In 1998, Ted and I moved to Edgewood Summit in an apartment next door to Bus and Helen Bibby. Even though we had not met before, we soon became good friends with the Bibby's. Early each morning, Bus left for his downtown office, carrying a brief case and the morning paper. In his mid-eighties, he was still practicing law.Helen and her family were enthusiastic Christians, and all of her family attended church faithfully, including her young grandchildren. Bus, though, had no interest in church whatever. He was a good man, but when the subject of church came up, he let everyone know where he stood. "Church is OK for all of you fine folk, but it's not for me," Bus told Ted, "I'm a lawyer, and I don't think any lawyer is good enough to make it to Heaven. I know I am not, and never will be." Helen asked Ted and I to join her family in praying for Bus. As we prayed, we wondered how we could reach lawyer Bus.Then, a lawyer friend came to mind. Ed and Frances Hiserman were Christians, and Ed had retired from practice and moved to North Carolina. Perhaps Ed, as one lawyer to another, would know how to reach Bus with the gospel? Ted called the Hisermans. It turned out that Ed was an old buddy of our friend, Bus!"Oh, my goodness," Ed said. "You don't mean that Bus is now your neighbor? l figured he was dead and gone by now! Bus and I used to have some really good times together -- I remember once when we got a drunk out of trouble because the prosecution didn't know what they were doing ... but why are you calling me?"
Ted explained that Bus felt unworthy, too sinful to deserve Heaven, and that the whole family was worried since, by this time, Bus was 90 years old, and time was running out. "I fully understand Bus' problem," Ed replied. "Bus needs to know that our Lord Jesus isn't looking for perfect people. Just the opposite, in fact. Our Lord came to save the down-trodden, weary, deep-in-sin, and needy folks -- not those who feel they have no need of salvation. If we can get that across to our friend, I think we'll see him in Heaven." Ed, a lawyer who knew how other lawyers think, began to work out a treatise to reach Bus.Then, Ted expanded John 3:16 into a note to Bus: "For God so loved Bus, that He gave His only Son Jesus Christ, and if Bus believes in Him, then Bus will be saved." Helen reported that Bus read it over and over. Then he asked for her Bible so he could read it himself. The Lord had already begun to move in Bus' heart. More was to come.Janie, Bus and Helen's seven-year-old grandchild, was already an artist. With crayons, she drew a picture of a boat -- a boat that was on its way to Heaven. In it she placed every family member, with their names written on each one. On one of the men in the boat, she wrote, "Grandfather," and she mailed the finished painting to Bus and Helen.
Bus looked at the crayon drawing, saw his name, and called Janie. "Honey, I'm not in the boat with all the rest of our family. I'm not a Christian." Janie replied, "But grandfather, Jesus told me that you were GOING to get in the boat, so I went ahead and put you in it with us." Bus did not reply. He just hung up and sat quietly, looking at the drawing.In the meantime, Ed completed his semi-formal, systematic treatise to Bus, and mailed it to Ted. Ted took it to Bus to read:"Dear Bus,When you die, you will stand before the Judge (God) who will meet out justice to you. But, the Judge will allow you to be defended by a Public Defender, the one and only Jesus Christ, whom God is more than willing to supply for free. If you accept Christ as your lawyer, His job will be to represent you before the Judge. Christ will plead for mercy for you.Therefore, do not attempt to represent yourself or plead your own case. The Judge is too tough. Your part is to plead guilty. You have broken the Law, and a broken Law must be satisfied, as you know. Jesus knows the Law really well, and He has never lost a case! Jesus offers a unique way to accomplish both justice and mercy for you, Bus. He died for your sins, and He wants you to spend Eternity with Him."Ed added a personal note: "Bus, my good friend, I know this fellow, Jesus, personally, and I know He can save your neck, just as he has saved mine. He pled my case before the Judge, and I was forgiven of my sins, and am promised Eternal life with Him. You can trust Him, too, Bus. More than anything else in this world, I want to have a reunion with you when my time comes to face the Judge. Give it a try. You have nothing to lose, and Heaven to gain."Helen told us later that Bus was crying by the time he got to the end of the letter from Ed. He got out of his chair, found the drawing his grandchild had made of the boat, and hung it on their apartment door for all of his neighbors to see. Then, he called Janie, and said, "Honey, your grandfather just got in the boat."Smith is a writer who lives at Edgewood Summit.