Joanna Ng May 2015
This took place quite a number of years ago.
Garry was one of the demanding bosses that I had worked for. Actually, at that time, he was my boss’s boss. On a regular basis, he reviewed the strategies and work plans of different parts of his organization. So, I often had to present my department’s portion for his scrutiny.
Every manager in his organization knew how tough it was to survive his reviews. His meticulous accuracy; his quick and sharp attention to details, his business insights, and his foresight for pitfalls made him very sensitive to flaws and inconsistency that most people would have missed, which stressed out every one of us who had to present to him.
I was totally overwhelmed in my new role. I knew I just did not have enough experience and expertise at the time to survive his meetings. But he was never condescending. If I managed to swallow down my pride and embarrassment, I always learned so much from his criticism and comments. Though I felt fearful of him, he had a way to motivate us for a higher expectation of ourselves and a higher standard of excellence for our work. Because of that, Garry was well respected across the board.
A few years later, reorganization happened. We all moved on to different roles. We kept in touch once in a while. Then one day, an announcement came, Garry had to take a prolonged leave of absence. I later found out that he was diagnosed with lung cancer. We were all very shocked by the sudden news.
A few brothers and sisters in Christ from the fellowship at my workplace felt the burden to pray for Garry. We visited him at his home several times. He and his wife always received us warmly. Meeting Garry at a personal setting outside the board rooms gave me a view of him that I never had before. Instead of seeing him as a demanding boss whom I was fearful of, for the first time I saw him as a precious soul, trying to come to terms with his situation, seeking for meaning for this life and its significance beyond.
As his health deteriorated, Garry was admitted to St. Michael Hospital. I felt such a burden to visit him regularly. To be honest, my obedience to the Spirit’s prompting was not without struggle. After all, the hospital was almost an hour away from where I lived. I remember several times I thought to myself, “What on earth am I doing here? Stuck in traffic on this highway, with my mind spinning with project issues, work deadlines, and family demands that I was running late for. Lord, you know what’s on my plate. Why couldn’t you send someone else?” Every bit about my going downtown after work went against all-time management training I ever had.
Then one day, as I was praying for Garry while I was stuck in traffic on the highway, I felt the Spirit was saying, “Today, it is today you have to proclaim to Garry his need of repentance and the hope and forgiveness in Christ.” My soul screamed, “You want me to tell Garry his need to repent? Are you kidding me? Please Lord, not Garry! Anyone but him!” and I started bargaining, “How could I even find the opportunity to bring this up? Look, I already showed him Your love by visiting him. Isn’t that enough?”
As I arrived at the hospital, that burden from the Spirit not only had not left me but became stronger. Instead of going straight to Garry’s hospital room like I did every time, I went to the hospital gift shop on the ground floor to buy time to think. I kept walking around and around, rehearsing in my mind what to say and how to say it. “Hmm… boss… would you agree you are a sinner?”.. or “What do you think of the concept of a ‘sinner’?”… “Are you ready for heaven?” and ten thousand more variations. Thirty minutes passed. The sales lady had already asked me three times if I needed help to find anything. I looked at my watch. If I did not go upstairs, the visiting hour would be over soon. Still not knowing what to say or do, by faith, I said a short prayer and went upstairs.
As I opened the door of Garry’s private room, my jaws literally dropped. Right in front of me was a gentleman, standing by Garry’s bed, holding a bible in his hand, and was reading from it to him. My soul screamed with unspeakable joy, “Lord, Your hands are already here!”
“I’m here to visit Garry. May I join in?” I asked quietly. That gentleman kindly said, “Sure, we just started on John 11, the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead.” I tried very hard not to show how surprised I was by joy. In my heart, I cried out to the Lord, “How silly of me that I took this upon my shoulder! Thank you! What a privilege that You invited me to see You at work in Your ministry of salvation!” I thought too much of myself and too little of God. The Lord was already at work in Garry’s life. That gentleman was one of Garry’s close friends. He led some thought-provoking discussions. Then we had to leave.
I could not get over my excitement over how amazing that the Lord just showed up in this situation. The next day I went back. This time, it was only me and Garry in the room. Knowing that the Spirit was already at work gave me great peace like a heavy load lifted off my shoulder. I followed up with the study on John 11 the day before, and the discussion about how the bible talked about sin. With a courage that was beyond me, I finally popped the big question, “Garry, would you agree that the sins we discussed are in you and therefore you need the salvation of Jesus Christ?” Then followed by three to four seconds of silence. I was holding my breath, waiting. It felt like an eternity to me.
Then finally Garry responded and broke down in tears. “Of course I am a sinner!”, he said. It was a messy moment in a good way. What a miracle to have him, so highly esteemed at work, said such humble confession to me, his subordinate! I asked him, “Do you want to accept Jesus as the Lord of your life?”, he kept nodding his head. Then I led him to a prayer to invite Jesus into his heart. That was the happiest day of work that I will never forget, that day heaven came.
Garry soon passed to be with the Lord. The gentleman I met reading John 11 to Garry gave his eulogy at Garry’s funeral. As he recounted the many milestones and accomplishments in Garry’s life, he particularly pointed out the day that Garry accepted Christ and took the time to explain to everyone attending the significance of Garry’s decision. Garry must have shared that with his friend. Heaven rejoiced. Christ’s name was lifted high and the Father was glorified.