6-Week Series: Against All Odds

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Jeff Walling tells the story of Darrel. Darrel was a forty year-old youth worker. One service a month, the youth in his church went to Hokem Manor, which was an old age home. The old people would be wheeled in for the service. Some of them were aware, and others of them weren't. Darrel never wanted to have anything to do with the youth service at Hokem Manor. Old people creeped Him out! He was oldaphobic.

One day the only other two people in the church that could drive the bus to Hokem Manor were not available. Either Darrel would drive the youth or there would be no service.

Darrel didn't want to do it, but he grudgingly agreed to drive the bus. He sat at the back and tried to blend in with the wallpaper. He felt uncomfortable. He felt alone. He got through the service, barely. He had told the youth: "As soon as the service is over I am out of here. I will be on the bus."

Unfortunately Darrel's plan didn't work out the way he wanted, because as soon as he turned around to head for the bus, the hand of an elderly man grabbed him. The man was in a wheelchair and he didn't seem to be aware. His eyes were glazed over and his head hung to one side, but he had a strong enough grip on Darrel's hand.

Darrel tried to pull away, but the old man wouldn't let him go. Finally, Darrel said, "Sir, I have to go." Then something prompted him to say, "But I'll be back." The man squeezed Darrel's hand and then from somewhere even deeper in Darrel's heart came the words, "Jesus loves you and so do I!" Walking out, he thought, "Where did that come from? What's with this 'I'll be back?' I'm not Schwarzenegger!"

Next month Darrel signed up to drive the bus again, and once again there was Mr. Lee grabbing Darrel's hand at the end of the service. (Darrel now knew the man's name.) This time Darrel actually enjoyed saying to Mr. Lee, "You know I have to go now, but I will be back. Jesus loves you and so do I," and Mr. Lee squeezed his hand again.

Darrel signed on every month and on the sixth month he was excited to see Oliver. He and Mr. Lee were now on a first-name-basis, and he was always praying for Oliver. Seeing Oliver was the highlight of his month, but one week, when he got to Hokem Manor, Oliver wasn't there.

Darrel waited until everyone was wheeled into the service and then he asked one of the nurses about Mr. Lee. "Oh," the nurse said, "Follow me." And she took him to room 27. Now Darrel had never seen anyone die before but he knew when he saw Mr. Lee that Oliver was near the end.

Darrel began to weep. He sat down and took both of Oliver's hands and he prayed and he said, "I love you." And he stayed that way the longest time until one of the youth leaders came in and said, "Darrel, we really have to go." Darrel said one more quick prayer and then he said those familiar words, "I have to go now, but Jesus loves you and I love you." Oliver had been unresponsive the entire time, but as soon as Darrel said those words, Darrel felt Mr. Lee squeeze his hand. And then he let go.

Darrel lost it. He began to back out of the room when he bumped into a teenage girl. Darrel said, "I'm sorry, I didn't know you were here."

The girl said, "Before you go, I want you to know that I am his granddaughter and I wanted to meet you."

"Meet me?" Darrel said.

"Yes, when we came last night the doctor said granddad wouldn't talk any more but last night he sat up and said so clearly, 'Julie, tell Jesus goodbye for me.' And then he lay down. I said, 'Grandpa, you're going to be with Jesus, you can tell Him yourself!' And he opened his eyes and he looked at me with this funny smile and he told me, 'Tell Jesus when he comes next Sunday that I am gone. I just don't want him to miss me.' He hasn't said a thing since."

Then she said, "You know, I never envisioned Jesus quite as chubby and bald as you, but I think Jesus would be happy to be mistaken for you," and then she hugged him.

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