If you receive our monthly newsletter you may recognize this story. I received the following from Dr. Alex Duvall of Georgetown, South Carolina in April:
Hank Winter, a retired U. S. naval captain, is a 94- year-old veteran of both WWI and Korea where he served as a fighter pilot. He is my wife’s grandfather, and I have known him for about 20 years. He has always epitomized gentlemanly behavior, generosity, and graciousness. For the past few years, he attended church regularly, but if you asked him about his faith, he would honestly admit that he was not a believer in Jesus Christ. About two years ago, we had a conversation about his objections to belief from an apologetics approach, and it went nowhere. My wife and her sister both wrote letters encouraging Hank to come to faith. While appreciated, these letters did not bring him to faith in Jesus Christ.
Then in the fall of 2016, my local church hosted Every Believer a Witness with Dennis Nunn for their annual revival week. Despite being a believer for many years, evangelism was a great struggle for me. I was hoping this event would be a help in that department; boy, I was not disappointed! Never had I encountered such an encouraging, Biblically-based, and practical teaching on the reason and way to be a faithful witness for Jesus Christ. Over the resource of five sessions, I gained both the easy-to-understand methods and the opportunity to practice witnessing that made filling the Great Commission in my daily life seem not only possible but even rewarding! I continued to not only pray for those who God had laid on my heart for salvation but to look for ways to witness to them. Hank was at the top of my list, as well as on several others’ prayer lists, and it was not long before it appeared time was running out for him to accept Christ.
In January of 2017, the heart failure that for so many years had not been able to slow down Captain Hank Winter began to take its toll. He was hospitalized twice that month with trouble breathing and also had an infection in his lungs and blood stream. He would have periods of time where he was short of breath even sitting in a chair, and despite good medical care, he had minimal improvement. During both his hospitalizations, I took my Bible and with his permission read various passages to him and discussed the gospel. I concentrated on passages such as the sinner on the cross and the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard to emphasize that the grace offered through Christ is available to latecomers just as much as those who accept it early in life. We discussed these spiritual matters for awhile, and although he considered them more seriously, still belief eluded him.
Shortly after coming home from the hospital for the second time, Hank went to his doctor who is a Christian partner of mine and had prayed for Hank and witnessed to him in the past. Hank was given the choice to go to the hospital yet again with little chance of significant improvement or to take a palliative approach to his illness by concentrating on his quality of life at home with hospice. Hank chose the latter option. I visited with him a few times at his home and had some good discussions, but Hank was still unconverted. I remembered Dennis teaching that we are just as faithful when we share the gospel with those who reject it as we are with those who accept it; salvation is of the Lord. However, I, along with many others, sure was praying hard for Hank’s conversion, including my young children who knew the stakes. All the while, Hank’s health continued to be precarious.
Then in the resource of just a few days, I experienced a barrage of adverse events that started with a brand new generator suddenly breaking with no explanation and culminating on a Wednesday at work with me having the most crushing day in over a decade of practicing medicine. I recalled what Dennis had said in his last session: if you are serious about sharing the gospel, expect some resistance from Satan. I almost was not surprised, and looking back, God had prepared me for it. How do you respond to the worst day you have ever had at work? Comfort food or drink? Sulk? Retreat to a circle of close family and friends? Exercise? Listen to music? In and of themselves, most of these are not bad things, but perhaps something bigger was going on, and I felt the Lord had shown me what it was. In a strange way, I was encouraged because if there was truly spiritual warfare at play and all this trouble had suddenly appeared, Hank must be close to salvation. I responded in the only way I felt was truly fighting back; after work, I went back to Hank’s with my Bible and witnessed to him again. He did not convert then, but I felt I had responded faithfully and that God would not lay Hank’s eternal soul on so many hearts without plans to show His power to save.
After hearing that Hank had further declined, I went back over to his house the following Sunday evening. There were no high and holy prayers or notable special preparations; I just went. Hank had a lot of questions about dying and was having fears about death and hell now that he felt he was staring over the edge of the cliff. I read a few passages emphasizing the open invitation to come to the One who gives peace and takes away the sting of death. I, along with my believing mother-in-law who is his ever-present caretaker, held his hands and prayed. The Holy Spirit did the work only He can do, and Hank Winter repented of his sins and called on the Lord to accept him. When he opened his eyes, his fear and shortness of breath had passed. At 94 years old, his spiritual man had just risen from the dead.
I am sharing Hank’s conversion story with his permission. He may be late to the fight, but Captain Hank Winter made the decision to be faithful to his Lord’s order from Acts that “you will be my witnesses.” He has fired one last missile despite being unable to leave home and struggles to even walk to his front door. It just goes to show, every believer can be a witness.
From Dennis: “Don’t give up on sharing your faith with your family and friends!”