Prayers Over the Fence

“Whatever you do for my people, you do for me.”
Matthew 25:40

Max Lucado wrote “I am reminded that I am to be about God’s business – our purpose is to be an extension of His nature and a proclaimer of His message.”

Fifty years ago, a young family went to church and were told that they had to either sit up the back or not come, because the young mother was in a wheelchair and was unable to stand when the order of service required it.

Eight years ago, Dennis and I moved into the house next to this beautiful old couple. Ian first met our son Chris over the fence and the next day I got to say hello. He told me how Chris was the first teenager to stop and not only say hello, but to have a very pleasant conversation with. He asked where we had been in the morning and, when I told him we had been to church, he got quite serious and told me of his experiences fifty years earlier. They had never been to church since. Ian’s wife, Dot, had serious rheumatoid arthritis and was quite debilitated, but an incredibly positive person nevertheless. She spent a lot of her time inside. From that that first meeting onwards, I had many over-the-fence conversations with Ian and he always asked if we had been to church. He was watching.

Three years ago, Dot became very ill. Ian was very concerned and I asked him if he had asked God to help Dot? He said he had’t, but that Dot prayed every night. He said he didn’t like praying aloud. I knew then that that was what God wanted from Ian: to talk to Him and have a relationship with Him, a connection with God that wasn’t just on Sundays or reading a Bible. Ian said it wasn’t worth it anyway, because they didn’t go to church; I told him church is not a building but that we were having church right there over the fence. Where 2 or 3 are gathered…

Before I finished our chat I asked him if he was going to talk to God that night? He said “You’re not going to let this go are you?” And no, I wasn’t.

Ian’s wife passed away six months later. His children wanted him to move interstate to stay with them but he didn’t know what to do. I suggested he pray about it, because God really wanted to help him. He said he probably should.
Ian was diagnosed with cancer eighteen months ago and, by the beginning of this year, things weren’t looking good and I felt an urgency to help him connect with God. So again, I asked, “Have you been talking to God?” This time, the answer was different: “yes,” he said. “When I get out of bed every morning I say, “Oh god that hurts!” This was not quite what I was thinking, but the humour was a great way to begin a conversation! He was lonely, unable to move around his house and in a lot of pain. These all caused him to be quite depressed, wanting just to fall asleep and not wake up.

I visited him every other day, on the days his carer didn’t come, and simply helped with lots of practical things: a cup of tea, a sandwich, doing the dishes. He loved it when I came and I also really enjoyed chatting with this dear old man. He always asked about the family and where Dennis was working. He told me stories that he had told me before, but I just listened as if it was the first time. I prayed for him and talked to him about how much God loved him and cared about what he was going through. I suggested he tried praying himself. He said that he might. Alan Bahr had also visited him and prayed with him.

The night before Church Together, Dennis and I visited Ian. He was extremely down. We talked about Heaven and going to see his wife. I asked him if he believed that Jesus had died on the cross for him and he said he did. I said that I wanted to see him at Heaven’s gates, waiting for me when it was my turn. “We won’t see each other in Heaven,” he said, “we go to different churches”. “Guess what we are doing tomorrow, Ian?” I asked him. We told him how the Catholics, Salvation Army, Anglicans, Pentecostals, all the different churches of Hobart, were getting together to have a church service. He was so pleased.

I offered to pray for Ian. During the prayer I asked God to give Ian peace and he spoke, allowing his agreement. “Yes please give me peace. I need it,” he prayed. I asked God that if it was His will that it would be Ian’s time to go to Heaven and to meet Jesus who died on the cross for him. “Yes God,” he allowed. He was praying with me and I knew then something had changed in Ian.

A few days later I got a call from Ian asking if I could come and help him pack his bag to go back to hospital. I knew it probably would be for the last time. As I was gathering his clothes in the bedroom he called out from the lounge, “Karen, you have really got my mind thinking on God all the time now!” I told him that was exactly what I was hoping for, because God just wanted to help him through this. When I had visited him a few times in the hospital, he told me he talked to God and that He was helping Ian and that he was so looking forward to seeing Dot again.

Ian passed away on Saturday 28th May with his two children, who made it just in time from interstate.

This experience has changed me. I feel honoured that God chose me to help Ian find his way back to his Lord and Saviour. God never gave up on Ian. He had a plan and we were privileged to be part of it. I think of my dear friend every day as I see his empty house in front of ours. My sister is a real estate agent and she rang to say a dear old man is looking at Ian’s house and it put a smile on my face to consider another neighbour that I can get to know and share with him about Jesus.

– Karen Ekkel

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