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FIRST-PERSON: Emily’s urgent call

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–The urgent call came early in the third quarter of a football game on Thanksgiving night, interrupting the family gathering at my aunt’s house.

My daughter, Emily, walked into the living room and whispered into my ear, “Daddy, I really need to ask Jesus into my heart. Won’t you come back to the bedroom and tell me how to do that?”

My second cousin, Kevin Fant, was quarterbacking for Mississippi State, and it would be his last game, so watching the game on television had been the planned highlight of the day. When my little girl whispered those words into my ear, however, the game disappeared as a priority. I grabbed my Bible out of my briefcase, took her hand and led her back into the bedroom in which we all were staying. Her twin brother, Ethan, and my wife, Lisa, joined us on the bed as I talked about sin, Christ’s love for us and the meaning of the cross and the resurrection.

When Lisa and I found out that we were expecting our children, we began praying for their salvation while they were yet in the womb. Our parents began praying for them, too. I knew that in that evening, sitting together on that bed, our prayers for Emily were going to be answered.

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After talking to Emily, Lisa and I were convinced that this was a genuine decision. Emily wasn’t just parroting what she had heard; she meant what she said. I then led her in the sinner’s prayer, and we all hugged as spiritual brothers and sisters, not just as parents and child. Ethan wasn’t ready to make his decision, but he was just as excited as the rest of us.

We walked back into the living room, and Emily announced to everyone what had just happened. It was especially moving for my father, since Thanksgiving Day was also his birthday. Now he and his granddaughter share the same birthday.

In adults who have become recent converts, I have always seen an overpowering desire to devour the Word of God and a compulsion to share their faith with others. With my daughter, it’s been the same pattern. How sweet it has been to watch her fall asleep at night reading her Bible. To watch her tell everyone she meets that she has asked Jesus into her heart. To see her excitement in learning who are her new brothers and sisters in Christ.

In 2 Timothy 4:2, the Apostle Paul wrote that we should “proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not” (HCSB). What a blessing from God to be able to help deliver my own child into His Kingdom right in the middle of a football game on a national holiday.
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Gene Fant Jr. chairs the English department at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. With his wife, Lisa, he is the author of “Expectant Moments: Devotions for Expectant Couples” (Zondervan, 2002).