him. If he knows You I’ll help him to know You better and if he doesn’t I’ll introduce him to You. I promise.”
When I got back to the hospital nothing had changed, by the next morning the doctors even mentioned pulling the plug. We all prayed a lot and Johnny hung in there, as the hours drug on.
Early in the morning on the fourth day seemingly out of nowhere Johnny woke up, and like Adrian in Rocky II, he was fully himself.
Again that morning I had to drive to Mocksville again I came to my place to pray. A much different prayer this time, God had come through now it was time for me to fulfill my promise. The problem was I didn’t know how, Johnny was hard to talk to about such things. “Lord, I don’t know how to do it. Johnny is a proud man, a little hard to get beneath the surface. What do I use, what do I say, how I will make up for lost time?”
The Lord came through with that still small voice. “Robby, Johnny is a car salesman, and to a car salesman a deal is a deal.” He didn’t need to say any more, having been a car salesman most of my life I understood.
A few hours later I walked into Johnny room, he was sitting up, just like nothing had happened. I said, “You know Johnny when you were in that comma, and things didn’t look good, I made a deal with God.”
Johnny responded in a typical Johnny fashion, “What kind of deal with God did you make, Robby?”
I answered, “I promised that if He would give you some more time, that I would help you to get to know Him better, and that if you didn’t know Him that I would introduce Him.”
Without hesitation Johnny, answered, “A deal is a deal, you better get to it.”
I felt God leading me to take Johnny through the Gospel of John the “I Ams”, “The Living Water”, “The Bread of Life”, and “The Good Shepherd”. Almost everyday I would go to Johnny’s Hospital room and share and when he got to come home I went there.
We came to the part where Jesus is ‘The Resurrection”, the story of Lazarus. It seemed like a normal study but it was far from it, God had big things for Johnny that day.
The next day when I came to Johnny’s house a Pastor and good friend of mine, Jimmy Lancaster was there and as soon as I walked in he said, “Johnny tell Robby what has happened.”
Johnny said, “Robby right after you left yesterday my sister came to visit me and brought a whole stack of Gaither Band recordings. She asked what I might want to hear and I just said just throw one in. The first song that played was Four Days Late But Right On Time. I then realized this was my story, in a comma and returned to life. I understood the resurrection and accepted life everlasting.”
Johnny was a new creation I had know him for five years but only now did I really get to know him, I mean he was a new person a brother. No longer was he distant but close, he talked deep thoughts not surface ones; I mean God had given Johnny a new heart to go with his new life. Although it didn’t last long, but that’s another story: What Your Tailpipe Can Tell You.