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In his final 20 minutes with dad, son helped him meet the Savior

MARTINSVILLE, Ill. (BP)–If you had asked Stub Rice about Jesus or Christianity, the boy would have responded, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” The time and place — 1950s Illinois.
Loren M. “Stub” Rice II, now age 52, grew up in Harvard, Ill., about three miles south of the Wisconsin state line between Chicago and Rockford. He was the only child of Loren and Barbara Rice; and the topics Christ, Christianity or church “never came up” in the household.
The senior Rice died in 1997, but Stub remembers his dad as a “good man,” not a Christian in the ’50s, but a man who showed his son “the right ways. … He raised me in a way that was very honorable.”
Loren Sr. worked two eight-hour jobs to provide for his family. He earned a “modest living,” eventually paid for a home and had a little savings. He was a man who “always wanted to help people,” his widow remembers; but there was no place in his life for God.
Barbara, Stub’s mother, had grown up in Presbyterian and Lutheran churches. She was exposed to Christian influences. “My grandpa … sat and read the Bible every day,” she says. But in the 1950s, she had abandoned the things of God. “We weren’t a religious family,” she states.
Stub became like his father — a man who worked hard, but the only god in his life was a false one. “My job was my God,” he says. As manager of an oil company, he “wined and dined” customers. He was “totally motivated by worldly desires.”
Then he lost the job, and therefore lost his god. That’s when the “drinking kicked in;” and his marriage to his childhood sweetheart, Shirley, became fragile.
Stub’s life, however, began to change.
First, his teenage son, Loren III, became a Christian. He came to Christ through the efforts of a friend and the ministry of a Christian coffeehouse in Wisconsin. The younger Rice had been a kid prone to “trouble at school” for “poking people in the nose.” With Christ, he changed. “He went from the principal’s office to holding Bible study in our house at lunch hour,” his dad recounts. He’s now a college professor in economics.
Stub came to Christ in 1980 or ’81 at a Methodist church, attending there as part of a family tradition marking his in-laws’ wedding anniversary. “I came forward and invited Jesus in my heart,” he says, “went home, and broke every bottle and never took another drink. The Lord changed me that morning, and it was just a miracle.”
His parents, however, “weren’t interested” in making a commitment to follow Christ.
“He started hitting them over the head with the Bible,” says Stub’s wife, Shirley. But it did no good. His parents had the attitude that if Christian faith was “going to help him, that was fine;” but they didn’t need it.
Years passed, and God did another work in the life of Stub and Shirley Rice. In 1993, God called them into vocational ministry.
Stub had struggled with the call. He did not feel qualified to be a pastor, even though he was then a deacon at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Marengo, Ill. Then one day, they drove past a sign at a Lutheran church in Harvard. It said, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” Stub was convinced.
Shirley, however, wasn’t sure she was called to be a pastor’s wife. Six months later, in an “amazing” Sunday evening service, she “came from the piano” where she had been playing in order to tell the congregation she finally had felt God’s call as well.
Stub eventually became pastor of First Baptist Church, South Beloit, Ill. “Nothing happened for about a year,” the pastor recalls. But then they “started seeing the Lord working.”
Still, though, Stub’s parents turned their backs on the God of their son’s faith. About five or six years ago they said they prayed to receive Christ, but there was “no fruit” to indicate a conversion, Shirley recalls.
“All I saw,” Stub says, “was they wanted to get me off their backs.”
Then in 1997, Loren Sr. lay dying in bed. He was “out of his head most of the time” on the evening of June 21, Shirley says. But at 5 p.m., his mind became clear again, and for 20 minutes the son talked to the dad about the Savior.
Loren Rice Sr. came to Christ that day. The World War II Navy veteran who had been “raised kind of rough and tough” suddenly began to sing to the Lord. He said he saw Jesus. He had been changed — just in time. He died that night.
“It meant so much to me that I had that 20 minutes,” says his son. The two of them had always been very close. “My dad was a brother and a friend and a father.”
Stub’s mother came to Christ more slowly. She finally made her commitment this February while driving home with Stub from the airport in St. Louis. “I thought I had turned my life over to the Lord” back in South Beloit, she said. But that day in the car was different. “I had a different feeling for the world.”
Barbara Rice, at age 72, still faced another hurdle — her fear of water and, therefore, baptism.
As a child, a problem with her sinuses and headaches led a doctor to ban her from swimming. “I don’t want to be in water,” she proclaims emphatically. But when it came for baptism, she put her fear aside the week after Easter this year, and her son baptized her at Olive Branch Baptist Church in Martinsville, Ill., where he now is pastor.
“I just said I was going to do it,” she states. Then, speaking to her son, she adds, “I thought you were never going to bring me up.”
Reflecting back on her earlier rejection of Christ and church, Barbara recalls one of the reasons they didn’t go to church was that “we didn’t feel we could dress good enough, felt we would look funny.”
She still feels people ought to “dress up for the Lord when you go to his house.” But she added. “I wore jeans last night to church.”

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  • Ferrell Foster