An invitation to a family wedding was the impetus for a recent trip to the place of my birth. Although I was raised in suburban Detroit, I was born in a small town in eastern New York state within eyesight of the Green mountains of Vermont. This visit back east took me not only to the place where I was born, but to memories of my youth.
I stopped briefly at Briggs cemetery south of Ballston Spa in order to point out a grave to family members traveling with me, and to tell them of its testimony. This cemetery dates back to before the American Revolution. Among all the hundreds of aged monuments and headstones there is one that is curiously unique. It is a small mausoleum resting above ground. It holds the remains of a British soldier who died in fighting near Saratoga. Those who buried him would not allow American soil to be desecrated with the remains of a British soldier so they entombed him above ground. A few yards away, under the shade of tall pines, is another less conspicuous marker. Yet this one holds greater historic meaning for me. It identifies the place where my father’s parents are buried. Inscribed on the grave marker are two verses from the book of Job that testify clearly to their faith in the resurrection. This was a message from my Grandma and Pop Pop, to me and to all who would read it, that they were safe with Christ, and would someday rise again. When I read these verses as a teenager, I believed them. From my earliest days visiting with my grandparents on their farm, I was taught Bible verses. Seed was sown in my young mind that would eventually change my life. Even after their death, they planted God’s Word in my heart. Although they never knew of it, for me their faithful testimony and the implanted word germinated into saving faith in Jesus Christ.
At the rehearsal dinner friends and family gathered, some of whom I had not seen in decades. I saw some cousins from Canada. When I was a boy and my parents divorced, my aunt and uncle who lived in Quebec took it upon themselves to pray faithfully for me and my brother. Divorce was a rare when I was a boy. These kind people took compassion on us, knowing that we would face challenges as we were raised in a single parent home. They knew I needed God’s grace and prayed that the Lord would work in my life, and bring me to faith in Christ. In the summers of my youth, I would visit these sweet Christians in their home, or on the family farm, or sometimes they would invite me to go camping with them. Every time they adorned the gospel, as Titus teaches, with good works. Their lives gave strong credibility to the faith my grandmother taught and the faith they prayed I would someday possess. My aunt and uncle are quite elderly now, living quietly in a nursing home in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Dementia has erased much of their memory. Although they have probably forgotten me, my memory of them in blessed.
At the wedding reception I was seated next to a man I had not seen since 1979. I needed to be reintroduced to him because I did not recognize him. Actually, I never knew him well. He was a friend of my father’s who ran a rooming house at Skidmore College in Saratoga. He was also a Christian. The summer before I entered the tenth grade he gave me a gospel tract. It was a simple gesture that had enormous impact. The message of that little pamphlet tied together the loose ends, gave clarity where there were questions, and asked for a personal response. While pondering the message of that tract; considering the truths planted in my heart by my grandparents; the Lord answered the prayers of my aunt and uncle, and I trusted Jesus Christ. I became a Christian, and as the Bible says, “old things passed away and all things became new.”
Emotion gripped me more than once on this trip as I saw places and spoke with people from my past. How I thank God that in His providence He placed in my life people who faithfully communicated and authenticated the gospel! As David said in the Psalms, “The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places. I have a goodly heritage.”