BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–From the time Dana Watson came to Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries at age 10, his houseparents taught him the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and church involvement. That spiritual encouragement was still a major influence in Watson’s life 16 years later when God brought him 650 miles from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas to his birth mother’s deathbed in Mobile, Ala., to lead her to Jesus Christ.
Watson, his sister Tina, and his wife, Ashleigh, had just informed his mother that the doctors were not expecting her to live much longer. Her cancer treatment had been reduced to little more than attempts to ease the pain. As his mother, in shock, cried, Dana approached her hospital bed and hugged her.
“I kept saying, ‘It’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay,’ and I kept thinking in my head that she doesn’t have to be scared,” said Watson, now in his third year of studies at Southwestern. “So I backed up, looked her in the eyes, and said, ‘You don’t have to be scared, Mom. This body will die, but no one can take away your Spirit. You don’t have to be scared, because you can have the promise of heaven. Jesus can give us that promise because he died on a cross for us. He has the power to forgive us of our sins.'”
Watson continued to bring comforting words to his mother. “[I said,] ‘Mom, he loves you so much. Do you know that? He loves you more than you will ever know. He doesn’t care about the bad things you have done in life.
“He just wants to have a relationship with you. He wants to forgive you of your sins and change your life. He wants to give you peace and hope in these last couple of months. He can save you and give you the promise of heaven, if you would only ask him to. It’s just that simple. Ask him to come into your heart and forgive you of your sins and he will help you get through this. Do you want to do that today? Do you want to ask him to come into your life and give you peace to help you through what you are going through now and to secure your promise of heaven? You can do that now. Would you like to do that?'”
Watson said his mother stared straight into his eyes, tears gone, and replied, “Yes, yes I would.”
“Praise God. I couldn’t hold in the excitement,” he said. “I would now spend eternity with my mother, who, at times, I thought would never turn to God.
“It wasn’t me who began talking to her about receiving Christ,” Watson said. “I would not have picked that time. In fact, I wanted to do it the next day. God took over and he knew when the right time was. God had it planned out. Her heart was ready and God secured her for heaven.”
The next day, Watson noticed a transformation in his mother’s life. She wasn’t scared anymore.
“My mother would usually get depressed easily, yet despite the terrible news she had heard the day before, she was smiling, laughing and upbeat,” Watson said. “I used the next day to disciple her a little and I brought her a Bible. I showed her where she could start to read and I highlighted some passages and promises that I wanted her to read regarding what she had done the day before.”
She died shortly after her salvation.
Watson said he believes that his mother’s willingness to hear him present the gospel was due to their strong relationship, though he was unable to live with her for many years.
“Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes encouraged me to visit my mother and keep in contact with her,” Watson said. “I always had that option open to me. The children’s home understood that I only had one mother and that it was important that we be a part of each other’s life. They know that the child/family relationship is important and would never do anything to get in the way of mine and my mother’s relationship.”
Watson often uses his experiences of living at the children’s homes in Mobile to take opportunities to share the gospel.
“A lot of times, kids ask me how I lived there for so long and I tell them that it was God’s plan for my life and that God has a plan for their lives as well,” he said. “It is important that that they know Jesus is the only reason I’ve made it through life this long and that he can do the same for them. In him there is peace and contentment, despite any situation.”
Watson said Jim and Marie Marchetti, his houseparents at the children’s home, have been his strongest spiritual mentors. They continue to teach him that a Christian witness is more then verbal; it’s a lifestyle that attracts others to want to know Christ.
“Another person who helped me understand that sharing Christ is done by example is [Children’s Homes social worker] Carolyn Eberlein,” he said. “She helped me in college to see that we must always live as Christ did, even when we think no one is watching. There was a time that I wasn’t being the example I should be in college and she called me on it. Christians need accountability, and I love her for providing that in my life.”
Burben and Martha Sullins, members of Cottage Hill Baptist Church in Mobile where Dana was a member for several years, taught him to share Christ with others through sacrifice. The Sullinses helped coordinate the four mission trips that provided opportunity for Dana to grow spiritually during high school and college.
“We built churches around the country for those who don’t have the resources to build but have the materials,” he said. “It was always hard work, but it was always worth it. Those mission trips were great times of sharing and serving Christ that I will never forget.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: DANA WATSON and SPIRITUAL MENTORS.