I didn't know the story. I stood in front of that enormous plaque on the wall - the one with the quote from Ronald Reagan that said, "Casey Jones was a real-life hero whose story...is known to virtually all Americans." But I didn't know.
For nearly two decades now, I had driven through that town more times than I could count. I had shopped there and eaten dinner there; I had been to the movie theater in town. But I had never wandered down the sidewalk to the little white house behind the white picket fence. I had never stepped inside the door where Casey Jones kissed his wife good-bye before he headed out to the train. I had never peered into the dining room where he gathered his family around the table. I had never ducked my head into the room where children's toys were scattered across the floor and the beds were perfectly made. I had never wondered if he danced with his wife in the drawing room when music played from the phonograph in the corner or sang with his children while her fingers danced across the keys of the piano. I didn't know the story.
Until I stepped inside that room that held the photographs and the letters...and the funeral carriage...I didn't know that Casey Jones had given his life for a whole train-load full of passengers who rode the train that day. I didn't know that he had told his fireman, Sim, to jump - just in the nick of time. I didn't know that Casey Jones had stayed on board to slow the train that had nowhere to go but straight ahead into the freight cars stalled on the tracks. I didn't know that Casey Jones' life was the only life lost on those tracks that day.
Disney had turned him into a legend. A folk song sang the tale. But I had never heard his story.
No one had ever told me.
So I've been thinking about Casey Jones, who laid down his life so others could live. I've been thinking about the fact that I had never heard his story. And I've been thinking about another story and the ones who have never heard.
Like the boy I told about the mission trip in the summer of '91. He had grown up in my neighborhood, graduated from the same high school as I did, then lived across the street from my parents. He was working his way through college, driving a bread truck in the morning, taking classes in the afternoon.
We would sit outside as the sun set, and I would tell him about the children...how we had traveled three summers to tell them that Jesus loved them so.
And then one day he had told me that he didn't know the story - the one we told the children. No one had ever told him.
But he had grown up in my neighborhood, graduated from the same high school I did. He lived across the street from my parents! How could he not know?
So I sent him home with a Max Lucado book, a Bible, and instructions to read the book of John. And he called me the next day and asked why Peter had said he didn't know Jesus! "Weren't they friends?"
He had read the entire book of John that night!
Then he got his hands on an old set of King James Version cassette tapes. And he would rumble down the streets in that old truck at 4:30 in the morning, the belly of the truck full of just-baked loaves of bread, while he listened in the front to the story of the One who came to be the Bread of Life, the One who gave His life that we might live.
He had never heard the story. No one had ever told him.
And I'm wondering today about the ones who live across the street from me now. Has anyone ever told them? Have they heard? Do they know that God so loved the world - that God so loved them - that He gave...?
Do they know the story of Jesus, the One who gave His life so they could live?
How will they know - unless I tell them?
For God loved the world so much
that He gave His one and only Son,
so that everyone who believes in Him
will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16, NLT
There is no greater love
than to lay down one's life
for one's friends.
John 15:13, NLT
But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him?
And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him?
And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?
Romans 10:14, NLT
Continuing to count His endless gifts and grace . . .
#1411 that God so loved the world
#1412 that He recorded His story so we would know
#1413 that He gives us ears to hear
#1414 that He compels us to go and tell
#1415 that His story is the greatest story ever told!