Is God Trying To Tell Us Something

History has shown that God will go to great lengths to get the attention of His people.  He has allowed things like Plagues, Earthquakes, and Fires.  He’s allowed individuals to deal with unimaginable circumstances like disease, family tragedy, and persecution.  Oh, and let’s not forget the big ones like flooding the entire earth, choosing a man named Job, and coming to earth as a man and dealing with the very circumstances He allows into our lives. But why?

Today as I sit here typing these words, I am amazed at the world around me.  Our entire civilization has been crippled by a virus known as Corona.  Two nights ago, the entire Southeastern United States was ravaged by tornadoes, storms, and flooding.  I got out yesterday morning and my heart was heavy as I went to inspect the damage realizing that some were dealing with the loss of homes and life while I was able to clean up around my home with a leaf blower.  But why?

Why does God allow these things to happen?  Why does God allow tragedy?  Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?  Why is the Coronavirus here?  And why were there a number of tornadoes around my community last night?  Why?

Think about who asks the question “Why?” the most.  Children.  There is a reason that when compared to the God of the universe we are referred to as children.  You can always compare a child of God’s relationship with Him to that of a Father and Son or Daughter.  If you’re a parent, think about how we often discipline our children.  Yes, there are times when we verbally get on to them or even send them to their room, but many times we let them fail or we even allow adversity into their life.  I’ll never forget when my oldest child was very young, we were eating at a Mexican restaurant.  Like most restaurants of this culture they bring out chips and salsa when they take your order.  This particular establishment had a salsa that had more heat than most.  My son Lane, who was just a young man at the time kept trying to get a chip full of salsa.  We would explain that it was hot, but he kept trying, he just didn’t want to listen.  So, after a few minutes, I let him dig right in.  The look on his face was priceless as he began to drink everything in sight. From that point on, Lane believed me when I said something was hot.

So, let’s take a closer look at that very simplistic example.  I know what is best for Lane.  I have expressed that many times.  Lane is my son and I love him very much.  He loves me as well.  Lane trusts me most of the time, but on occasion, he succumbs to his own desires.  Many times, it is during these moments that I allow Temporary adversity or pain.  Lane is a great kid, and I feel that I’m a great dad.  Did allowing Lane to feel like his mouth is on fire make me a bad father?  Of course not!  It made me a father who wanted what was best for my child and if it took him learning through failure then so be it.

God is no different.  He just often does things on a much bigger scale than we can even understand.  Is the adversity of the Coronavirus bringing what’s really important back into focus in our lives?  I know it has mine!  Do tornadoes, storms, and flooding mean that God is mad at us?  Of course not.  Does God start His day planning how He will punish His children?  No, but sometimes when WE choose to be disobedient, HE allows us to taste the hot sauce.

Today, let’s take inventory of where we are as a society.  Are we moving closer to Him or pushing Him away?  Are we giving Him the glory or seeking glory for ourselves?  Do we seek Him in the good and bad times or only in the bad?  These are tough questions that we must answer in both society as well as our individual lives.  Our land seems to be broken, and God’s word has the fix.  

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

Today, let’s all go out and shine the light of Jesus in a dark world!!


God, I’m Too Young To Coach

A few weeks back the Run for God team came across a newspaper article about a young lady who was receiving a “Service Above Self” award for coaching a Run for God class in her community. Hannah Denman was just 16 when her journey began. Enjoy.

Ever since starting to run competitively, (around 2015) I sought for ways to share my passion for running with others. This desire stemmed from my understanding of the parable of the ten talents, which indicates that we are made not to hide our talents and to use them to bring forth his kingdom. I attend a Catholic school, and during my time in adoration and private reflection my mind continually went back to the question, “how do I use running to bring forth Your Kingdom?” I felt as if occupying myself so much with running was fruitless if I didn’t involve my faith, and would end up letting the sport become my god.          

I have been a longtime subscriber to the Runners World Magazine, and one day i was flipping through the ad section looking for local races. I saw a blue rectangular ad with the words “Run for God” written. This led me to look up more information on the website, and from then on the seed was planted in my head. My prayer life was occupied with thoughts ranging from ‘Lord how am I, supposed to bring about impact in the world? I am 16 and have plenty of time to figure things out.” to “If not me, who?” After a couple months worth of deliberation, I let His Will into my heart and decided that if the Lord was calling me to do this, then I must be qualified. It was not an easy decision accepting this task, but I took baby steps. The first step took me to a series of meetings introducing and discussing the program, then to buying into Run for God, and then planning out dates and practices. Before I knew it, I was speaking in front of the congregation on the subject and handing our flyers after Mass! One thing I struggled with leading up to the institution of the program was whether or not people would listen to me or respect me as a coach, and see the program legitimately. Finally, the first class arrived and with it was about 30 people. I was overjoyed! People were committing to themselves and their faith!          

Switching gears for a moment, each spring my church hosts their annual Kolach Festival. Our city (Cedar Rapids, IA) has a large Czech population, so this event honors the tradition built into our church by selling over 750,000 homemade kolaches to anyone who can get their hands on them. While the baking in happens in the kitchen, we have carnival rides and different events going on over the course of a weekend in June. This is relevant because when brainstorming which 5k the group should attend, myself and one of the Festival supervisors decided that we should host a 5k at the festival. So, I took this project on. Emailing potential sponsors, getting permits from the city, making signs and T-shirts, and coaching Run for God is how I spent my time. Again, I was leery of bringing this idea into actuality due to my youth, but I knew that the Lord would guide me. They say that God does not choose the qualified, but qualifies His chosen, and I lived this truth the entirety of the spring of 2019.          

Prayer, reflection, and dedication to His will allowed the first ever ‘Blazin Bohemie Kolach Festival 5k’ to happen, where we had around 35 competitors, 2 sponsors, and about 600$ profit going back to the Church. Completing Run for God and coordinating the 5k are some of the greatest accomplishments of my life, and I am extremely grateful to have been able to do so before my 18th birthday. This was possible wholly to the will of God, and was supported by the committee of parishioners who believed in me and trusted in what Run for God could do for our Church. I cannot express my appreciation enough for everyone involved, and to your program for enriching our Church.

Hannah Denman

My Why – Troy Keel

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — Standing there with a knife in hand and cold-hearted from the most devastating news of his life, Master Sgt. Brandan “Troy” Keel contemplated an irreversible decision. Looking into his wife’s eyes after learning she was pregnant with another man’s baby, he couldn’t fathom living anymore. Suicide, he thought, was imminent.

Six years later, Keel is not only still alive, but is in as good a space mentally and spiritually as he’s ever been, he said. Since that dark moment in July 2013, the Reserve Citizen Airman has a new outlook on life altogether, and he owes it all to running.

A month after learning of his wife’s betrayal and sunken into a deep depression, Keel, then 38, said he was going through one of his social media newsfeeds when he saw a post promoting a local running group. Needing something to help relieve his stress, he decided to give it a try.

Keel felt welcomed immediately. Group members showered him with belonging and encouragement; and from that instant, he was sold.

“August 21, 2013, is what I call my ‘runiversary,’” Keel said. “That’s the day I joined a local running group. You can say that’s the day I started my running journey.”

In no time at all, he began his routines. While running with a friend, he found out about another group that hosted a 5-kilometer training class. The class offered a 12-week program that incorporated running training with Bible study.

“It was important because I didn’t realize … how, basically, running and my spirituality go hand-in-hand,” he said. “And not only that, but also God has introduced me to people who I can turn to if I was struggling or anything like that.”

At first, Keel said he wasn’t sure what he got himself into. His new path of physical fitness was a far cry from anything he devoted himself to in the past.

“I hated it,” he explained. “It was something that really didn’t interest me, I never really considered myself athletic; I never really played sports in high school or anything of the sort.”

But things were different now, and Keel got stronger; running got easier. On top of that, it gave him a peace of mind he desperately needed. And with a fresh perspective and new confidence in himself, Keel felt ready to get back on the dating scene. That’s when he met his current wife, Adney, on a blind date set up by friends of theirs. The two played mini golf, rode go-carts and did other activities.

“She never played laser tag before,” he recalled. “I had and she ended up whooping by butt.”

They had much in common and bonded quickly. She, too, experienced a rough first marriage, and they both felt like they should have married each other previously. It was nearly two years later when they tied the knot, but from the beginning, Adney played a significant factor in Keel’s pastime.

“She has been an instrumental part of my running ministry,” he said. “She’s always been there for me. She’s been very supportive. She’s been out to several races to either cheer me on or cheer my fellow runners on.”

Keel said he sometimes feels guilty for spending so much time with his running group. But Adney said his time with them makes the time he spends with her that much more special.

“It’s important to a relationship when we each have something that’s, kind of, just our own—something that is individual for each person,” she said. “But running is his thing, and when he has that thing, and when he has that freedom to be himself, then our time together is more quality.”

In addition to gaining new friendships through his groups and helping build confidence to once again find love, running has also saved Keel’s professional career. Before taking running seriously, Keel struggled with Air Force physical training tests. He failed a few due to the running portion and was on the verge of separating from the Air Force Reserve if his scores didn’t improve. Keel said he knew it all paid off when he scored his first 90 on a PT test, nearly a year after he began his running training.

“I remember that run,” he said. “It was really easy. It seemed like a walk in the park, and I look at my fitness scores from when I was failing and I’m like ‘I was that slow, but now I’m running this fast?’ So that was a turning point and ever since then, I haven’t scored below a 90.”

Now, Keel is a source of inspiration for Airmen at his office within the 413th Force Support Flight at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. He sometimes provides running advice or paces individuals looking to improve their running times. When it comes to his running group, he’s a trainer, organizer and overall spiritual motivator.

“He’s just a very encouraging person, and he’s very, very deep into his faith,” said Ali Stubbs, one of Keel’s friends from the running group. “It’s not about Troy. It’s about all of us, and he just wants us to have the same passion for running.”

Keel’s desire to serve and spread good faith is what led him to another selfless opportunity; one that matched him with a special-needs child named Hunter. Through a non-profit organization, Keel is able to run in Hunter’s honor and communicate with him and his family on his running progress. In May 2015, Keel traveled to Hunter’s hometown in Ohio to participate in a half-marathon and meet his family for the first time in person.

“I’ll tell you this,” he said. “That was just an emotional experience—running 13.1 miles in Columbus, Ohio, thinking that I’m doing this for my buddy in his home turf. I’ll admit, I was about in tears running on the route.”

Keel has participated in more than 80 organized running events, ranging from 5Ks to full marathons. He said he doesn’t have any grand, long-term goals when it comes to running; he just wants to continue helping those in need.

“I want to be there for other people,” he said. “It gives me high satisfaction knowing that using my experiences of what I’ve been through and what I’ve learned gives me the ability to help my running group or help my fellow [Airmen] meet their accomplishments and their goals.”

Video and Story by Jamal D. Sutter – U.S. Air Force

Run for God Ambassador

In Matthew 9:37, Jesus says to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”

Hey everyone, Mitchell Hollis here with Run for God. Have you ever sat down and really thought about what Jesus was talking about in this statement? When Jesus spoke those words, He was traveling from village to village preaching the Gospel, and was moved by what he saw. He saw sickness, greed, corruption, hopelessness, and disorder. In verse 36 it says that Jesus was moved with compassion because the people were moving through life like sheep having no shepherd. In that moment He asked His disciples to pray for laborers, missionaries who would rise up and go to the ends of the earth to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

At Run for God that’s exactly what we are doing nearly 2000 years after Jesus spoke these words. Until Jesus parts the Eastern Sky and returns again, there will always be sickness, greed, corruption, hopelessness, and disorder. There will always be a need for laborers, missionaries who will go out and share the good news, the hope of Jesus Christ.

Our incredible team of instructors are our missionaries. Now serving in over 4500 communities around the world, these men and women not only help others achieve or regain a healthy lifestyle, but they clearly and boldly share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Our Run for God missionaries represent over 200,000 students who have walked through the 12-week study known as The Run for God – 5K Challenge, which is a simple Bible Study that parallels faith and endurance and takes those who have never run to their first 5K. This is a great accomplishment. But it’s what’s found in this study that can change a person’s spiritual life for eternity.

Chapter 9 and 10 of The 5K Challenge takes a break from running lessons all together. Instead our instructors, our “Missionaries,” walk students though their testimony and how to share the gospel with others. They encourage believers to be BOLD for Christ. But there are another group of people in these classes. Our estimates are that 30-40% of students taking The 5K Challenge are unchurched and possibly lost. They are the people that Jesus described as walking around hopeless.

Friends, God is preparing to take this ministry, which will be celebrating its 10thyear next year, to the next level. 4500 communities may sound like a lot, and it is, but there are over 300,000 Evangelical Churches in the US alone. Hundreds have come to know Jesus since we changed our focus to evangelism a few years back.  

There are people wandering through this life thinking that everything is okay, and they have everything right. But one day, they’ll come face to face with Jesus, and find out they had it all wrong.  

I want to share a story about a man named George, who I met recently at a Run for God race.  George is a 72-year-old elder at his church in Pennsylvania who was faced with the question, “Do you know that you know where you’ll spend eternity?” By George’s own admission, he’d been playing church for over half a century, but that day he bowed his head and surrendered his life to Christ.

This is just one of the hundreds of stories that God has written through this ministry, and He’s calling us to do more, to move further outside our comfort zone. God wants us to recruit more and more laborers who can speak life into runners all around the world. In doing some demographic research, we found that there are over 1 million people who call themselves runners and followers of Christ. That equates to over 1 million people who could potentially be missionaries in the Run for God ministry.

On average we will spend over $200 to recruit just one instructor. That’s one missionary who will go into their communities and form meaningful relationships by pouring into and investing in the lives of their students. 10-weeks into that relationship, these missionaries will have the opportunity to introduce their students to a Savior named Jesus, a Man who many do not know. And the best part is, this doesn’t happen just once. We have instructors who have been teaching the Run for God Challenge multiple times a year for several years.

The harvest is plentiful, and the laborers ARE out there, but we need your help reaching them. That $200 per instructor is used in searching a world of over 7 billion people for that one who loves running and loves Jesus. Selling books and t-shirts will never cover the cost of a marketing effort like God is leading us to do. 

In closing, God has richly blessed this ministry, but He’s only scratched the surface. Will Run for God be the next tool God uses to spark a spiritual revival in towns all across our nation? I don’t know, but I do know that He’s up to something. I know that He’s changed my heart and the hearts of thousands of others for a reason. I know that He used a simple builder from Dalton, GA who didn’t know the Bible as well as he should and wasn’t even that great of a runner, knowing that he could never take the credit for what He is going to do. I know that God loves runners and He’s made that our mission field. I know that the harvest is very plentiful, over 60 million runners in the US alone, and the laborers are very few. It’s time to rise up. I know that God has called me to get to work, and I also know that He has prompted me to ask for your help. 

Click HERE to become a Monthly Ambassador of Run for God today?

Do you KNOW?

Can God use us even when we do not desire to be used?  Yes!

Hey everyone, Mitchell Hollis here with Run for God.  Run for God recently hosted it’s 9thannual Run for God – Run at the Mill 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon.  This is our oldest running race and it’s also my favorite.  The different distances always brings out many levels of runners. And it seems that the spring weather is always perfect.

As with any of our races, I like to start the day with a challenge to our participants.  My routine has always been to finish setting up on Friday and then find some time to sit down, pray, and formulate my challenge into a 2-3 minute talk which I deliver on race morning as we are giving the final race instructions, praying, and paying our respects to the stars and stripes while the National Anthem is sung.  I love this time because it’s the only time where everyone in attendance is giving you their undivided attention.

That was the plan once again this year as we approached race day at The Mill.  But if you’ve ever been a part of planning an event, especially an outdoor event, things don’t always go as planned.  Rain was in the forecast.  In the nine years that Run for God has been hosting races, we’ve only had rain during one event, and it actually came and went before the race ever started.

All day Friday I kept checking the forecast hoping something would change.  As the day dragged on it not only didn’t get better, but the forecast continued to get worse.  I’ll be honest, this did not make me happy.  I knew this would put a damper on the day, at least in my eyes.  Race day registrations would suffer, people would stay home, and our signature “blue carpet finish line” would not be possible with wet conditions.  As we finished a full day on Friday of setup and packet pickup, I was not in the best of moods.

I walked in the door that evening with a bad attitude.  I prepared for bed and the early morning and failed to prepare for my golden race day opportunity.  The chance to share Jesus with hundreds of people.

I pulled into the race venue the next morning about 5:00AM and sure enough, the rain had already started. It wasn’t heavy, but it was hard enough for us to have to make changes in our plans.  No carpet at the finish, cover all electronics, educate runners about staying off the painted lines on the road due to slickness, and hoping the wind would stay calm sparing our finish line arch.

6:30 rolled around and it was time to get everyone ready to start.  Ted Gocke, our event MC, began to announce for everyone to gather for the National Anthem, Prayer, and announcements.  It was at this moment that I began to have a bit of anxiety.  I hadn’t prepared what I was going to say.  I had allowed my poor attitude the day before to distract my time of preparation.  Now what? Ted began to introduce me like he does every year, and I had nothing.  Was this going to be one of those times that you see an individual take the mic only to freeze in front of everyone in attendance?

As I took the mic, it was almost as if a peace came over me.  I really don’t know how I started the conversation, but I vividly remember asking the question, “If you leave here today and for whatever reason you don’t make it home.  Do you know that you know where you’d spend eternity?”  I remember handing the mic off to my pastor to pray and then two ladies sang the National Anthem.  

I remember getting the runners off on their races and feeling an overwhelming sense of disappointment that I had not properly prepared for that moment.  I didn’t make the time to sit down and put those words into a format that would better resonate with people.  Instead, I just got up and said the first thing that popped in my head. I felt like I had failed God and that I had not done my part.  Or had I?

Over the next few hours I stayed busy cheering runners on and just making sure that things were running smoothly.  In normal Run for God fashion the finish line was electric as that very last runner crossed the finish line.  After that we began the award’s ceremony and celebrated runners who placed in their age group.  Over all the day ended up great.  We did have a big crowd.  Yes it rained, but it didn’t dampen the spirit of our awesome runners like I thought it would.

As we were cleaning up I was approached by a man who made me forget about everything that was going on in that moment.  George Williams was his name.  George began by telling me that he was a 72-year-old elder in his church from Pennsylvania and that this was his second trip south to run this race.  But it’s what George said next that immediately had me in awe of what an awesome God we serve.  George began to tell me that he had been going through the motions of being a Christ follower for decades.  He is an active member in his church, he’s an elder in his church, and he even occupies the pulpit from time to time preaching.  He told me when I confronted him with that simple question, “Do You Know? “, he couldn’t deny what God had been telling him for years.  That was, that George was relying on his works to get him into heaven instead of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

George finished his race that day at Run at the Mill, but he embarked on the greatest race ever, and that’s finishing this race here on earth in perfect communion with the one who created him.  George bowed his head on April 13, 2019 and accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior.

So why do I tell George’s story?  Two reasons. 

One, God uses us, but He does not need us.  In fact, He’ll often use us in spite of ourselves.  I had a bad attitude that morning.  Nothing seemed to be going right.  I was having a party in my own mind and it was a pity party.  God prompted me to ask a tough question no matter how I felt about the delivery.  God doesn’t need eloquent words.  He doesn’t need a three-part sermon.  He doesn’t need us period.  But He desires fellowship with us, He desires us to be obedient, and He desires for us to point others to Him.  That race morning, I wanted my words to have impact.  I wanted them to sound great and be packaged nicely with a bow on top. But that’s not what God wanted, and that’s not what George needed.  God wanted and George needed the simple question, “Do You Know?”

Second.  Billy Graham was right.  He often said in his sermons that many people who occupy the church pews today are lost.  They’ve relied on their works for so long that they mistake them for a true relationship with Jesus.  That’s exactly where the Devil wants us.  Do you know that you know where you’ll spend eternity is an uncomfortable question to ask. It’s uncomfortable because it demands an absolute answer that can only come from the depths of a person’s soul. There are two absolute answers to this question.  Yes or No. If the answer is I don’t know then categorize that in the No column.

Let’s be very clear about something.  The Devil will never make a person who is NOT a child of God doubt their salvation.  If you read or hear these tough questions and you have a sinking feeling in the pit of your soul, rest assured that is a spiritual battle being fought between your sinful nature and a Holy God.  Jesus is screaming, “Come to Me” while the Devil is saying “You’re Good”.

Ask the tough questions. Ask those around you, “Do you know that you know if you died today where you’d spend eternity?”  Ask it just like that.  Don’t beat around the bush, sugar coat it, or add spin to it.  Ask it as if their life depended on it, because you know what?  It Does!

Maybe you are out there and you’ve noticed my shirt.  We designed this shirt for one reason.  So people will walk up to the person wearing it and ask the question, “Do you know what?” Talk about an opportunity.  If you’d like one of these, I’d like to offer you one for half off.  Just follow the link below and use the code DOYOUKNOW at checkout.

I hope this story has touched your heart and challenged your life, I know it has mine.

Friends, I love you, but more importantly God Loves You!  Now go tell someone about Jesus today.


Tom Shoes Testimony

Can we take the principals of today’s business world and use them to share Christ more effectively?  I say yes!

Hey everyone, Mitchell Hollis here with Run for God.

I was recently watching a business seminar when the speaker was giving one of the secrets to success for today’s businesses.  He was telling the story of Tom Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie.  If you’ve never heard of Tom Shoes, they are a shoe company who gives away a pair of shoes to someone in need each time a pair is sold.

The speaker was telling about the early years of Tom Shoes when Mr. Mycoskie was trying to get the company off the ground in a highly competitive market.  He told the story of one particular trip when Mr. Mycoskie traveled to New York City to try and persuade buyers to give his product a try. The trip did not go well and as he was in the airport waiting to board his plane to head back to LA he noticed something.  He noticed a lady wearing a pair of Tom Shoes.  Now keep in mind, at this point in the history of the company, it was uncommon to see people wearing those shoes.

Blake Mycoskie just couldn’t help himself as he approached the lady and said, “Nice Shoes”.  What unfolded over the next few minutes radically changed Mr. Mycoskie’s outlook on his very young company.  The lady began to tell the story of Tom Shoes unknowingly to the man who lived it.  She began to tell him how the founder was traveling the world and became burdened about all the people who don’t have shoes.  She explained that each time Tom’s sold a pair of shoes, the company donates a pair of shoes.  This lady was so excited about the story and mission of Tom Shoes it almost made the founder himself want to go out and buy a pair.

As Blake Mycoskie boarded the plane back to LA he had an “AaHa” moment that radically changed the future of Tom Shoes.  You see, Blake saw first hand that people want to understand who you are before they care about what you have.  This lady in the airport didn’t go on and on about the quality of the shoes, which I’m sure they are high quality, but she did go on and on about the story of the person selling them.

So why do I tell this story? In full disclosure, I really don’t know anything about Tom Shoes other than this story.  I don’t know anything about Blake Mycoskie other than this story. But I do know that he stumbled onto a mistake he was making that we often make when sharing the Gospel.  Mr. Mycoskie was traveling the country trying to sell something in a highly competitive market while completely neglecting the story behind it.

Our testimony is our story. Tom Shoes didn’t become a 300 million dollar company because they simply sold shoes.  They became a successful company because of the story, “The Testimony” of the company and how they were changing lives.

We live in a society that is selling lots of things.  Different religions, different lifestyles, and different preferences.  If you are a child of God, then you have the best product ever offered (Salvation), and best of all, it’s given freely.  But too many times people are unwilling to accept it because they don’t see the value in it.  Now, as a child of God I understand the value.  I understand it because of what God’s Word says and because of how it has impacted my life.  I know that since accepting this gift that my life has much more meaning and satisfaction. I know that God clearly speaks to me and that I have an eternal home that is far greater than what I have hear on earth.

The question is, do I make the mistake that many business have made.  Do I try to sell the product without sharing the story?  Do I tell people they need Jesus without first telling them what He’s done in my life?  Too many times we get this process backwards.

Now before anyone gets upset, I DO understand that God can change a person’s heart without hearing our story.  I also understand that some may take issue with comparing sharing the Gospel with a business transaction.  That’s not my intent.  My message here is simple.  Don’t neglect your testimony.  It is by far the most powerful tool that we have in sharing the Gospel of Christ. Formulate yours, write it down, and be prepared to share it.

1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  Always be prepared to tell your story.

If you’d like to know more about how to have true peace with God, if you’d like to learn how to accept the greatest gift ever, free of charge, then visit

Friends, I love you, but more importantly God Loves You.  Now, go tell someone about Jesus, and what he’s done in your life, today!

Cancer Saved His Life

Below is the eulogy that I delivered at my father’s funeral last October.  I have been back and forth as to weather or not to share this with the general public.  It’s a very personal story to me because it’s basically my father’s testimony written through my eyes.  His life was full of pain and heartache, but in the end, he got it all right.

Tonight, I met a young man who needs to hear my dad’s story.  He is living the very same life I was 25 years ago.  God reminded me that while our testimonies are very personal, they are not meant to be private. God often uses testimonies to bring others to the foot of the cross.

I truly hope this will help someone out there.  It’s a story of redemption and the truth that I will see my dad again one day.


My father with his 5 grandchildren.

Cancer Saved His Life

You may be asking yourself, “Did he read that title right?”  I assure you that I did.  As I sit here writing this I’m able to glance over and see my father sleeping peacefully in what I’m sure are his last days.  I’m sure cancer is going to take his life, but there’s one other thing that I’m also sure of.  It absolutely saved his life.  

Billy Graham once made this statement a few years prior to his death, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it.  I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

Friends, the same is true for my father. Yesterday’s obituary said that Danny Bruce Hollis died, but that’s not true.  He is also more alive now that he’s ever been because he is also in the presence of God.

Jerome (my brother) and I grew up in a very disruptive home.  The man lying here today is not the man we grew up with.  The Bruce Hollis before 2011 was a raging alcoholic.  I remember spending my teenage years driving from bar to bar looking for my dad in the middle of the night only to turn violent and cause a scene once I found him.  I was angry with my father and I only became more and more bitter each time he didn’t keep his word to stop drinking.

Each promise only lead to another disappointment, and each year only widened the chasm that had formed between he and I.  By 2010 our relationship was nonexistent as I had not seen nor heard from him in a several years.

In 2011 a friend of mine asked me to go to lunch with him to discuss a fundraiser that he was working on. Greg Ellis was a recovering addict who was looking to give something back to The Carter Hope Center, which is the organization that helped him get clean and get his life back in order. Over lunch, Greg began to tell about this crazy idea he had about running 100 miles on a treadmill while others would pay to come run along side him all through the night.  He had reached out to me to see if we could get the support of local Run for God members.  I agreed to help and just as we were leaving Greg made the statement, “You should just join me for the run.”

Now I love running, but a hundred miles on a treadmill was not my idea of fun nor did I think I could even do it.  It’s funny how your words often come back to bite you.  I no more got home and walked into my office and three words were staring me in the face.  You see I’m famous for making the statement “YES YOU CAN” to anyone who says they can’t complete the Run for God course.  I believe it so much that it’s printed on the back of our books, and for whatever reason, one of our books was laying upside down that night on my desk. Needless to say, I called Greg the next morning to tell to let him know I’d be joining him.

Over the coming months I ran more than I had ever run.  100-mile weeks became common.  I got a chance to meet Chuck and Kara Smith who founded the Carter Hope Center, and got to know many of the people who worked there.  The Carter Hope Center has a proven track record of success.  Chuck who is a recovering addict himself has done a great job with the vision that God has given him which is why they usually have a waiting list of people who want to get in.

Many times God is working and we don’t even know it until we have a chance to look back.  The fundraiser went great, my run ended at mile 50 due to an injury, but we raised a lot of money for The Carter Hope Center that night.  What I didn’t know was that God had already put a plan into motion.  Within weeks of that fundraiser and getting to know Chuck and Kara, I found myself calling in a favor.

I’ll never forget driving down Highway 41 through Rocky Face when my phone rang.  It was an unknown number, which I don’t normally answer, but for some reason this time I did.  The voice was one that I had not heard in years.  It was a voice that I had blotted out of my life because I didn’t want my kids to see his destructive lifestyle.  It was the voice of my Dad.  His message was simple.  I need help. I’d heard these words before, but this time it was different.  Many people have told us through the years that often times addicts and alcoholics have to hit rock bottom before they make a change.

Dad began to share that he had been admitted to a local detox facility after being found almost dead in a hotel room.  They were about to release him and he had nowhere to go.  My father who was once a wealthy builder and developer who had it all was now washed up and homeless.  I’ll never forget walking into that clinic and seeing my dad after several years of not seeing him.  I almost didn’t recognize him.  His once lean toned body was now skin and bones, a testament to what addiction can do to ANYONE.  He was ashamed of what he had become, and all I knew to do was hug him.

Before arriving to pick him up I was on the phone calling in that favor.  I called Chuck and asked, “I know you have a waiting list, but can you take my dad?”  I thank God that he told me to bring him on over.  Within minutes of picking my dad up we were at The Carter Hope Center getting him settled in to his new home.  It was a modest twin bed in a room with four other men who found themselves in the same situations.

The weeks that followed were nothing short of amazing.  Dad began to flourish.  He became active in the program and it was obvious that this time his promise was for good.

I remember Dad calling Jerome and I one day saying that he was having some bad abdominal paid and that he needed to go to the hospital.  Within just hours of him arriving to the hospital, he was being prepped for emergency surgery.  Dad had a major bowel obstruction that was most certainly cancer.  I’ll never forget him laying on the hospital bed as they were about to wheel him into surgery.  The look on his face will forever be seared into my mind.  He was terrified, and God clearly revealed to me why. I asked the nurses and doctors to simply stop and leave the room.

For the first time in my life I asked my father if he knew where he was headed should he not survive that surgery.  He said no, and on that day in September of 2012 I had the honor of leading my father into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

That day our father forever changed.  He made it through that surgery.  Yes he had one of the deadliest cancers you can have, but he also had a brand new life. Our dad became the father he had never been.  Our dad became the Paw Paw his grandkids had never known.  Our dad became wealthier than he’d ever been because he’d learned to love the people in his life rather than the possessions of it.  After leaving the Carter Hope Center he lived in a simple one-bedroom apartment with a fridge that was no longer stocked with beer but rather Yahoo’s.  Some of the highlights of his weeks were riding around to jobsites making sure that Jerome and I were doing our jobs right and having the candy jar stocked for when I’d bring my boys by before church on Wednesday’s.  He even let Brett pull a utility trailer across state lines on I75 on his 16thBirthday.  His reasoning?  He’s gotta learn sometime.  He became a man that we can all learn something from today.

The most important thing that our Dad became was a shining example that God is real and that God was real in his life.  You see just last week my dad was facing another surgery that the doctors said he may not walk out of.  Dad knew this, but he also knew a lot more than he did six years ago.  You see, this time when I asked him if he knew where he’d spend eternity should he not walk out of that surgery, his answer was instant and firm.  He assured me that he would spend eternity in heaven and that he wasn’t afraid of dying. He was at peace!

It took a crisis to bring our dad to the foot of the cross.  It took a crisis to make my dad understand that there’s more to this life than a bottle, a drug, an addiction, or a habit.  There’s more to this life than what we have, what we build, or what we buy.  The most cherished things in life are free.  Our family, our kids, our relationships, our friends, our testimony, and our legacy.

In the end, the man lying here before you today got it right.  He loved his family, he loved the Lord, and he loved all of you who are here today. And for that reason, he left this earth a very wealthy man.

So what about you?  If you died today, will you spend eternity with my dad?  Will you spend eternity with Jesus Christ?  Where is your treasure?  Is it in things that don’t matter, things that can be stolen or forgotten?  Or is your treasure in the simple things of life? Faith, Family, and Friends?

These are tough questions, but the answers have eternal consequences.  If there is any doubt about your answers to these questions, please see me after the service.  I’d love to talk with you.

Yes I’m sad because my kids and I will never raid my dads candy jar again, but I do know where he is, and I know that I’ll be with him again someday.  The only question is, “Will you be joining us?”

On behalf of our family, we love you all, thank you for being here!


Do you have GRIT?

Hello everyone, Mitchell Hollis here with Run for God.

I recently read a quote from Angela Duckworth who completed a study at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research indicated that “Grit” is the number-one indicator of success.  It’s not talent, title, wealth, or good looks.  It’s “Grit”, the ability to work hard for long periods of time toward a goal; to persevere, to overcome, and to keep moving forward in the face of adversity, failure, rejection, and obstacles.

As many of you know, I coach a team of young triathletes, and this has been a topic of discussion within our coaching team for years.  We understand this principal.  I have had the opportunity to watch and observe young triathletes for more than 10 years now, and I can tell you that there are athletes with grit, and there are athletes without grit.  Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the two, until it’s time for the sport to become their own.

So what do I mean?

I don’t believe kids get burned out in a sport.  Now, I understand that can be a very explosive statement because we hear it so much, but hear me out.  I believe kids finally come to a point of honesty about their level of grit for the sport.  It’s either there, or it’s not.  I’ve seen many talented athletes leave the sport because of a lack of grit.  I’ve also seen many not so talented athletes excel in the sport because of an abundance of grit.  Now, let’s not confuse grit with motivation.  Grit is the spark, while motivation is the fuel.

This past weekend my son Lane had to leave at 7:15 Saturday morning to catch a plane with his buddy Easton to Tucson, AZ where they spent the next 4 days biking some of the most beautiful places in the country.  Friday afternoon I asked Lane if he had thought about his long run that was scheduled for Saturday.  He was leaving at 7:15AM and traveling all day.  When I suggested a 5:00AM start, the motivation was not immediately there. I could see it in his eyes.  He just wanted to sleep.  But there is one thing I’ve learned about many of these athletes.  They’ve got grit for the sport.  Lane got his run in at 5:00 that morning, and Easton got his in late that evening, while everyone else was resting from the days travels.  They’ve got grit in the sport of triathlon.

So how does this relate to our walk with Christ?

I believe that our churches today are filled with motivated people.  They love to hear a good sermon, they love joining forces with friends to help others, and they love telling others where they attend church.  But they have no grit.  And, because they have no grit, they are leaving the church at an alarming rate.  They got “burned out.”  I’ve heard that before.  “Well, I just got burned out with all that church stuff and quit going.”  Statistics show that 75% of young people will leave the church upon leaving the home.


I believe it’s because they have no grit.  Now I know you’re asking yourself, “Mitchell, what does grit have to do with our spiritual lives?”  In our spiritual lives “grit” is Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the constant when motivation is gone. Let me say that again.  Jesus is the constant when motivation is gone.

Let me be very clear. Living a life that appears Christian is hard.  Trust me. This ministry known as Run for God is not easy.  The devil is on constant high alert.  People whisper when they see our shirts, old friends distance themselves, opportunities often pass by because we’re “faith based”.  Living a life that appears Christian is hard.

Why do I make that statement?  Living a life that “APPEARS” Christian is hard.

There are things in a sport that motivate an athlete.  Success, Coaches, Dreams, Goals, and even Parents.  But what keeps an athlete going in the absence of all that?  What keeps an athlete going when injury ends their season? What keeps an athlete going when defeat happens?  What keeps an athlete going when their schedule gets too overwhelming?

It’s Grit.  Plain and simple, it’s GRIT.

Run for God enjoys many motivations.  Letters and stories of lives being changed all over the world.  From China to a Federal Prison in Butner, NC.  We get notifications each time someone makes a decision to follow Christ as a result of our Gospel campaigns.  We receive monthly support from people all over the country and many people in this room.  This is confirmation that we are on the right path and motivation to keep going.

But too many times those motivations seem to pass in the blink of an eye and are quickly replaced by doubt.  A negative email comes in.  An off color comment is aimed our way.  Financials aren’t where we hoped they’d be.  Let’s take this to a personal level.  A family member gets sick, a child goes astray, a test result comes back and it’s not good, word comes that you’re losing your job.

These are the times where grit carries you.  These are the times when Jesus takes you by the hand and leads you through.  Just like a season ending injury coupled with grit in your sport will often lead to a better and stronger athlete.  So it is when we reach obstacles and valleys in our life.  With Jesus, we are better and wiser for them.  He doesn’t take them away, he leads us through them.  Without Jesus, we are defeated, washed up, burned out, and leaving the church.

Are you living the Christian life?  Or, are you living the appearance of a Christian life?

God has clearly been directing me over the past few years to challenge those around me with a simple question.

Do you know that you know where you’ll be spending eternity?

Do you ever find yourself defeated, burned out, and questioning what this life is all about?

Young people, are you cruising through life on your parents salvation?  Or is it yours?

These are tough questions. They’re not easy to ask, and if you’re living the “appearance” of a Christian life, then they’re not easy to hear.

I challenge you to ponder the idea of Jesus in your life.  Not church, not the words you use, or the image you portray, but Jesus.  Is He REAL in your life?

If you would like to learn more about how to have Peace with Jesus Christ then please visit now.

Friends, I love you, but more importantly God loves you!  Now go tell someone about Jesus today.


Who’s In Control

Every Sunday I hang out in a small room at the back of my church. It is a room that houses all of our sound and video equipment. It gets pretty hectic turning mics on and off, adjusting the sound controls, changing displays during songs and sermons, and recording the audio of the service. 

It looks like I have control over everything that happens, doesn’t it?  But, I only have control over a bunch of buttons, knobs and switches. Nobody sees what I actually do, they only see the result of what I am doing. They are watching someone else. If I am not in tune with what people can see, I can cause the message to be distorted.

In reality, although I have complete control over what I am doing, I have no control over what is being done at the pulpit. It wouldn’t matter if I showed the wrong image on the screens. If it isn’t right, the service will be held up waiting for me to correct the problem. If I played the wrong audio for a song, the singer doesn’t just sing whatever I play. They wait for me to find the correct music. 

It may look like I’m in control, but I’m anything but in control! This is not the cockpit of an airplane. I am complimentary to the service – I don’t control it. I can make it go smoother, or I can be an irritant to those who came to be a part of the day. I have to react to what is happening in an effort to present the best face to the congregation. I could do whatever I wanted to do, but that wouldn’t last long before the church decided I didn’t need to do that job any longer.

Even tougher is when someone decides either intentionally or inadvertently change the order of events. I have to be on my toes, recognize it, and make the necessary adjustments. Most days, everything goes smoothly, but occasionally it is a challenge to keep up. The service is better when I follow along with the people in control.

My job on the soundboard is similar to my walk with God. I’m not in control – He is. If I want to present the best picture of who He is to the world, I have to follow His lead. Oh, I can do whatever I want to do, but it changes the presentation. God gives us perfect cues to keep the presentation on track to show who He is. We only have to follow those cues. I know my music director and my pastor pretty well. I can often anticipate what they will do in a service. It makes the task of following their lead easier for me. In the same way, the closer I am in my walk with God, the easier it is for me to follow His lead.

At one time or another we all have the illusion that we’re in the cockpit of an airplane controlling what it does. But, in reality, we’re all standing behind a mixing board controlling what God gave us. The question is: Are we going to continue to act as if we’re in control, ultimately making a mess of the presentation God has planned for our lives? Or, are we going to offer the best presentation possible by following His lead? The choice is mine and yours.

We’re always better off when we follow God’s lead. I hope you choose to follow his lead today!

Now go out and show the world your best presentation of Jesus!

Dean Thompson

The Night That Changed Everything

The NightFrank Blunt didn’t believe in anything good, maybe not even himself. Christmas came for each of his 38 years on Earth, but he had seen nothing to persuade him that it was anything more than greed that drove the gift-giving season. He reasoned that giving only happened when there was an expectation to receive something in return. Frank didn’t believe in the general goodness of the men and women he had contact with every day of his life in the insurance business. Even as he interacted with clients, he could see the greed as they bickered about a dollar here and a dollar there. He was sure people didn’t want to simply give things away for the sake of giving – there was an additional motive in each case.

Frank didn’t care for rich people who seemed to flaunt their wealth and only allow the occasional crumb to fall to those who really needed it as they lived behind walls protected from anything the world might do to infiltrate their wealthy lifestyle. Greed indeed.

But he also didn’t care for poor people. Why couldn’t these people get a job? They would rather beg for money on the side of the road than find a real job that required some commitment to be punctual and contribute to society. It was greed in a different form, he thought. They didn’t want to endure the inconvenience of responsibility. It was lazy greed.

The people who irritated him the most were those Christians. They claimed to be motivated by a mystical being who lived 2,000 years ago in the form of a man called Jesus Christ. Seriously? he thought. It seemed pathetic to him that adults would believe in fairy tales. Still, Frank was sure they were motivated by the need for recognition for the things they would do to help others. It was still greed, only fed through a need to feel less guilty about who they were.

Frank Blunt believed in Frank Blunt, good or bad. It was all he could count on.

Frank’s sister, Joy, had tried numerous times over the years to break through his shell of skepticism. She feared that she had never made a dent or created so much as a pinhole. The shell had proven to be very durable over the years. Still, Joy had prayed thousands of times for Frank and his salvation. If God could soften his heart even a little, maybe he could see that most people were not what he thought them to be. As Christmas approached, she asked God to give her a pick to break through that shell.

But as soon as the Christmas related conversation began, Frank would retreat to his shell and defend his feelings vehemently. “Christmas is about giving, Frank.” Joy would say.

“Yeah, sure, I know, just so people can help other people and make them feel good, right?”

“It’s more than that, Frank. God gave us His son – the most incredible gift ever given. On Christmas we celebrate that gift, in part, by giving to others. But we also simply remember the gift and celebrate what God did for us. Imagine giving your son. Can there be anything more gracious than that?”

“Oh, here we go again!” Frank said. “Christmas is all about greed, not some sense of benevolence. If you don’t believe me, just look at how people act on Black Friday. Last year, someone was shot in a dispute over a toy. The year before that, a 62-year old woman wound up in the hospital because she was trampled at the door because people had to get to those big screen TVs that were on sale. If that is the giving spirit, then I don’t want any part of it.”

Those words triggered a thought in Joy’s mind. The “giving spirit” she thought. She had an idea.

She asked, “So you think there is really no such thing as the ‘giving spirit’ as you called it?”

“Of course not.” Frank said. “Giving is easy when you know you’re going to get something in return. It’s a guiltless way to accumulate more stuff. Nobody gives things away without some expectation of a return on their investment.”

Joy said, “I have a proposal for you, Frank.”

“Yeah, what is that?”

“I want to challenge you to give something away.”

“Easy – as long as it’s not my stuff I’m giving away.” Frank said.

“Okay, so here is my challenge: I will give you $100 to give away, but there are stipulations to who and how you give it away. First, you can only give away five dollars at a time. No matter how much a person may need, you can only give them five dollars. You can give them less, if you like, but no more than five dollars per person. Second, you have to give the money to someone you believe needs it. There has to be some reason, justifiable or not, that you give the money away. Third, anyone you give money to has to be someone you have never met before.” Joy finished, “What do you think?”

“I think that’s an easy assignment. I don’t see the point, but if it will make my baby sister happy for me to give her money away, I’m more than happy to oblige.” Frank said sarcastically, “And, you will see that the world is full of unappreciative, greedy people. I may get a thank you or two, but only because it is the polite thing to do. In the end, you’ll be out $100, and nothing will be different. But I have one stipulation of my own. Once I’m done, for the rest of this year, you can’t try to convince me that people are good or that there is some guy named Jesus who I need to get to know better. Deal?”

“Deal!” Joy exclaimed. “I’m willing to take the chance. You only have to promise me that when Jesus shows up, you will acknowledge it.”

“Okay. If the 2,000-year old man shows up, I’ll let you know.” Frank retorted.

The next day Frank found himself wondering how he had gotten into such a strange situation.  How exactly would he identify people who “needed” the money? Where would he start? He had already been to the bank and exchanged Joy’s 100 dollar bill for 20 five dollar bills. Twenty people, five dollars each. This should only take an hour or so, he thought.

Downtown. How many times had he been approached by people who were living on the street and asked for spare change? He could capture all twenty of those “needy” people in a few square blocks. That would be the most efficient avenue to shut his sister up for the rest of the year.

As he drove to the parking lot, he identified four vagrants, as he liked to call them, along the way. He parked the car and immediately saw a group of three men huddled in the corner of the parking garage. They were sitting on upside down buckets and seemed to be joking with each other. It seemed clear that they were only there because they were trying to keep warm by staying out of the wind. Their clothing and demeanor persuaded him that they may be homeless. They would qualify for a hand out according to Joy’s rules. Frank approached them and asked them if they would each like five dollars. One of them looked at him and said, “What’s the catch?”

He said, “No catch. Five dollars in the spirit of Christmas.”

“Just for free?” They asked suspiciously.

“That’s right.” Frank confirmed.

“Well, how about $20 then?” Another asked coyly, confirming Frank’s paradigm of a greedy world. Here he was giving money away, and it just wasn’t enough.

“No, just five.” He reached into his pocket, peeled off three five-dollar bills and handed them out. They guys high-fived each other. He might be done in less than an hour at this rate. As he walked away from the group he mustered up as much sarcasm as he could and said, “Merry Christmas!”

He left the parking facility walking north and found a lady on a bench laying under some cardboard trying to sleep.  There was a shopping cart filled with her belongings next to her. The cart was tethered to her arm by a rope tied around her wrist. Why would people choose to live this way, Frank thought. He approached her and said, “Ma’am? Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.” She said suspiciously.

“Could I interest you in a five-dollar bill?”

“Oh, no thank you.” She said firmly.

“Seriously? You can’t use five dollars?”

“Of course, I can. But I haven’t done anything to deserve it. I can’t just take your money.”

“What if you consider it a Christmas gift?”

“But you don’t even know me. Why would you give me a gift?” She had not received a Christmas gift in two years.

“I insist.” He took another five-dollar bill from his pocket and handed it to her.

She looked at the bill as if it were priceless. A tear formed in her eye and a smile on her face as she said, “I prayed for this. God has sent you to me, I’m certain.”

Frank knew the truth, that his sister had sent him. He elected not to vocalize that fact, and even wished he could give her more money. But rules were rules. Again, he said, “Merry Christmas,” only this time much less sarcastically, and it may have even felt good to say it this time. He had found the one person who appreciated receiving a gift. What were the odds, he thought.

He moved on and began to realize that the homeless were more difficult to find than he had thought. He walked a few blocks before seeing a man just ahead who was going from one pedestrian to another asking for money. This one would be easy. As he approached the man, he was anticipating the question. Only the question was different than he thought it would be. The man said, “Could you buy me some food. I haven’t had anything to eat today.” So much for the rumor that all of the homeless are alcoholics looking for their next drink.

Frank said, “How about if I give you five dollars and you can go get something to eat?” He handed him the bill looking deep into his eyes as they brightened with the news.

The man smiled and with heartfelt gratitude he said, “Oh, thank you so much, sir!” Frank smiled back at him and again said, “Merry Christmas.” That one felt pretty good.

As Frank was about to walk off the man said, “Sir, may I ask you a question?”

Frank thought, why do you have to ruin a good interaction by forcing me to have a conversation? But instead said, “Sure, but I can’t give you any more money.”

“Oh, that’s fine. Sir, are you an angel?”

Frank didn’t know what to say. He didn’t believe there was such a thing as an angel. “No.” He said surprising himself with his calmness. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, it just seems that you are different from everyone else I see on the street. You looked at me like I was somebody. Most people are always trying to do anything but make eye contact with me. They hope that I won’t approach them. I wish I didn’t have to, but I don’t know what else to do. But you are different. You seemed to be eager to help me. I thought maybe you were an angel sent by God to help me. Anyway, thank you so much for your kindness. Have a Merry Christmas!”

Suddenly those the words “Merry Christmas” rang in his head. He had wished these poor down and out people a Merry Christmas. What did they have to be merry about? He was going to go home in an hour and sleep in a warm bed tonight while these people would sleep in the cold or in a room with fifty others in a shelter somewhere. But this guy just wished FRANK a Merry Christmas. The seemingly incongruous phrase was not lost on him.

As he walked around the town, he had many more similar interactions and conversations. He began to feel more comfortable speaking with these people. With each one, he felt a little more compassion. He didn’t know why these people were living the way they did, but one thing was sure – it’s not what they would have chosen if given a better and more comfortable choice. Most of them really had no choice. The thought of having to live on the streets began to run through his mind. He didn’t know if he was tough enough to do it.

Many of the conversations revolved around God and angels or other spiritual matters. If these people did believe in God, and it seemed clear that they did, why would they rely so heavily on a being that had left them in the circumstances in which they were living? But even as the thought came to him the answer bounced back quickly – what else did they have? God was allthey could rely on. Frank had never had so much compassion for people he didn’t know. For that matter, he had never had anycompassion for those he didn’t know.

By the time he had given out 17 of the 20 five dollar bills he had in his pocket he was losing track of time. He was enjoying the conversations and the idea of helping those who needed it. Sure, there were a few who were scammers and just looking for a few extra bucks. But the overwhelming majority of them were hurting. He began to hope that his words were soothing to them. He actually wanted to help. By this time, it had been two and a half hours, and the sun was going down. It was getting colder.

He approached number 18, an older thin gray-haired lady who was missing her false teeth. As he gave her the money, she asked if she could pray with him. He reluctantly agreed. If it would make her feel better, he was willing to go along.

She prayed, “Lord, thank you so much for sending this man my way tonight. You knew how much I needed it and you provided. I praise your name for your goodness. Lord, bless this man. I don’t know who he is, but You are surely using him tonight as Your servant. I pray that, even as he blesses those around him, that you will see fit to bless him with Your goodness and mercy. Amen.”

Frank thought for a moment and couldn’t think of anyone who had ever prayed with him alone before. Once again, someone with far less than most seemed to have something that he clearly did not. Though he had grown more compassionate through this process, he knew that if he were in their circumstances, he could not be as positive as many of them were.

“Thank you for that. I hope you have a Merry Christmas. Do you have a warm place to sleep tonight?” The words startled him as they fell from his mouth. What was he going to do if she said no?

But she let him off the hook and said, “I’m heading for a shelter in a few minutes. They don’t open the doors until 6 pm.”

“Great!” he said in relief.

As Frank turned in search of number 19, he noticed a man looking at him from across the street. He was clearly not one of the homeless he was looking for, but the man kept watching him. When he caught Frank looking his way, he waved and looked both ways as he crossed the street. He was headed straight towards Frank. “Oh no,” Frank thought as he wondered if he was someone of authority who was going to tell him that he couldn’t do what he was doing. Was he in some sort of trouble?

The man reached the other side of the street and said, “Do you have a minute, sir?”

“Depends what you want to tell me.” Frank said with more than a hint of suspicion.

The man continued, “My name is Wilbur Rexhall, the third. I have seen what you have been doing for the last hour or so. Are you giving money to the homeless in this community? Because that’s precisely what it looks like you are doing.”

Growing more suspicious, Frank said, “Why is that any of your business? You’re not with the police department, are you? I’m not doing anything illegal, am I?” The questions kept coming to him and spilling out of his mouth.

“Oh, no sir! I own three businesses downtown and I spend a lot of time people watching. I couldn’t help but notice the very deliberate way you were walking from one person to another, not only giving them money, but taking time to speak with each of them for a couple of minutes. In the 30 years I have been around here, I don’t believe I have ever witnessed such a display of individual generosity.”

Frank was put on the spot. He knew his motive for doing what he was doing had begun in a far from charitable way. He was only trying to prove something to his sister. Still, he had softened his stance considerably by this time. He was much closer to the right motive by now, but he was still looking for number 20 so he could get in his nice car and drive to his warm house.

“Well, just trying to help those less fortunate than myself, you know.” Frank said, immediately feeling guilty for the way he took credit for what he was doing. It wasn’t even his money he was giving away!

Mr. Rexhall asked, “Do you own a house?”

What an odd question, Frank thought, but answered, “Yes sir. It’s about ten miles from here.”

The stranger continued his line of questioning. “How much money do you owe on your house?”

“Well, that’s kind of a private matter Mr. Rexhall. Is that what you said you name was?” Frank was sure to reply in a manner that said, “Back off, mister!”

“Yes sir. Wilbur Rexhall, the third. I suppose it is forward of me to ask such a question out the blue, so let me explain. The Lord has blessed me far beyond anything I could ever have expected. I grew up poor and spent some time on the street, just like the people you have been talking with this evening. I’m not going to live forever, and I can’t take all that money with me. I would like to pay off your mortgage sir, if you would allow it.”

WHAT? What did he just say? Frank wondered if being out in the cold for a couple of hours could alter your hearing in some way. “Excuse me?” He said.

“I’m terribly sorry if I have offended you in some way. I only wanted to return the kind gesture that you are so graciously offering to these people.”

“No, I mean, seriously, what did you just ask me?” Frank said, still trying to gather himself.

“I’d like your permission to pay off your mortgage, sir.”

That’s what Frank thought he had heard. “You can’t possibly be serious?” He asked incredulously.

“Well, yes sir, I am being serious. As I said, I have been so blessed by God, and I feel His urging to do this for you.”

Frank’s mind was going a million miles an hour. It was almost as if this man knew that he had been struggling to make ends meet lately. Although he was not behind on his mortgage, he had some bill collectors calling his house for other bills that were delinquent. Not having a mortgage payment would allow him to catch up every other bill he had due.

“That’s an incredible gesture, sir, but why would you do such a thing.” Frank asked.

“As I told you, I have a soft spot for the homeless. As a matter of fact, I own a small warehouse around the block that I open up every year when the weather gets cold so that the homeless have a place to go. I open it at six o’clock each night and serve them some soup or other small meal that can help them keep going to the next day. For many of them, the next day is really all they have to look forward to.  I see myself laying on those cots, and I know that those nights are cold, and I appreciate the man who opened up his warehouse for me almost 40 years ago. Without that man’s generosity, I might have frozen to death on one of those cold nights.”

“I also think about Mary and Joseph under similar circumstances. They had no place to stay except for the generosity of a man who offered a stable as a warm place to stay for the night. To make matters worse, poor Mary was pregnant and about to give birth. The Savior of the world was born under circumstances not far removed from the homeless shelter of today. We never know who we help. It could be a young man who would wind up owning several businesses one day and he may decide to give back to those who helped him and those who are helping those who are like he once was. Or, it could be even bigger than that. The man who offered his stable had no idea that Jesus would be born under his generosity, but that’s what happened. No sir, you have no idea who you have helped tonight with your simple gestures of money and conversation. You may have changed someone’s life tonight. That, sir, is why I would do such a thing.”

Frank took it all in and was overwhelmed by it all. Every paradigm he had ever believed was being challenged in this moment. Poor people weren’t who he thought they were. Now, he finds out that rich people aren’t the greedy scumbags he thought they were. Even crazier, this man had him intrigued about that whole Jesus story, as crazy as it was. He wanted to know more.

“Do you really believe the Jesus story? It is so incredible that it seems impossible.” Frank said.

“It not only seems impossible. It was impossible – for humans! That’s how we know it was God Himself who wrote the story. Oh, I am certain of the authenticity of the story. Not only do I know it is true because of what He has done for me, but if you will spend some honest time looking at the facts, you will come to the conclusion that it has to be true. It sounds like you are not a believer?”

Frank answered, “Well, I like to think I’m a common-sense guy who thinks practically. It is awfully hard to square a virgin birth with scientific reality, not to mention being raised from the dead!”

Mr. Rexhall answered, “I completely understand. I was right where you are a long time ago. It didn’t make sense to me either. But that man who opened his warehouse for me all those years ago also gave me my first Bible. I was homeless and didn’t have much to do besides looking for a job, so I scoured that Bible looking for loopholes at first. When I could find none, I began to see the facts. Do you know that the prophet Isaiah predicted the birth of Jesus hundreds of years before it happened and with some detail I might add. If the Jesus story is not true, how did that happen? Yes sir, being practical will only lead you to believe in Jesus.”

So up is down and backwards is forwards, Frank thought. Everything he believed was wrong according to this man. He seemed to be a normal man. He had no agenda that Frank could see. In the span of a few hours, his entire life felt like it was changing.

Mr. Rexhall continued, “If you want proof of the reality of God, look no further than the fact you and I are standing here speaking. Do you think it is mere coincidence that I saw what you were doing this evening? Think about the conversations you had with those people this evening. Do you see God in any of those when you look at it from His perspective?”

“I don’t know what to say, sir. Yes, I do see where it is possible that a God could have coordinated what happened tonight, but it seems so crazy. Why would a God who could do so much be interested in me? I have done nothing but make fun of Christians for years. Surely, He has much better things to do tonight,” Frank concluded.

“No, Frank, He doesn’t. You see that’s the most incredible thing about God. He loves every one of us whether we love Him back or not. Tonight, you were the most important person on His mind, as were billions of other people. He knew this day was coming before you were even born. We can’t understand that in our finite minds, but it’s true. God has always been around you, but it looks like you can see Him tonight. Am I right?” Mr. Rexhall’s question pierced Frank’s heart.

Frank answered reluctantly, “It is hard to explain it any other way, I suppose.”

“Listen Frank, I can tell you’re struggling with the enormity of it all. But, that’s how God works. I see it all the time, and you will too if you choose to believe and live a life for Him.”

Frank said, much more boldly now, “Honestly, this has been the most incredible night of my life. I want to have more days like this one. How do I go about doing that? What do I have to do next?”

Wilbur Rexhall led Frank Blunt through several verses about God’s salvation plan from the book of Romans – aka the Roman Road. It still seemed impossible to Frank that he had felt so differently just a few hours prior, but after what he had seen and heard that night, he knew nothing was impossible with God.

Frank drove home and couldn’t wait to talk with Joy. He realized that he still had ten dollars of hers in his pocket. He didn’t complete his assignment – or did he?

When he walked into Joy’s house, he had the biggest smile she had ever seen. Oh no, she thought, he must have given away all the money and now he’s happy that he doesn’t have to hear any more about Jesus for the rest of the year.

“Sis,” Frank said, “I owe you my life.”

Startled by his comment, she asked, “What do you mean?”

“God didn’t just show up tonight, He showed off!” Frank exclaimed.

They talked about the evening for nearly two hours. Eventually, as the time ran off the clock, it was time to go home and go to bed. It was an incredible day that Frank would certainly never forget. It was difficult to fall asleep, but he did, only after saying a prayer before bedtime for the first time in his life.

At work the next day he was still giddy about the prior evening’s activity and the result of meeting an incredible bunch of people. He couldn’t stop telling everyone he met about what had happened. He wasn’t very productive as the world would measure it, but God doesn’t use the same measures as the world.

Lunch hour came and he used the time to check his e-mail. In the list of messages was a communication from a bank. He clicked on the message and was astounded by what he saw. As Mr. Rexhall had promised, it was an e-mail congratulating him for paying off his mortgage. In all his excitement, Frank had forgotten about the promise. But he had only told him his name and who the lienholder was on his home. How had he been able to complete the transaction so quickly? He thought he would need to give him more information if he was still going to insist on paying off his mortgage, but Mr. Rexhall was apparently a very well-connected man.

Frank wanted to personally thank him, not only for the debt release but more importantly, for changing his life’s direction. But in all the excitement of the moment, he never asked where his office was located. No matter – if he owned three businesses downtown, he would be able to find him.

Later, he went back to the same place he saw him the day before, but he was not there. He went inside several establishments, but oddly, found no one who knew him. Frank remembered the night shelter Mr. Rexhall opened. If he could find the shelter, he would almost certainly be able to find him. He went into one more place, and sure enough, a lady knew where the shelter was located.

He walked three blocks to the shelter, entered, and looked for someone who appeared to be in charge. He found a man who was helping to serve some food, waited for a break, and asked where he could find Mr. Rexhall.

The man asked, “Who?”

“Mr. Rexhall,” Frank said, “The man who owns this building.”

“Oh, you must be mistaken. This building is not owned by anyone with that name. I’ve never heard that name before.” The man seemed absolutely sure of himself.

“Well, that’s odd. No one seems to know who Mr. Rexhall is. Thank you for your time.” Frank said dejectedly.

As he began to walk away, he turned and asked, “What is the man’s name who owns this building if it’s not Mr. Rexhall.”

“His name is Gabriel. You know, like the angel. He prefers folks call him Gabe, though. Something about not wanting to draw attention to himself.”

All Frank could get out was, “Yes, that’s just like Mr. Rexhall – I mean, Gabe!”

Dean Thompson