The greatest love story ever told
Going GREYT! 1 Peter 4:10
In Going GREYT! we feature stories of some of our ‘more experienced’ people within the LCA, who have been called to make a positive contribution in their retirement. We pray their examples of service will be an inspiration and encouragement to us all as we look to be Christ’s hands and feet wherever we are, with whatever gifts and opportunities we’ve been given.
The Bible is God’s love story to us. But how can we share his love story with those who are yet to hear it?
For 92-year-old Les John, it’s as simple as listening to God. He’s felt guided by God’s hand to help the people he’s met along the way over his lifetime of ups and downs.
Looking back at the places he’s lived and situations that he has navigated, Les says God’s pencil is writing a book to guide him to do God’s will. All he has to do is listen.
The retiree from country Victoria is putting his listening (and writing) skills to use to support and uplift a dear family friend with a cancer diagnosis.
At a time when many nonagenarians may feel their helping well is running dry, Les is using the power of words to encourage Courtney, 42, as she battles stage four cancer.
Every day Les writes to Courtney (pictured facing page inset) from his home at the Heywood Rural Health hostel about 30 kilometres north of Portland, west of Melbourne.
‘I pray every time I go to write an email to her for God to give me the strength to support her through the messages I give her every day, and he has never let me down once’, he says.
And Les says it is never too late to hear God’s will for us. As he says: ‘This story is all about love.’
‘I started to realise that God had been writing his own little book to me and boy, has he opened his heart to me – reminding me of that wonderful text from John 4:8 – “He who does not love, does not know God, for God is love”.’
Les and his late wife Marjorie first met Courtney in 2006 when Marjorie was recovering from a stroke, and Courtney came to clean the windows of their Portland unit. Courtney became an instant friend.
After Marjorie’s passing from cancer in 2018, Courtney reached out to visit Les in his Heywood hostel.
‘Courtney came and took me out for lunch and, to cut a long story short, she virtually became a carer to me – taking me out for drives and coffees when she was in the area or I was in town’, Les recalls.
Then in 2020, COVID-19 appeared, and hostels went into lockdown, so their visits to one another stopped.
Soon after, Courtney rang Les to say she’d been diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer.
‘I well remember the day she phoned and told me the news with tears and fright in her voice’, he says.
‘My heart just completely broke. It was astonishing that here I was, going into my 90th year when she was diagnosed. The Lord whispered into my ear: “This lady has cared for you, so it is your time to care for her.”’
So, Les started to write to Courtney every day. ‘I would just talk to her. As my wife had cancer, it gave me the opportunity to be aware of what she was going through’, he says.
‘Every time I sit at the computer, I honestly believe God whispers in my ear what he wants me to share. I am just sharing the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and we’ve had long discussions about that.
‘I don’t think there has ever been a time when I have sat there and haven’t stopped for several minutes to pray that the Lord will help me with what to say.’
Les, who is struggling with his own age-related health issues, hopes this story gives other people like him the idea of doing something similar.
‘I am so thankful to God that he has given an old geezer like me the responsibility for helping a girl with a terminal illness’, he says.
Les, who has moved towns many times throughout his life, has tried to make a difference everywhere he and his wife have lived. Both were born on farms in rural Victoria – Marjorie in Rainbow and Les in Ouyen.
They have been blessed with five children, 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, with a seventh due this month.
Les is also no stranger to writing. In his retirement, he has written and published two novels under his nom de plume, John W Leslie, and is working on a third. He’s recorded a reading of both novels for Portland radio station 3RPC. He’s also compiled a poetry book, Dreams upon a rainbow.
As for now, Les’s daily emails continue, as does Courtney’s medical treatment.
‘I know God’s finger is writing all the time’, he says.
And his favourite good news comes from Psalm 13:5,6 – ‘I will rely on your constant love; I will be glad, because you will rescue me. I will sing to you, O Lord, because you have been good to me.’
Helen Brinkman is a Brisbane-based writer who is inspired by the many GREYT people who serve tirelessly and humbly in our community. By sharing stories of how God shines his light through his people, she hopes others are encouraged to explore how they can use their gifts to share his light in the world.
Know of any other GREYT stories in your local community? Email the editor email@example.com