When I was twelve, our rural Tennessee church had a “gospel meeting”–seven days of church, afternoons and evenings. The preacher that year was Bill Long, probably in his twenties at the time.
I was convicted that I wanted to be a Christian and be baptized, and my parents, who’d put me off earlier, agreed. The evening was exciting. Immersion by a man I admired. My sins washed away. I was clean and fresh and new.
My parents kept in touch with Bill, and he’d sometimes stop by to see them since they were en route to his wife’s parents. But I did not. I married. Moved to several states. Had children, one married, one in high school.
I finally had some summer days to enjoy short trips with friends. I invited my friend Marcia to go with me to a Nashville series of lectures, sermons, and singing called “Jubilee.”
I saw Bill Long’s name on the program too late to go hear him, but I went to the room where he had spoken and waited outside the door.
I recognized him instantly and approached him tentatively. I said, “My name is La…” and before I could get the words out, he enveloped me in a huge bear hug and said, “You’re Lanita Bradley! Don’t you think I know you, girl? I baptized you!”
I was thrilled. I couldn’t believe he remembered me after 40 years. We had a great conversation. I left feeling clean and fresh again.
I’ve thought back on that encounter many times. I want to engrave on my mind and heart the faces and personalities of those I’ve intentionally influenced for Christ. I want to greet them with open arms at every opportunity. I want to be Bill Long.
Have you ever been surprised when someone remembered you?