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I received the call just as we were heading out the door for church on Sunday morning.
It was from a number I didn’t recognize.
The caller identified herself as a family member of Derrick Wilson, who has visited our church within the last year.
She was the bearer of bad/sad news. The woman informed me that Derrick, who turned 50 not long ago, had died.
The news came as somewhat of a shock. I certainly wasn’t expecting that type of call. But on the other hand, Derrick lived a very rough life.
There were times in the past year that he’d been badly beaten up. The worst of them left Derrick laid up in an Atlanta hospital for a time with a collapsed lung, brain bruising and multiple other injuries. Another incident left him with severe burns to his chest, neck and arms.
In that respect – from knowing some of the things he’d recently encountered and endured – it perhaps wasn’t as surprising to hear the news. But it did catch me off guard.
My mind had little time to process it, considering I had to greet people at the service soon. But I pondered it later when I had time to myself.
Apparently, someone struck Derrick in the head at a convenience store. He later died at his home, according to the relative.
The news obviously left me sad – especially considering the condition in which Derrick left this life. Drug and alcohol addiction takes such a toll.
That was the case with Derrick.
He was a friend of mine – a person I attempted to work with since he visited our church services. He showed up out of the blue the first Sunday after I had been appointed to the local church.
Derrick was obviously more than just a little rough around the edges. But those are the types I like to take under my wing. I told him if he would repent and accept Jesus into his heart, he would have such a great testimony of God’s delivering power – that he could effectively outreach and relate to those with the same addictions he’d experienced.
Derrick always made me laugh. He had a way of making me smile with his stories and rapid speech.
The relative who informed me of his death told me that Derrick had spoken highly of me and others at the local church. That made me feel great because we genuinely cared for him.
Regarding his soul, I know I did everything I could in preaching the gospel to Derrick. We loved him and told him how to be saved.
We taught and preached that alcohol is a sin that must be repented of, and that Jesus died on the cross to forgive him – that Jesus could completely deliver him from the addiction’s clamping grip. Jesus’ blood has that power to overcome.
I wish I could have been there to try and assist Derrick after he had been injured and before he took his final breath.
I’m confident we were very truthful in discussing with Derrick how to make it into Heaven. “A man must be born again,” I told him on numerous occasions.
We didn’t hold anything back that was spiritually profitable to him.
My hope is that God brought His words of grace to Derrick as Derrick neared the end of his life, and that Derrick truly repented and became born again.
God’s word tells us of a thief on a cross next to Jesus. As the thief approached death, he recognized that Jesus was without sin and asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus came into His kingdom.
Jesus told the thief that, “Verily I say unto thee, To day thou shalt be with me in paradise.”
I hope Derrick chose that way, as well.
But we also don’t want to sugarcoat the gospel. Derrick’s lifestyle toward the end of his life did not bear the fruit of true salvation.
Because of that – unless there was a death-bed salvation experience – Derrick didn’t make it into Heaven. I know my friend would want me to use his story as a warning to others. In that way, Derrick can truly have an impact on souls.