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I'm still not certain what caused my neighbor's silence. He stopped speaking to me
for seven years. In the beginning we got along fine. We would talk regularly as we
both worked in back of our houses. Sometimes we would talk about the neighborhood,
sometimes about God. Ron Forest was usually angry at someone on the block and would
describe their faults at great length. While I tried to change the subject, I had a
creepy feeling that inevitably, my turn would come.

Ron had incredible mood swings, but I tried to stay away when he was acting weird.
Things went pretty well until my children began inhabiting the back alley. Ron considered
the alley his territory. Eventually they got to him just because they were kids and he
began grabbing my children and swearing at them. I remember getting in Ron's face
over his treatment of my son when Abe was about seven.

About a year later we recommended someone to housesit for Ron while he was away.
That was a big mistake. The irresponsible house sitter may have been the last straw
for Ron Whatever the reason, the time came in our relationship that not only did Ron not
speak to me, but he took every opportunity for years to swear at, and generally pester,
any young people playing basketball in my back yard. Strange things would happen over
those years. For instance, one day I was sitting at the kitchen table when the voice of
Ron came over my household intercom. He was having a conversation with someone
about an intercom install at his house. It really blew his mind when I came on the
intercom to tell him our households had just gotten connected. He gave me no reply
and he never came back on. Occasionally, I would try to greet him at the grocery store
or out in the alley. Once taken by surprise, he did give a "Hi" back until it suddenly
registered on his face that he shouldn't be talking to me.

Ron was truly a troubled soul. You could hear him working and swearing and being generally
obnoxious much of the time. On the other hand, you could see him helping neighbors
and at times fixing a bike for a neighborhood child. Every now and then you could even
hear him singing a hymn.

A few years back, Ron created a mulcher of his own design. He rode out in his truck;
collected limbs, leaves, and assorted parts of trees, and ran them through his mulcher
daily; filling our quiet neighborhood with the unmuffled roar for as much as 3 hours at time.
If I was on my deck or had friends over, we would have to go inside to hear ourselves speak.
At times, I was tempted to call the noise control unit, but kept having this check that I was simply to
commit it to God in prayer.

One day, my son was out in our back yard when Ron began swearing at him. In the middle
of the tirade Abe said, "Ron I want to ask you a business question. Is that OK?"

Ron, clearly startled, replied, "Well,.....if it's really bussiness."

"Our lawnmower has not been working right for a long time and I thought since you
have a small engine repair business you might be able to repair it."

"Let me see it," Ron replied.

Within a few minutes Ron. was looking at our lawnmower, diagnosing the problem and
offering to fix it for no charge. Abe came inside to check with me and I felt this was God
working so I said, "Go ahead."

Every time Mary and I prayed together over the last year we had prayed for Ron. We
had asked the Lord to reconcile us and to bless Ron and bring him into the kingdom.
In the first few years we lived across from Ron, I had shared about Christ with him
and we had some good discussions. I knew somewhere inside him he believed.

It wasn't long before our lawnmower was running like a top. Abe suggested that Ron
might want to start talking to me again, but Ron said he wasn't ready for that yet.
A day or two later, Mary took him some homemade bread and gave him a big hug. He was shocked
and humbled, and his eyes filled with tears as he thanked her and quickly turned away.

About two weeks later, Ron came by to check on the lawnmower. He asked me how it was
running and I told him about a little problem. He immediately adjusted it and I thanked him.
The ice was at last broken!

We went along slowly rebuilding our relationship. He began to tell me how much he
loved my children, how he respected them, observed their work habits, and was really
fond of my sons in law. He would regularly watch them as they played basketball
out back. Now, instead of nasty comments, he would come by and encourage them
while they played.

In September, we began to notice loaves of bread being left on our back deck every
Friday. It turned out Ron had been gathering bread and distributing it to the poor.
He was doing other good works around the neighborhood. Ron was also suffering from
heart problems which sometimes left him short of breath. I would see him occasionally
walking with a cane. As Christmas approached, I got very busy and it wasn't until
the day after that I saw Ron again. Abe was leaving for work and Ron waved to him.
As Abe pulled out, I walked over to Ron and handed him a little wallet sized calendar with
a scripture message on it.

"Merry Christmas," I said.

He looked at it, then his eyes began to tear and he hung his head.
"No one called me on Christmas or came to see me. I must be a terrible person," he said.

I was taken aback. I searched for something to say.
"Ron," I said, "I was over at Lloyd Center just before Christmas and as I came out of one
of the stores I spotted this bell ringer sort of in a corner almost hiding behind her bell.
I went over to her and caught her eye. As I slipped something in her pot, I smiled at her
and said, 'Jesus loves you.'"

As I said this I looked deeply into Ron's moist eyes.

'I hope so,' is what she replied. As I was looking back at her I heard myself saying, 'I know so.
No matter what you are going through, even in the deepest difficulties, Jesus always loves you.
Have you invited him into your heart?'

She looked back at me and said, 'Yes I have, but I'm not always sure He is there.'

'He said He would never leave you or forsake you,' I replied."

As I continued speaking to Ron, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit just as I had when I was
speaking to the Bell Ringer.

"You know, Ron, no matter how hard or lonely things get, Jesus understands."

Ron looked me in the eye. "HE knows about pain better than anyone. I'll tell you why." Ron paused
and looked at me with authority. "When Jesus died on the cross he experienced more
pain and loneliness than anyone before or since."

"You're right about that, Ron," I said excitedly.

This man's not far from the Kingdom of God I thought.

Ron went on to tell me how he had an incurable heart disease. His wife had left him some
years earlier and he was very lonely. As tears formed again in his eyes he said, "I'm so
thankful to have neighbors like you."

Ron reached out and gave me a hug. I was genuinely overwhelmed with the love I felt.
I suddenly realized that this was my Christmas present from Jesus.

I didn't see Ron for a while until one Sunday afternoon I was playing ball with my son,
my two sons in law, and my son in law to be. Ron walked out of his garage. I walked over
to greet him and held out my hand.

"We can do better than that," he said. Stretching out both of his arms he gave me
a long deep hug. I felt sincerely forgiven.

God answers prayer I thought. God truly answers prayer.

Over the years since then, Ron continued to come over and seek out prayer with us, regularly.

(conclusion on the next page)

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