BY SHARI FERRIS, COORDINATOR - ACCOUNTS PAYABLE
We met in a most unlikely place: a dark laser tag center with neon lights and loads of sweaty middle-school aged boys. He sat by himself in the corner with his cane. Waiting for the birthday party to finish, I was intrigued. Any elderly man brave enough to attend this type of party was one I wanted to meet. I introduced myself and learned Mr. Ruda had come from Pennsylvania to live in Fishers with his son and family for a year while undergoing chemotherapy. He had been a middle-school history teacher and coach for 44 years, served in the army and possessed a broad range of life experiences, even claiming the Pennsylvania table tennis championship in his age category!
In the coming weeks I had the distinct impression that God wanted me to further engage with Mr. Ruda. I confess I resisted these promptings for some time.
But Lord, he’s sick! What am I supposed to do with him? Exactly what would this look like?
My doubts seemed reasonable to me so I prayed for him. To my surprise Mr. Ruda stopped by my office at the church after men’s Bible study one morning and told me he would never forget the day we met and the conversation we’d had.
Ok Lord, you’ve got my attention. So what’s next?
Mr. Ruda had recovered enough to begin feeling lonely and bored and upon inquiry one of his family members suggested taking him out for breakfast. This, with God’s help, I could do!
Sitting in view of the cockeyed Stetson hat and smile of Bob Evans, we spent time laughing and getting to know each other. Our Friday morning conversations became spiritually significant. I prayed furiously that Mr. Ruda’s heart would be open and mine would be courageous enough for God’s work. Mr. Ruda would be moving back to Pennsylvania in the next few weeks and time was pressing in. He wondered about how and why we are saved and expressed honest doubts like we all have from time to time. Sharing the gift of God’s grace with him brought immense joy to my heart. We can know Jesus as Savior and gain freedom from the exhausting work of trying to be “good enough” to please God.
In God’s perfect timing the message at Grace the very next evening, The Bread of Life, addressed what God really wants from us. Knowing clearly God’s call, I sat with him during the next service and boldly asked him if he had entered into a relationship of trust and surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. Chains of a lifetime of working to earn God’s acceptance were falling.
After reading God’s word together, Mr. Ruda decided he was ready to proclaim his new life through the symbolic act of baptism. God then did even more than I asked or imagined. Mr. Ruda’s son, and grandson, inspired by his courage, made the bold move to be baptized with him the day before he moved back home. Praise God for his faithfulness to use quite an unexpected friendship for His holy redemptive purposes!