When I was in high school in the mid 1970s, I worked after school at a Texaco gas station in the town where my wife and I grew up, Moulton, Texas. Moulton is a small farm town about halfway between San Antonio and Houston, situated roughly ten miles south of interstate 10. The population was, and still is to this day, about 950 people.
My job at the Texaco station was to pump gas and fix flat tires. Of course, that was back in the day when there were such things as full service gas stations where all you had to do was sit in your car while someone filled the tank for you and offered to check the tires and oil. But selling gas and changing oil and fixing flat tires was only part of the business. Moulton is located in a region of south Texas that’s made up mostly of German and Czechoslovakian descendants. Most of the locals still spoke German and Czech and had heavy German and Czech accents. They still clung to a lot of central and eastern European traditions and one of the more notable traditions, if you can call it that, was their fondness……for beer! So on one side of the Texaco station was the lube rack and the bay where we fixed flats, and on the other side was a bar. In that part of south Texas, in the heart of German and Czech country, that was not an unusual sight at all. The gas station side where I worked closed at 8:00 p.m. The bar stayed open till midnight. I just did my job and went home.
I worked at the Texaco from my sophomore year in high school until I graduated. It was hard not to notice the things that went on in the bar. And it was also not hard to notice who the regulars were and one of those regulars was a middle aged woman named Judy. For the life of me I cannot recall her last name. At that time she was probably in her early to mid forties and it was obvious she had lived a rough and hard life. But it was also plain to see that she chose that life. She was brash. She was loud. She drank as hard as any man and could out cuss most men. She was quite proud of the way she lived and the more she drank, the more brash and loud she would become. She always had a smile on her face. It was more of a smirk actually, that I’m-living-my-life-my-way smirk that often accompanies pride and arrogance. And speaking of things that weren’t hard to notice, it wasn’t hard to notice that she liked to hang on the men and didn’t always leave with the same man. It was a bar. That kind of stuff was routine.
That was in the mid 70s. Fast forward to around 1984. My parents had just bought a small café in Moulton. My wife and I helped out in the café and one afternoon I walked in the front door and noticed a group of about six or seven people sitting at one of the tables up front. My mother was sitting with them and they were all talking and drinking coffee. I looked around and greeted everyone and lo and behold, there sat Judy, the same Judy who used to hang out in the bar at the Texaco station. She was sitting there drinking coffee, but she wasn’t nearly as loud and brash as I remembered her. She still had a smile on her face, but it was not same. There was no pride and arrogance in her smile. There was something different. She was having a conversation with my mother and I don’t recall the topic of the conversation, nor do I recall what my mother said to her, but I do recall her response to whatever it was that my mother said to her. She said, “My life changed so much…….when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior!” And she went on to describe the peace that her relationship with Jesus had given her. The smile of arrogance had been transformed into a smile that reflected her love for Christ. About three or four years later, we heard that Judy had been diagnosed with cancer and died shortly thereafter.
Like I said, I cannot remember her last name now, it’s been so many years. But our Lord and Savior knows who she is. That’s all that matters really. And she’s at home with the Lord now. She had a great testimony. It’s a shame that she can no longer share that testimony with anyone who’s alive today……or can she? The more I think about it, I believe God put me in a time and place where I could see the way she lived before she met Jesus Christ. I was a witness to the way she lived back in the 70s. And I also got to see the new person Judy became after she accepted Christ! Looking back, I have no doubt that her transformation was genuine!
We often hear testimonies from people who tell us what they were like and how they lived before they came to know Christ and how their lives changed after accepting Christ, but we usually only hear those testimonies from someone after they’ve given their lives to Christ and have no firsthand knowledge of who they were or how they lived before Christ. And that’s perfectly okay. But God gave me the privilege of witnessing Judy’s transformation first hand. I worked at that gas station next to the bar. I was there in my parent’s restaurant when she shared how Jesus had changed her life. She is no longer with us so I’m telling her story today. She was as rough and crude as anyone I’ve ever seen. But she was transformed by the power of God and was living proof that God can change anyone!
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24