Monday, May 10, 2010


"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation...And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." - (2 Cor 5:18-19)

On Saturday, God worked a miracle. A son who had not spoken to his father for over 7 years got in his car, drove to a senior care center, signed his name on the register, and sat down in a chair in room 316 to talk to his dad.

His dad was dying of bone cancer. The two of them last spoke outside an all-nite diner half a decade ago. The son had been driving a delivery truck and saw an old man at the bus stop who he thought looked like his father. He pulled over. The homeless man turned out to be his dad. He gave him a few dollars, they talked for five minutes, and then the son drove away again.

The two never exchanged phone numbers. They didn't know how to get back in touch with one another again. Years went by. It seemed hopeless.

About a year ago I started visiting Robert Higgins in his motel room. He lived on the third floor, all alone. He would talk to me about that day he last saw his son. His eyes would fill with tears as he remembered his family: A son, two daughters, an ex-wife, all lost to him now.

Robert had no photographs of his wife or his children. "I'm not even sure I would know them if I saw them again," he told me. Once, a few months ago, I asked a friend to drop by and pick up Robert's laundry for him. Later on, Robert had confessed to me that when my friend walked in the door he wondered if it might possibly be his son.

We looked for Robert's son for several months. I came up empty, but another friend found a series of phone numbers online that looked promising. I called all five phone numbers and left messages. No one called back.

In the meantime, Robert ended up having surgery on his arm to remove cancerous parts of his right arm. He received a porcelain prosthetic from his right shoulder to below his elbow, beneath the skin. The cancerous bone was removed, but his arm was useless, resting limply in a black nylon sling around his neck.

Over the next several months, Robert struggled to take care of himself in the motel room. With only one arm, he was unable to shave, to open his food, to cook for himself, or to get dressed. There were a few scares due to his emphyzyma as well and he eventually agreed to relocate to a senior care center near my house.

In all this time we spoke very little about his family. It became too painful to be reminded of a son and a family that he might never get to see again.

But then one Saturday, about five months ago, my cell phone rang. It was Robert's son. He told me that there had been some "drama" in their family a few years ago and that he felt like he might be ready to talk to his dad again. He agreed to let me give Robert his cell phone number and we said goodbye.

Still, months went by with no return calls from Robert's son. I began to get frustrated. So did Robert. His hopes, which had soared with possiblity, were now once again dashed on the rocks.

After this, during our visits together, Robert began to voice disappointment about his son's silence. He wondered if he would ever see his son or hear his voice again.

Up until this point, Robert had asked me not to tell his son about the bone cancer or the hospice care. I assume it was because he wanted his son's reconciliation to be based on a genuine desire to reunite and not because of his terminal condition. As hard as it was for me, I agreed to keep Robert's secret.

But, about three weeks ago, after nothing but silence from Robert's son, I decided to write a letter. In it, I revealed everything about Robert's condition to his son. I even included a photograph taken at Robert's 78th birthday party a few months previously. As Robert's condition worsened I felt like I had no choice but to risk our friendship in order to give his son one last chance to reconcile before it was too late.

Before I could send the letter out, Robert had a change of heart. In fact, it was the day after I had already written, (but not delivered), the letter to his son. As I was getting ready to leave after one of our visits together, Robert said, "Why don't you call my son and let him know everything about the cancer." I agreed, of course, (saying nothing about the letter I had already written up), and the next day I dropped the letter off at his son's workplace.

Another two weeks went by with no response. In the meantime, I prayed. In fact, my family prayed, our house church prayed, our men's group prayed, my parents in El Paso prayed, my Facebook friends prayed, and countless others prayed for Robert's son to have a change of heart.

On Saturday that prayer was answered.

Robert called me on my cell Saturday evening after his son had gone home. "He stayed here about four hours," Robert said. "We talked a long time. We both cried together, and then we watched the baseball game on television."

When it was time for Robert's son to leave he took his father's hand and said, "Dad, I need to go now. Would you mind if I came back and visited with you again sometime?"

Robert said, "Mind? Are you kidding? Come back anytime you want and stay for as long as you want."

When I heard the news about God's grace to Robert I wept for joy. I could hardly contain myself as the tears poured out of me.

"This is an answer to my prayers, Robert," I said. "You know I've been praying for this a long, long time."

"I know you have, Keith. My son even told me to make sure I called to let you know that he had finally come to see me," Robert said.

My prayers now are that God would use this breakthrough as an opportunity to reunite Robert with the rest of his family. I want Robert to see God work one more miracle. I want Robert to see his family come together again before he dies.

I also want Robert to surrender his life, and to give his heart, to the God who loves him more than life itself. I want him to know the same Jesus who moved time and space and shifted the stars to make a way for an estranged, lost son to be reunited with a dying father on Saturday.

Pray with me, if you would, for my friend Robert Higgins. I'm not sure how much longer he will live. Honestly, all I know is that I will be with him until the very end. Now, thankfully, I know that his son will be with him, too.

This miracle, as wonderful as it is, is just the beginning. I'm sure God is not finished with this man's life just yet.

I can't wait to see what God does next.

Thank you for praying.



Lori Stilger said...

Try stopping me from praying for this family's reconciliation!!!! God is so good. Thank you for allowing us to be part of taking the situation to the Throne!

Chase said...

What a beautiful story. And what a powerful testimony to the ministry of reconciliation. Thanks for sharing, Keith. My prayers are continued.