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SBC Life Articles

The Prodigal Father


I'll Be Home For Christmas is not only a classic seasonal song but it is a touching thought for most people. There's just something about the idea of home, love, concern, and family during the Christmas season. But what about all those "prodigals" that have gone so far away from home? Larry's story of his father illustrates how God can reach even these.

It was 1953. My father was an alcoholic drifter running from the police because of robbing grocery and liquor stores while between jobs. My mother, already with three children, was pregnant and becoming increasingly fearful for our safety and sanity. She finally decided to stop all the abuse and madness. My dad was wanted by the police in several northern states so when mother told them about his latest escapades they immediately arrested him and that was the last time any of us saw him.

We moved to New York. I was three at the time and lived there for seventeen years, mostly in a government housing project. Welfare and food stamps were all we had while mother worked hard at odd jobs. One day some people knocked at our door from a Bible-believing church and my mother accepted Christ. Nine years later I also received Christ, thanks to that same team of visitors.

Life went on and good things happened for me. I had a family, was president of my own business, and became a member of a Baptist church. Although my father had never once contacted any of us over the last forty-four years, I was overwhelmed with curiosity about him. My wife and I had been intensely searching for over a year and I was ready to give up. However, a Social Security worker said we might be able to get a letter to him.

While on a business trip to California, I attempted to write the letter. Later on this trip, I called my wife and she immediately said, "Larry, what would you do if your father came to our door?" Before I could say much, she replied, "Larry, he's here, your father is here!"

Remember, I had not even mailed the letter yet!

Arriving home I met my father, a tiny, emaciated skeleton of a man who looked much older than his age of eighty. We spent the next ten days together. I shared my faith and bought him a Bible that had the plan of salvation in it, but he never received Christ.

Dad went back out west and our lives went on their ways. I had just finished my first semester of FAITH Sunday School Evangelism training and I felt confident now that I could present the gospel in an understandable way. Dad had a Bible and a copy of the plan of salvation, but my wife and I now believed he needed to hear about God's saving grace from the heart and lips of someone who really loved and cared for him.

We left the east coast and arrived at the motel room out west where he lived. After driving around and talking a bit I asked him FAITH's key question, "In your personal opinion, what do you believe it takes for someone to go to heaven?" He gave a very unclear works answer and lamented about living such a bad life, declaring he would never be welcomed into heaven. I presented the FAITH outline and after some clarification he willingly prayed with me to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.

After forty-four years, the Lord used FAITH as His way to equip, train, enable, and motivate me to lead my prodigal father to a home in heaven!

Since this experience, every Christmas is brighter for Larry and his family because his prodigal father came "home."

"You can count on me!" is another familiar line to I'll Be Home For Christmas. May the Christ of Christmas be able to count on us to help others come "home" to Him!

    About the Author

  • Bobby Welch