It was a football Saturday at Purdue University in the late 1990s. I had been called on to serve as a student-host at a post-game alumni party that afternoon in the home of one of the vice-presidents. Alumni often knew my grandparents since my grandfather had been a three-sport athlete at Purdue, had owned a drugstore on the edge of campus for many years, had served in several public offices, and the family had been active in the community.
When I mentioned to an older woman at the post-game party that Bill and Lois Long were my grandparents, she exclaimed,
Bill and Lois Long are your grandparents?! Oh, they used to throw the most wonderful parties!
I had heard about those parties thrown in their Victorian home, more than three decades earlier. My grandparents knew how to work hard and play hard in their thirties. Homecoming weekends were especially full; their friends knew what to expect at the Long house. My mother recalled waking as a child on those Sunday mornings. Descending the stairs, she would peer over the banister to see hungover guests slumbering wherever they had landed in the wee hours.
The woman addressing me thirty years later continued with wide eyes,
And then they became…
She leaned in to touch my forearm, as her voice dropped to a whisper,
…born again Christians, and it all stopped!
Then her voice rose again, and she said emphatically,
But they weren’t bad parties!
I was impressed that even thirty years later, she knew why their behavior had changed, even if she wasn’t thrilled by it. At that poignant moment, I could only express to her my gratitude that they had indeed been changed by the Lord.
In 1965, my grandparents came to know Jesus Christ personally through a study of the Gospel of John, and the old things passed away because all things had become new in Christ. Their conversion meant an about face in behavior. They saw their sin and its empty promises and they turned from it to Jesus.
They still hosted parties the next year, but their friends who expected to carouse were sorely disappointed and most trickled away quickly. Yet, some returned with thanks, admitting that they only joined the carousing due to peer pressure.
Further, my grandparents went on to use their natural gifts that had fueled their reputation for party-hosting to instead fuel a rich testimony of Christian hospitality. In the half-century and more since God changed their hearts, thousands of people have crossed their threshold for meals, lodging, celebrations, Bible studies, evangelism, counsel, and conversation. My grandfather is now with the Lord; my grandmother’s ministry continues here in similar ways.
As a college student interacting with our guest on that Saturday, I heard with my own ears the same kind of testimony the Apostle Paul had heard about the Thessalonian Christians in the first century when he wrote,
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. – 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
I’m still thankful for the change wrought in my grandparents by the Lord. I’m still thankful that he gave me the testimony of that change from an unsympathetic woman. I thank God that he has graciously changed my heart. And I pray “Lord, do it again in the lives of others!”