The sun was setting and the lights of Hot Springs, Arkansas, were starting to glimmer against the surrounding mountains. It was Friday night and people were hurrying from work to begin the wonderful weekend! Everywhere you looked you could practically read the minds of those you passed: “TGIF!” The restaurants were filling up and the Oaklawn horse racing parking lot was nearly full. (Oh! How my Dad hated the traffic caused by people out gambling!)
My family also enjoyed a Friday night tradition: eating fish at Kilby’s Restaurant! MMMM-Good! My Mom, Dad, brother and sister had enjoyed this tradition of good food and a relaxing evening out for some time.(I had not yet arrived on the scene) It was getting a little uncomfortable though, since the new waitress came. When my Dad worked for the Hot Springs School District as pupil personnel director, Jean Daves was a volunteer that worked with him for a while. She was a very nice lady, and my Dad was a people person, so she always greeted our family warmly when they showed up to eat some fish on Friday night!
The owners of the Restaurant were members of Grand Avenue Baptist Church and sweet Christians. It just so happens that Jean Daves was a member there, too.
She began inviting my Dad to church. “Ron, I want you to come to my church. We have a new pastor and you’d just love him!” She would say as she seated them. “His name is Glenn Riggs, and he’s so nice. I hope you’ll come visit soon.” She’d say again when she brought the food. My Dad would smile and say “Oh really?Well, yes, we’ll have to do that.” He would then proceed to dig in and forget all about it.
This continued for weeks. Every Friday, the Courtney family would eat fish; every Friday, Jean Daves was the waitress – or server! – and would invite them to church. “Ron, now I really want you to come visit. You said you would!”
Finally, my Mother became embarrassed to eat there and continue to put this zealous woman off for another week, because they really hadn’t seriously meant to visit her church or her pastor. “Ron,” Mom said one night as they headed out the door for fish, “You know Jean is going to invite us to church again tonight…we need to either stop eating there, or go visit her church!” Well, a decision was made. I don’t know whether my Dad had a strong desire for spiritual matters, if he simply loved food that much, or both. But whatever the reason, they decided to attend Jean Daves‘ church…and it changed our lives. I’m including myself there, because, while I was not yet born or even considered, it affected my life.
They went to church there that week. They’d never heard anything like it. In the other churches they attended, it seemed as though the preacher was talking over them, instead of to them, and they had never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. My brother, Kevin, who was nine, leaned over to Mom and whispered “Mom! I understand what he’s saying!”
My parents left. They did not get saved that night, but they had kept their promise to Jean Daves!
Later that week, they received a visit from the Pastor, Glenn Riggs, and the associate Pastor, Glenn Lewis. Seated at the brown kitchen table at 110 Sunset Bay Drive in Hot Springs, Arkansas, my parents accepted the gift of Jesus into their lives, and we’ve never been the same. My parents could never seem to get over what Jesus had done for them. They weren’t part of the “party” lifestyle, they weren’t drunks or hooked on drugs, yet they knew they were unworthy of Jesus – as we all are. They have given their lives to knowing Him and serving Him. My parents have worked on buses, in Sunday School, and have gone soul winning, sharing the Good News with others that Jean Daves helped to share with them! In fact, my Dad was out knocking doors his last night on this Earth! What a faithful Father I had! My mother has not quit serving since Dad’s home-going – as many women would. She keeps going! What a faithful lady she is!
I’ve been given a wonderful life – a life in Christ – and I owe it to a lady that I’ve never even met. I owe it to a lady who loved the Lord enough to not only invite others to church, but to be persistent at it!
Thank you, Jean Daves, for being a living witness for the Lord. You made a difference in our family for eternity.