The Desecularization of Arnold


Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:1-3

Arnold is 82 years old and an invalid. He’d been a cantankerous atheist since 1974 when he announced to his believing wife that he no longer believed in God — no longer believed there even was a God. It broke her heart, but she stuck with him and prayed for him for 44 years. Over all that time, Marie would warn her believing friends not to bring up God or anything about religion because it would immediately stop the conversation. If anything, it was going to take a quiet witness to win him over.

Then Arnold had an accident and a couple of surgeries and suddenly found himself on his back with a feeding tube and a catheter, unable to move any part of his body any more than an inch or two. His whole body was as stiff as his stiff neck toward God.

Last summer I started helping Marie care for Arnold. She’s a feisty 86 but even with her unusual health and strength for her age, there were things she could not do alone. And when she fell and fractured her pelvis I stepped in and volunteered 24-hour assistance. After 72 hours of that, when I was readying myself to go home for the first time, Arnold, who hardly ever spoke, showed a chink in his atheist armor. He thanked me, and asked me to pray for them both.

It’s a couple of miles between our houses, and I could have called Uber (it was late at night) but I elected to walk home because I was floating in the joy of what God was obviously doing in his life. A few weeks later, I asked him if his beliefs were changing. He said, cautiously, that he was starting to go back. That’s when I found out he grew up in an Assembly of God church and believed once. The next time I brought the subject up, I played a couple of songs for him. One was Love Song’s “Welcome back to the things that you once believed in…” The other was a new song by Glenn Kaiser called “Homes for Heroes.” Here are the lyrics:

In God’s house there are many mansions

In His love there’s room for all

In His kingdom grace abounds

To bear us up when we fall


There are homes for heroes

And beds for sinners too

And healing for the wounded

And a place for me and you


We all fall in many fashions

We get lost and lose our place

We all need that sweet salvation

That cries out “Amazing Grace”


There are homes for heroes

And beds for sinners too

And healing for the wounded

And a place for me and you

When the song was over, and emboldened by his continued interest, I told Arnold about the red letters of Jesus — the passage from John 14 upon which this song was based. I told him that Jesus had gone to prepare a place for him, and that He was going to come back and take him there to be with Him forever. And then I asked him if he believed that, and he said, “Yes.”

“You’re in!” I said, immediately. “Welcome to the family!”

Two weeks later, Arnold was baptized. Now he’s like a sponge for anything from the word of God, especially the red letters. He loves the red letters. We just finished the gospel of John. Yesterday, I read him part of the Sermon on the Mount, some of which is pretty hard to grasp. I mentioned that to him and he disagreed, saying that he got it. He understood it. It made perfect sense to him.

That’s the other thing that’s happened: he’s come out of himself. He talked more the day after he was saved than he had for the prior three months put together. In the beginning of my relationship with him I wasn’t even sure he was really conscious; he rarely ever spoke. Now he can stay alert for up to two hours, depending on his condition. The most important thing about that is that he wants to be alert, in order to hear more and know more about those red letters.

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12 Responses to The Desecularization of Arnold

  1. Bridget says:

    I loved reading this about Arnold! So encouraging. Showing God’s love through your actions.

  2. John A Fagliano says:

    These red letters come to mind. “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35 It was your willingness to serve an elderly atheist for 3 days and nights, that made the difference. This is what happens when people put the red letters in practice.

  3. Priscilla says:

    Hearing about Arnold gives me hope for my son and daughter in law.

  4. That is amazing! I think all of us have been praying for him and for you. God has used a time when Arnold literally had nothing left… nothing to look forward to, nothing to do, nothing physical to burden him. He had nothing, and God has filled him up with everything! Praise the Lord!

  5. Mark D Seguin says:

    God’s speed to u & Arnold! ❤

  6. Sandie says:

    Proof that absolutely no one is beyond the reach of Jesus’ love!

  7. Sandy L Shorter says:

    Bless you for never giving up and allowing God the time to work in this man’s heart.

  8. Pingback: The indisputable advantage of being last | John Fischer The Catch

  9. That explains the boisterous celebration I heard overhead the other day!

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