I can’t remember his name. He was, to me, an old man and I was in my early teens, but he must have been only in his fifties. I would often see him walking home from the bus stop, after a day’s work, wearing an old coat and a cloth cap, and carrying an empty lunch bag. Body bowed against the ever-present winter winds, he would walk home with his collar raised up to protect his face from the swirling, foggy Irish drizzle, a fine rain that lasted for days at a time.
Unsaved as I was, I had some respect for him, because he was in fellowship in one of the local assemblies, and I was taught to respect believers. He attended a Hall that had the advantage of being on a country bus route, so we often went there for the regular Sunday night gospel meetings, even though we “attended” another assembly.
I suppose you would say he was a “back bencher,” a quiet man who did not attract attention or command respect other than that normally accorded adults, and he never took public part in assembly meetings when I was there. The neighbors paid him even less heed. He didn’t have a car and lived in a humble cottage on a gravel road near our house. Thus, as I rode my bicycle around the neighborhood after school, I would often see him trudging home in the rain after a day’s labor. He wasn’t anybody in particular.
For me, that all changed one Sunday night.
I didn’t get saved until a few years after we moved from the area, but I learned something from him that has stayed with me and helped clear my perspective about saints of God, especially the humble and the unrecognized.
The gospel meeting that particular Sunday night was a testimony meeting, taken by three visitors who told how they had been saved. They did so in that biographical manner typical of the Irish. Such meetings held me spellbound and my mother had no difficulty getting me there for meetings such as these. That specific night the three preachers were converted Roman Catholics, so it was particularly interesting. One by one they told their stories.
The first speaker gave us his background and led us to the critical point in his story where a “converted Roman Catholic” brought him the gospel and was a strong influence in his conversion. The second told us a different story, but with a similar impact from an anonymous “converted Roman Catholic” who was pivotal to his accepting Christ. The meeting continued with the third brother’s telling us yet another story, different from the other two, but with that similar essential element – the role of an anonymous “converted Roman Catholic.” No wonder we were all impressed with these nameless saints, who did such a work for God.
Then, in closing, the third speaker went on, “And I suppose you wonder who this “converted Roman Catholic” is? Well, it is brother so and so, sitting right here with us tonight.” I don’t remember too much of what he said after that because I was a bit stunned. The speaker had identified the small, quiet, unassuming man who lived near us, the man who was a “nobody” and largely unknown outside his own assembly.
I viewed him differently after that. As I watched him trudge up the road, coat collar bundled up around his cheeks to ward off a little of the misty drizzle and with the wind blowing against him, I saw more than the neighbors did. I saw, not an unknown peasant, but a gentleman of God – a blue blood.
There are thousands just like him all over the world, men and women who go on their way quietly, doing what they can for God without worrying about recognition or getting “place” in their local assemblies. We owe a lot to such anonymous believers, who won’t be recognized until a coming day that won’t be long now. As I look back, now a believer myself, I can still see him winding his way up to his little cottage and I am overcome with the hope that, when I pass on, at least one person will remember me the way I remember him, a member of the aristocracy of heaven.