A lifetime journey begins with an impromptu conversation.
In 2005 I had just arrived in Miami Beach, Florida. I had no intention of finding God, or, should I say, God finding me.
Soon after my arrival, as I searched for employment, I spotted a “Help Wanted” sign in the window of Johnny Rockets, a 1950s-style hamburger joint. With good food and music, it wasn’t a bad place to work. So there I was, Johnny Rockets’ newest dishwasher.
A Pilgrimage of Sorts
I had recently been on a road trip that had taken me all over the western United States, then across the South to Florida. This excursion took place over a period of about five months. I carried two duffel bags that contained the basics: clothes, hygiene supplies, etc. In one of the bags I carried a Bible and a few books by Ellen White.
When I left California, I was not a Christian. To be honest, I didn’t have much of a desire for spiritual things. I simply felt the need to bring along these books, Bible included, in case I felt the desire to open them.
Seven months after I left California, I hadn’t opened the books, including the Bible, even once, until the night I met Josh.
A Schedule Change
There were two Johnny Rockets in Miami Beach. One on Ocean Drive, and one on Lincoln Road. I worked on Lincoln Road. Josh worked on Ocean Drive. One night shift I showed up ready to wash dishes as usual. The unusual thing was that I had a helper, Josh.
Josh was a Christian, and he shared with me his faith in the Lord. He was a thin, clean-cut young man, 21 or 22 years old. He was well-mannered and kind, and spoke sincerely and earnestly.
As we came to the end of our shift, about midnight, we realized we would be sharing a bus across the bay. As we waited for our bus we stopped in a nearby store to get some juice.
As we talked, I mentioned that I had a knowledge of God, that I was taught about Him since I was a child. But I obviously wasn’t doing anything about it.
Josh asked, “What are you waiting for?”
Of course, I had no logical explanation. What was I waiting for?
To follow up his question, Josh presented me with a simple truth. He stated plainly, “You’re literally playing with fire.”
That simple statement brought conviction. It reflected the reality that those who put off knowing God face a lake of fire!
Making a Connection
Soon our bus arrived. As we rode across the bay and through the streets our conversation continued. We sat across from each other, with the aisle between us. I remember him saying, “God wants to know us personally.”
Short, simple, and powerful! This portrayal of God was entirely new to me, or maybe it wasn’t new to me at all. Perhaps it was the fact that Josh had a living experience with God, and I had never actually witnessed such true religion before, that of the Holy Spirit living within someone and speaking through them. I knew Josh had discovered something wonderful.
He asked, “Have you ever asked the Lord to come into your heart?”
“Would you like to?”
We were on a public bus. I had never prayed out loud in front of another person before, except for maybe my parents as a child. I thought about Josh’s question and responded, “Right now?”
“Sure,” he answered.
“I don’t know how.”
“That’s OK,” he said. “I’ll lead out, and you follow.”
Then he added an important detail: “But you have to mean it.”
So there it was, the moment God had been drawing me to: the moment He had waited for, the moment Jesus had died for. On a city bus, in the middle of the night, in downtown Miami, with Josh leading in prayer, I asked the Father to send His Son, Jesus, into my life.
God seeks us in the darkness. He seeks us where we are. He comes to us while we are sinners. He heard that prayer and answered it.
As we finished praying I remember looking up and smiling. I said, “I can’t stop smiling.”
With a smile on his face Josh looked at me and said, “We’re going to heaven!”
The Spirit’s Voice
As we approached the place where we had to transfer, with him going one way and me another, instead of going separate ways Josh invited me to spend the night where he was staying.
We went to his place and talked until about 4:00 a.m. He continued to share about his walk with the Lord. I noticed that he didn’t have a television. I asked, “Why don’t you have a TV?”
“There’s nothing good to watch,” He said. “And besides, it only takes time away from the time I can spend with God.” He shared how he began every day in prayer. He shared that when we pray we are going before the very throne of God. He said solemnly, “He speaks to me.”
Prior to working at Johnny Rockets, Josh was living on the streets. When I met him, he was doing well. About six months before, about the time I left California, he began reading the Bible. This young man is proof that a supernatural power attends the reading of the Bible.
Josh didn’t belong to any church; he didn’t have any Christian friends to guide him (that I know of). He had the Bible and the Holy Spirit. He even understood the Sabbath, and clearly understood the way of salvation. Most important, he had a relationship with Jesus Christ. And all that in six months of Bible reading!
As the early-morning hours wore on we decided to call it a night. A few hours later it was time for me to head home. Josh and I made plans to find a church to attend together. Since he was already aware of the Sabbath, and I was raised a Seventh-day Adventist, I suggested we try an Adventist church. He liked the idea.
We said our goodbyes, and I headed toward the train station to catch my ride home. After months of carrying my Bible, it was time to open it. Thus began my walk with the Lord.
A short time later I left Miami for Key West. I haven’t seen Josh since the morning we said goodbye.
I often think of Josh. It would be nice to see him again. What a joy it will be to see my friend in heaven. I know he will be there. God’s timing is always right on. He knows who to send, and just when to send them.
I remember asking Josh, “Why do you live in a city like this?”
He replied, “This is where the Lord wants me.”
After graduating from the Mission College of Evangelism, Don Whitley taught Bible at a mission academy in Guyana, South America.