By Ted Britain
We were visiting family in Colorado when I got the call from my office at First Assembly in Twin Falls, Idaho.
“Pastor, Troy just called the office looking for you. He has cancer.”
I thought about the first time I met Troy. It was a gray, overcast, crisp November day and we had just laid to rest our beloved Pastor Hicks who had served on our staff for the past few years as our Christian Education director.
The reception and fellowship dinner were winding down with just a few people still sitting around the tables while volunteers were busy in the kitchen cleaning up. I was about to leave when Troy came in to pick up his wife, Chris.
Troy Stone was dressed in a pair of jeans, a black shirt and a golf cap. He was slim. His face was tanned and wrinkled. Walking with a slow gate and the hint of a limp, he looked every bit of his 55 years.
Chris introduced us. Troy, a self-confessed atheist, had worked at the gambling casino in Jackpot, Nev., since he was 16. I, on the other hand, had been pastoring Assemblies of God churches for the past 22 years. But we soon found mutual ground in our love for golf.
It was just a few days later that we played our first round together.
Troy seemed nervous, even more so than I was. I suppose he had never played golf with a “preacher.” On several occasions during the first few holes when he missed short putts, he would grimace, clinch his teeth, shake his head and say, “Shoot, I missed that one.”
On the 13th hole he did it again. As we were getting back in the cart I said, “Troy, I want to ask you a question. You don’t need to answer, but if you do I want you to be honest.”
I could tell by the way he looked at me, he was thinking: Oh boy, here it comes. He’s going to witness to me and try to get me to become a Christian.
But what I said was, “Now be honest, Troy. If I hadn’t been here, that’s not what you would have said when you missed that putt, is it?”
He started laughing, we both relaxed and our relationship began to grow from there.
We played golf together three or four times a year after that, but we saw one another more often because he would occasionally attend church with his wife on Sunday nights.
One night on the 40-mile drive back to Jackpot after attending revival services, he said to Chris, “Something weird happened tonight.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Well, while the evangelist was praying for the people who had gone to the altar for healing, my foot quit hurting.”
He could hardly wait to tell me about it. When we met several days later he told me the story.
“When I was about 10 years old,” he said, “I was involved in an accident and my right foot was injured. It has hurt with every step I have taken for the last 45 years. Last Wednesday night while Deke Silverman prayed for people, I was sitting toward the back of the sanctuary and suddenly my foot didn’t hurt. It has not hurt since. What do you think about that, Pastor?”
“Do you think that God is trying to tell you something?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said.
Well, it certainly blew away my theology. I didn’t know that God healed unbelievers, particularly when they hadn’t asked Him to.
One Wednesday night about a year later Troy came to Bible study with Chris. I asked if he would like to give his testimony of healing. He agreed.
As he shared what God had done for him the people rejoiced. Later at the close of the study I spoke to him personally and asked if he would like to kneel and ask Christ into his heart.
“No, Pastor,” he said, “I’m not quite ready to do that yet.”
My heart was burdened for my friend. “Troy,” I said, “God won’t wait forever.”
Things continued as they were for a time. I’m sure that Chris had been witnessing to Troy because he did give up drinking. But there was still no commitment to Christ.
When I got the call from my office that day, I immediately called Troy at his home in Jackpot.
His voice was so raspy I could barely hear him.
“Pastor,” he said, “I had a sore throat and it didn’t seem to be getting better so I finally went to the doctor. He took a bunch of tests and I got the results today. The cancer is in my throat, my lymph glands, my lungs and my liver. The doctor says it’s spread too far to do anything about it and that I only have a few weeks to live.”
“Troy,” I said, “you know what you need to do. You need to pray and ask Jesus to come into your heart and forgive you of your sin.”
“I know,” he said. “I’ll do it when you get home.”
“No,” I said, “you need to do it now.”
I had asked my associate to go to the Stones’ home in Jackpot as soon as I had gotten the call from my office. While Troy and I were talking on the phone his doorbell rang and he told me that Pastor Jim had arrived.
“Troy,” I said, “hang up the phone and ask Jim to lead you in the sinner’s prayer.” And he did.
I started home. When we arrived in Twin Falls I was told that Troy was now in the hospital. On the way up to his room I was trying to think of what I would say. The doctor had said there was no hope. I was prepared to tell Troy that his hope was in Jesus. Meaning, of course, that now he had the hope of eternal life and knew where he was going.
I was not exactly feeling like “God’s man of faith and power.”
What I found upon entering his room was astounding. There he was, looking frail and thin, lying in bed, witnessing to one of his lifelong buddies about the goodness of God, salvation through Christ, and the fact that Jesus was going to heal him of the cancer!
His doctor had told him there was no use to try any of the standard cancer treatments. The cancer was too advanced and too far spread.
That afternoon we got word that his doctor was leaving the hospital and that he would have to get another doctor. Troy convinced the new doctor to begin treatment, because “Jesus is going to heal me.”
So treatment was started. Soon Troy was dismissed from the hospital and treated as an outpatient. The weeks passed and he was still with us. Then he began putting weight back on. Within six months the doctors proclaimed him to be a walking miracle and completely cancer free.
In the space of the following year we enjoyed several rounds of golf together and Troy became a dynamic witness for his Lord. He would frequently tell me about the people he was witnessing to who had known his former life.
In November of 2000, Troy was having a check-up when the doctor told him he had discovered a fast growing tumor in his brain. While there was no trace of the former cancer, the brain tumor had developed so rapidly that nothing could be done.
When he entered the hospital the doctor told him that he had just days, perhaps only hours. “Yeah, Doc,” he said with perfect peace, “but now I know where I’m going.”
I was in Boise when I got the call that Troy was in the hospital and not expected to make it through the night.
It was 1 a.m. when I got to the hospital. Chris told me that Troy hadn’t responded to anyone for several hours. I took his hand and said, “Troy, I’m here, and I’m going to pray for you.” His eyes opened and he tried to respond but was unable to talk. After praying, I said, “I’ll see you in the morning.” He squeezed my hand and winked.
At 7 a.m. Chris called and told me that Troy was with his Lord.
Whenever I think of Troy, I think of the friendship the Lord allowed us to enjoy — a friendship that helped Troy to make the most important decision for all of eternity. But even more important, I think of Jesus offering himself as our truest Friend.
Troy, I missed seeing you that last morning. But the morning that we meet again will never see a sunset.
Ted Britain lives in Delta, Colo.
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