He had no idea what would come from the thank you note he wrote, all he knew was that he had to write it, and he knew exactly who he needed to write it to.
During our ThankFULL series at Chets, we passed out thank you cards and challenged everyone to write out a thank you and give it to someone. A specific woman came to Mike Russell’s mind during that challenge. That woman was Geri. She was the one to first shared the gospel with Mike and played an instrumental role in his faith journey.
It had been about 2 ½ years since Mike had last seen Geri when he called her in November. Geri’s daughter answered and told him Geri was receiving cancer treatment at Kindred Hospital in Green Cove Springs. Mike and his wife drove down to Green Cove and found her in worse shape than they expected. Although her eyes were open, Geri was not able to communicate. Mike took out the thank you letter he wrote and began to read it to her…
I called your house the other day and Sue told me you were at Kindred Hospital in Green Cove Springs. Diane and I immediately decided we wanted to come visit you.
I want to thank you for being such a great friend over these last 40 years. Back in the late ‘70’s when I showed up at Alderman Park Apartments and asked if you would like a bid regarding painting your apartments, you pretty quickly offered me the job. I was always impressed with your positive approach to life and how nice you were to people.
(At the time, Mike owned an apartment painting business and came across Geri while making cold calls.)
It didn’t take you long to start telling me about Jesus Christ. I would classify myself as an agnostic at that time in my life. I basically didn’t care if there was a God or not.
(Mike started drinking in high school at the age of 17 and continued to abuse alcohol and drugs until he was 34. Still in the middle of abusing drugs and alcohol, Mike said Geri could tell he was hurting and that he needed the Lord. Geri continued sharing the truth of the gospel with Mike even though he didn’t want to think about God.)
Fast forward to 1985. I was a patient at the Care Unit in Jacksonville Beach. I realized I was an alcoholic and that I wanted to stop. It was a very difficult time in my life. You came to visit me, which was a tremendous encouragement. You gave me my first Bible at that time (which I still have and will forever cherish).
After getting sober, I wanted to know the answers to life’s most important questions. Why am I here? Who created this world? What is the purpose of life? I eventually found out those answers. On June 29, 1986 I asked Jesus into my heart and became a Christian.
(When you’re not sober, you’re not thinking about big life things. “When you get sober, you begin to wonder about things because you’re not numbing your brain every night” said Mike. During this time, Mike was working for a trucking company and met another woman, Betty, who sensed he was searching for truth. Mike began going to a Bible study she led and also started going to church with her. “The more I learned about the Bible, the more I knew it was true” said Mike. One Sunday he asked Betty, “when do you know it’s time” and that day he gave his life to the Lord. The truth that Geri had shared years before had finally taken root.)
Geri, I want you to know that you played a HUGE part in my salvation. Thank you so much for investing the time in me so that I was able to come to Christ.
Love in Christ,
After finishing the letter, Mike and Diane spent some time praying with Geri believing that she heard them. “I am very grateful that we were able to spend a little time with Geri and to thank her for the impact she has had on my life” said Mike.
You see, a few weeks ago, Geri passed away. Although it’s sad she’s not here anymore, Mike said it’s good knowing she’s no longer in pain and there’s hope because he’ll see her again someday.
“You have those people along the way that plant seeds” said Mike. In his life, a whole lot of those seeds were planted by Geri. He says unlike Geri, he may not tell everyone in the grocery store about Jesus. But he is willing to share the truth of the gospel to his own family and the other people God puts in his life.