By Chris Meehan and Sean Connolly
Julius, a 6’3’’ man with broad shoulders, wearing sweatpants and a hoodie, was pacing back and forth in his Evansville, IN, living room on a recent afternoon. He kept turning over a Scripture verse in his mind, hoping to understand it--John 3:5: “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
As Julius was pacing, missionaries Gianna Priolo, David Zimmel and Ann Raway were parking their van in front of his house and walking up to the front porch. It was their first stop of the day. They knocked twice and got no answer. Then they saw that the van door was open, so they hurried back to the street to shut it. “We were so excited to begin our mission work that we walked off and left the van door wide open,” Gianna explains. That’s when Julius opened his front door and looked out, so the missionaries rushed back up to his porch to meet him.
“We’re Christian missionaries, and God wanted us to knock on your door,” David said. “Well, come on in,” Julius replied quickly, opening the door wide. David noticed two Bibles on Julius’s couch, one lying open.
The missionaries began by sharing the word the Lord had given them to speak that day, that fasting was a way to draw near to God. “I receive that word,” Julius said with a gentle voice. He went on to tell them that just six weeks before, after years of falling short of an earlier commitment to the Lord, he had turned back to God and started going back to church. “But the Lord wants me to do something more,” he added. “I don’t know what it is, and I really want to find out what it is he wants.”
When they asked him what Scripture verse he was reading, Julius mentioned John 3. He’d been asked to run a Bible study on the passage, but he didn’t know what to say because he didn’t understand what Jesus meant by “born of water and the Spirit.”
David asked Julius what he knew about the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts, reading the list from 1 Corinthians 12. Julius listened closely, and said he had already been asking God for two of the gifts: knowledge and wisdom. They explained at some length about baptism in the Holy Spirit, and offered to pray with him on the spot. “I would like that,” Julius said.
“Julius dropped down on one knee and bowed his head for us to pray with him,” David recalls. The missionaries led him through a prayer committing himself to God, renouncing the attractions of the devil, and inviting the Holy Spirit into his life. They shared several words from the Lord for Julius, and after each he responded, “I accept that.”
As the missionaries left, Julius told David, “I believe God sent you. It’s not an accident what you said; it came from the Lord.” He and David exchanged phone numbers and have been in contact several times.
David said that the missionaries hadn’t been to Julius’s neighborhood for a year or more. Julius’s house, on the corner, was the first and only one they knocked on in the area that day.