Someone contacted me to say that the town drunk had had a stroke and was in the local hospital. Could I visit him? I have had dealings with him over the years, seen him lain out on a bench in front of the bank dead drunk, an empty wine bottle under the seat, been approached by him with the grin of alcohol on his lips as he came asking me for money, "Reverend . . .?" I have seen him sober for months if not years when he lived with a decent woman. He has been to church once or twice. I have been to a little flat he lived in at his dry times (he has slept for months in the cardboard boxes behind one of the supermarkets), and he has listened to me, agreeing, but never committed. He has been living at tax-payers' expense for a year in good sheltered accommodation and there I spoke to him four weeks ago about coming to pick him and a friend up and bring them both to church.
He was drinking with his friend last Saturday night when he fell over. His friend thought he was drunk, could not rouse him, put a blanket over him and a pillow under his head and went to bed. In the morning he was just the same and another call was made and then they got an ambulance. He had had a stroke and one side of his body seems paralyzed.
On Wednesday I went into the four-bed ward where he is and tried to talk to him but he can't speak and looks vacant. I don't know how much he understands. I told him to look to the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, the Saviour who receives sinful men who put their trust in him, to ask for his forgiveness. He closed his eyes. He does not speak.
Then I saw on the other side of the room a retired Calvinistic Methodist minister, Jim Walters, who had had a stroke about five years ago. His wife was with him. He also can hardly speak, and has lost the use of one side of his body. He smiled at me and I began to speak to him. I said, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
"The Word," he said to me (in Welsh). "The Word," again, imploringly, and I said to him, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
He wept. "The Word," he said, "The Word," entreating me. So I said again to him, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
"The Word," he said, tears running down his cheeks. His wife dried them. I then prayed with him and told him I would return. His face was beaming. The Word.