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My brother-in-law, Don, was a great guy. He was smart and very competitive. He loved games. Every game I ever played with him I lost.

One time Don, my husband Dave and I were playing Scrabble. I said, “If I only had a ‘G’ I could make the best word.”

Dave picked up a “G” from his pile and gave it to me.

Don said, “You can’t do that!”

Dave said, “What does it matter? It’s only a game. If it makes her happy, it makes me happy.”

Don was flabbergasted. He was in a rare state. He had nothing to say. You see, Don was a university professor. One of the subjects he taught was communication. Eventually, he used that moment in one of his lectures.

Don was a wonderful storyteller. He was engaging and outgoing, funny and entertaining. He also taught well. His students loved him, even though many said his was the hardest class they took.

He was kind and generous, and loving and loyal to his family and friends. Every Christmas he went out of his way to find just the right present for us all. Great stories always accompanied each gift. One year his mom, Joan, and I suggested that we cut down on the number of presents. Don said that we could, but he would not.

It simply gave him a lot of joy to give. And he got to tell all those stories surrounding his purchases. We just smiled and left things the way they were.

Yep, Don was one of the good guys. There was just this one thing.

When he was in college in his 20s, he left his faith. I’m not sure it if happened all at once or if it was a gradual drifting away. I met Don about a decade later when I married his brother.

One Christmas while the rest of the family was sleeping in, Don, Joan and I (the early risers) were sitting around the kitchen table drinking coffee and sharing good conversation. Somehow we got on the subject of God.

Don said, “God helps those who help themselves. It says so in the Bible.”

I looked at Joan. She didn’t say anything. So I said, “That’s not in the Bible.”

“Oh yes it is,” said the university professor with complete confidence.

“Oh, no it’s not,” I said. “Show it to me.”

At that point Don looked at his mom for confirmation. She shook her head, “No.” That was the end of the conversation. He was certain he was right, yet he knew that his mom had a lifelong love and knowledge of the Bible. Long ago she’d lost count of how many times she’d read the Bible all the way through. If she said it wasn’t there, it wasn’t there.

We all had many happy times together over the years. But as often happens in life, things changed. Ten years ago Dave passed away from cancer. Five years later Don did the same. Dave had a strong faith. He told me that he knew that whether God healed him on earth or in heaven that he was going to be okay.

Don used his wit, his humor, and his storytelling to entertain others during his struggles with cancer. He wrote funny emails about his treatments. He also wrote words of encouragement to us.

But at the very end, Don’s intelligence, humor, and great personality are not what helped him. It was the 40 years of Joan’s prayers that made all the difference.

You see, Joan prayed for Don to return to the Lord for 40 years. She never gave up hope. She never stopped praying. She told me that at the end, Don came back to faith. I’m so thankful.

Every day, my husband Mel and I pray for all of our loved ones. We especially pray for those who are unsaved. Life here on earth is short. None of us knows when our time here is up.

We need to love those we love while we still have them. We can especially love them by praying for their salvation. Don’t be fooled. It’s pretty easy to understand. You don’t need a PhD to get it. When we leave this earth, there are only two places to go.

One is heaven with the Lord Jesus. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).

The other is hell, which is eternal separation from God. “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:5).

After we’re gone, there’s no longer a choice. If you don’t choose the Lord before you die, you’ve already chosen Satan. Choose wisely. Choose now.

Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at kathyyoder4@gmail.com.

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