With my first real job after graduating from college, my wife and I purchased an old farm house in a low-income neighborhood–a great buy, or so I thought at the time. I figured it would go up in value…it never did. It was an original homestead in the area and was over a hundred years old with two floors and a huge attic that made it three stories tall. It had a very large yard with a century-worn old red barn in the back.
The first house on the street corner beside our driveway was painted a bright fluorescent green—so bright, in fact, it almost hurt your eyes to look at it. New to the neighborhood, I wanted to find out what kind of “nut” would paint their house that color. It seemed capable of glowing in the dark!
The sound of the doorbell brought my new neighbor into view. He was a tall and very elderly dignified looking gentleman with a cane and was wearing large dark sunglasses. Introducing himself as Ernest, he invited me in and in short order was telling me all kinds of stories about the area, especially about the great flood that hit Columbus, Ohio, way back in the year “nineteen-O-and-six.” Later I learned the flood was actually in 1913, but at his age, being seven years off didn’t mean much. Anyway, we quickly became friends. Then the question.
“Hey, Ernest, why is your house painted such a bright green color?”
“Wel-l-l,” he drawled, “I’m legally blind, but I can still see some. As my eyes got worse, I started having trouble finding my house when I got off the bus. Then I got the green idea, and I haven’t had a problem finding it since!” he said with a grin.
Soon after, I discovered that Ernest loved Jesus like myself, and during the five years we lived there, we really had some good talks about the Lord. In fact, Ernest had such a passionate desire that others come to know his Savior too that he gave my three toddlers each a little green Gideon New Testament–he really had a thing about green!
His bright green garage bordered our driveway with just a few inches between the two; our drive went up a little hill, which put the drive on a diagonal about three feet high from the bottom of Ernest’s garage. One day while working out in the backyard, I heard a loud “BOOM!” with crunching metal following. Running around to the sound, I saw this big old bronze-colored Buick half in our driveway and half into the side of Ernest’s empty garage. The front end was suspended in midair, filling the emptiness of his garage. Bright green concrete blocks were laying everywhere.
Running over, I yanked open the door and shouted over the motor, “Are you okay??”
Reaching across the elderly woman, I turned off her car’s engine.
Her voice quivering, “Yes, I’m fine—just a little rattled; I have a cast on my right foot, and when I went to hit the brake, my foot slipped off and hit the gas, and I guess my cast got stuck under the brake pedal!” And that’s when she shot up our little driveway hill and through the side of Ernest’s garage.
The squad came, checked her out and took her home. By this time, Ernest was standing by me beside his garage. Knowing he couldn’t see, I said, “Hey, Ernest, you got a big ole hole in the side of your garage!”
Smiling, he said, “One of the good things about being blind is–the garage looks fine to me!”
When we bought the old farm house, we bought it on a land contract that ballooned in five years. That meant in five years we would have to pay the old German man who we bought the house from the balance we owed on it. Being young, that seemed far, far away; I had no idea how quickly time would pass and land us in a financial mess.
During those five years, sadly the old man passed away, and the house went to his wife. Soon after, she, too, passed away, and the house went to their two daughters. One was nice; one was nasty. There was such a fuss between the two sisters about our mortgage payment that we literally had to send two checks with half the amount to each sister separately—neither sister trusted the other to handle the money as a single account.
Reaching the end of our land contract after five years, the two sisters understandably wanted their money for the farm house. For many months prior, we had been trying to sell the house; however, there were two major strikes against the property. First, it was “atypical” of the area because nobody else had a barn, so the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) would not approve a loan on the house.
And second, it was considered a fixer-upper…being so old, it still needed a lot of work. We even brought back the original realtor who sold it to us to help us try to sell the place again. Nothing…those that were in the market for buying a house didn’t want a fixer-upper, and those that were looking for affordable housing couldn’t get an FHA loan because it was atypical.
We were stuck.
We were now in the week before the loan was due and things looked mighty grim.
On Wednesday before the last week, the nasty sister called and said, “If you don’t get me my money by next Friday at noon, I will sue you for all you’ve got!!” That’s when I got out my big old rickety wooden ladder, climbed to the top of our three-story roof, laid hands on the house and prayed that the Lord would make a way for us to be able to sell this old farm house.
The next day, Saturday morning before that final painful week, my wife and I prayed, “Lord, we certainly don’t want to be sued, but we don’t know what to do. We really need Your help!”
Sitting on the bed watching our twin daughters play with their baby brother in our large farm house bedroom on that summer Saturday afternoon, my wife had the radio tuned to a Christian station. A program called, “Trade-E-ola,” was airing at the time. Folks would sell or trade things like used vacuum cleaners, cookware, toys, bicycles, etc. My wife suddenly looks up at me as I walk into the room and says, “I wonder if they would accept a house for sale on Trade-E-ola?”
She calls the show. “Lady, we’ve never sold a house over the radio before, but we’ll give it a try!”
We prayed and waited, listening for my wife’s recorded message about the house. She had called near the end of the show, so we weren’t sure if it’d even make it on the air or not, but we prayed it would since the show was only broadcast on Saturdays. As we saw it, this was our last hope. Then, like music to our ears, we heard her recorded message loud and clear on the good ole R-A-D-I-O! In reality, it seemed pretty crazy to us that we were resorting to trying to sell a house on an old pots and pans radio show, but we certainly were!
The weekend passed, and the clock started ticking down to Friday when the money was due in full.
On Monday a lady called; she was looking for a house with some storage area for her son’s drywall business and had heard my wife’s message on Trade-E-ola about the house with a barn on the property.
Wednesday morning the nasty sister calls once again with a vivid reminder, “If you don’t have my money or a buyer by 12 o’clock noon Friday, then you can plan on seeing me in court!!”
On Wednesday afternoon, the lady that called on Monday calls again and wants to look at the property. That evening she comes over.
Soon after opening up the conversation about the house, my wife finds herself saying to this complete stranger, “I believe in ‘zaps’ from the Lord, and we are trusting Him about the sale of the farm house.” To my wife’s complete surprise, the lady echoed, “I believe in ‘zaps’ from the Lord, too.”
A nice chat continued briefly about the Lord and their families. Then, my wife explained the difficulty of getting a loan on the house, to which the lady replied, “I don’t think that’ll be a problem; when my husband died, he left me a large tract of land (in a wealthy section of town we found out later). I can use that for collateral with the bank if I decide to buy.” (In actuality, her “collateral” was such that buying our property was like her buying a loaf of bread!)
Thursday, nothing. Friday’s coming.
Friday arrives. This is it. We feel like it’s our D-Day or rather Dread Day in our “Oh ye of little faith” moment. We really did not know what this Friday would bring. We had prayed and had done what we could. I was at work and continued to pray while waiting and doing my job.
At home, my wife went about her duties with our three small children…8 o’clock….9….10 o’clock. The clock seems to be in slow motion racing toward 12 noon, our deadline when the nasty sister was going to pounce on us. My wife remembers the deafening silence of that morning well…..
Then, at 11 AM the silence was broken by the sound of the ringing phone. With anxiety and excitement, my wife says, “Hello” and doesn’t remember much else except the words, “I’ll buy your house.” ZAP! God rescues us!
We call the nasty sister and tell her we have a buyer.
We give loud praises and thanks to the God of the Bible who heard our cry for deliverance, chuckling a bit that He could even use a Trade-E-ola R-A-D-I-O show!
There was no mistaking it, LITERALLY, at the 11th hour the Lord rescued us!
We would have preferred more of a time buffer, but it seems like it was our turn to experience the old saying, “God is rarely early, but never late.”
And so it was.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. —Psalms 27:14 (NIV)
(This simple true story has been written to encourage you in your walk of faith, or if you want to know more about how you, too, can also experience a walk of faith with this loving God, follow this link >>> My Hope) —Nick & Barb Nichols
Copyright © 2014 by William D. (Nick) Nichols
[Dedicated to JoEllen H., who revived my memory for this story.]