Bruce Collier’s Going to Heaven: A Story of Change and Triumph
Yesterday was one of the best days of my life! It started out as most days do, trying to peel myself out of bed so I can feed and clean up after rug rats. After the kids were fed and mopped I got a message from an old friend, Bruce Collier, over Facebook Messenger. Let me tell you a little about our friendship.
I met Bruce at the beginning of my 7th grade year at Charlotte Middle School in Charlotte, TN. It was the very first football practice and we were taking the bus over to the practice field where we would begin the dehydration drills. Bruce turned to me on the bus and in no less of words said, “We have to stick together.” I remember it like it was yesterday, when in reality it was 16 years ago. He said this probably because we were the only black kids on the football team, and comprised half of the Afro-American demographic at our middle school. It was my first year outside of Clarksville-Montgomery County schools and I knew no one at the school. My mom taught there, so that helped, but I still had no friends. Bruce Collier was the first friend I ever made in Dickson County. We did everything together. We looked out for each other. Bruce was the big brother I never had. We were such good friends that even after I ran him over with my truck he was never upset with me. He held it over my head, but he never held it against me. We went through the craziness of high school and girl issues together. Even when the other was in the wrong the other had his back. There isn’t enough space to contain all of the volumes of late night conversations or “free-style rap battles” Bruce and I had but just know… there were A LOT!
When I came back from my first year of college I decided I would take a year off and work. That is not a good idea. To anyone reading this… that is not a good idea. After my first job didn’t work out the way I hoped it would, I hit the pavement. At this time, Bruce was also looking for employment. So, naturally we went and filled out applications together. For days we went all around Clarksville, TN trying to figure out where we could work together. We ended up both getting jobs at Applebee’s. After work we’d drive out to a local pool hall and play pool. Sometimes we’d get hustled by a guy in a wheelchair.
But, as time does sometimes, it separated us by thousands of miles. There would be months that would go by where we wouldn’t talk, but when we did reconnect it was as if there was never any lack of communication. Yesterday was one of those days. During our discussion I noticed that something seemed off with Bruce. He would say things that made it seem as though he was discouraged or defeated. I tried offering words of encouragement but I realized that what my friend needed weren’t words that would fade away, but Jesus who would never leave Him. I asked him the words that at one time would have scared me so badly I would hardly be able to utter them, as if they were Voldemort’s name. “I’d like to talk to you about something when you have a Bible in front of you.” Bruce and I had this same conversation years before, but I didn’t have the knowledge or capacity to deliver it, and he hadn’t come to a point in his life where he felt he needed to hear it. Before our study began Bruce asked a question that I believe many people ask even after they’ve come to Christ, “Can God forgive all the things I’ve done?” Over video chat we studied the Bible and Bruce realized his need to be baptized into Christ, not into a denomination, but into Christ and have his sins forgiven. After an all day ordeal of trying to figure out how I could get him to a baptistery or to a source of water, a mutual friend of ours, Wes Bowker and his lovely wife, Nicole, drove out to pick Bruce up and Wes baptized Bruce at the Midway church of Christ. I may not have been able to baptize my friend, but that’s the thing about the church, we have people everywhere who are willing to drive wherever to help.
I say all of that to say this. Bruce I’m so proud of you. It’s been a long road and at the end of this road there is a crown of righteousness awaiting you. Stay strong. Take direction. Fight the good fight. It will always be worth it. You’ve come into a family that loves you and to brothers and sisters who will do anything it takes to help you along this road. I’ll see you in Heaven brother.
To anyone reading this blog who has been discouraged by a friend who has not accepted Jesus’ teaching on belief, repentance, confession and baptism I say, don’t give up on them. It may take 11 years, or even more, but never stop praying for them to become open to the truth.
If you’re the one who has been hiding from the waters of baptism because you feel you would be condemning friends or family who haven’t been baptized, then I say to you, why do you delay, arise and be baptized, washing away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16). God has made entrance into the kingdom simple. It may be an unpopular notion with the masses, but consensus isn’t necessary for salvation.
If you are waiting for a special day or “the right time” to become a Christian, you’re missing out on life! If you are not yet a Christian, don’t delay any longer. Contact your local church of Christ and ask, just as those men asked on the day of Pentecost, “Men and brethren, what must we do?” And Peter answered them and said, “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” Acts 2:37-39