Used car salesmen have not always received the best reviews when ratings are given to the various professions in terms of public esteem. Prior to meeting Gerald House I had no personal experience with either buying or selling used cars, so I could not relate to some of the unkind things or jokes which were said about their profession. My friendship with Gerald changed my attitude about judging someone based on the type of work he does.
Gerald was a natural-born salesman. He never met a stranger and seemed to be comfortable in every environment from an executive board room to a sale barn. He owned and operated a well-known used car dealership in my hometown, so he was easy to find when I began shopping for an inexpensive, low-mileage vehicle for our teenaged son. “Come on in, Doc,” he said when I introduced myself and told him my need, “Let’s find you just what you need for that boy!” At that point I knew he would find the right car or at least make me think he had. The one thing which attracted me to Gerald was his on-going conversation about the things of the Lord. He knew I was a member of a sister Baptist church, but he did not know initially that I was passionate in my desire to walk by faith and was hungry for Christian fellowship. There was an immediate and eternal bond forged between us and that bond was Christ.
I learned Gerald’s car lot was his mission field and everyone who set foot on that lot became a prospect either for salvation or spiritual growth. It didn’t matter to Gerald if you were a “dignified physician,” which is the way he would teasingly identify me to some of his customers, or if you were unemployed. Most of his customers were plain and simple folk, and Gerald knew just how to speak their language. Over the next several weeks while I continued shopping at his lot for the right vehicle I witnessed Gerald’s unique techniques for sharing the gospel. I happened to be present one afternoon, when a man who had stopped by came under conviction of his need and prayed to receive Christ’s free gift of salvation.
Even after I purchased the vehicle we needed, I spent a few hours of my free Wednesday afternoons at his lot, observing and learning the “House” techniques of evangelism. Gerald had a unique way of identifying each of the regular attenders at his lot. After a person had been there 2 or 3 times he was given a nickname or an identifying phrase. Most often when I walked into his office which was always filled with 4 or 5 men, he would say, “Look, here comes Dr. Moore- all flash and no cash!” I never really knew what he meant by that but accepted it as his way of saying, “I’m glad to see you, come on in and have a seat!”
On one Saturday afternoon while at home watching an exciting Razorback football game on TV, the phone rang, and Gerald asked if I “had any more of those pocket Bibles in the glove compartment of your car?” He said he was witnessing to a man and had run out and needed one. I told him I did, but could I wait until the half-time of the game to bring it? He said, “I guess that’ll be alright.” Over the next few minutes, the Spirit convicted me to leave the football game, and do something much more important. With some grumbling and complaining in my spirit, I drove the 7 or 8 minutes to his lot to deliver the Bible. Upon arrival and prior to parking I heard the sounds of shouting and laughter inside the office and was not prepared for my next “House experience.” As I opened the door to the office a very large Black-American had picked up Gerald off the floor and was twirling him around, while shouting and chanting, “Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus!” Gerald seemed to be crying and laughing at the same time, but had the presence of mind to say to James, “There’s Dr. Moore- grab him!” James immediately loosed Gerald, lifted me, and began twirling me with his brawny arms, and shouting to Jesus some more. When Gerald could control himself, he said James had just prayed to receive Christ as his Savior, and was rejoicing “he was sure he was going to heaven someday.” I had learned not to be shocked by anything which occurred at Gerald’s used car lot. My grumbling and complaining had quickly vanished and was replaced with a spirit of thanksgiving even before James put me down!
It was perhaps a year later I received a phone call from Nell, Gerald’s wife for 35 years. The call was late in the evening on another Saturday, and Nell said these words, “Gerald just died.” Certain she was in on another of his pranks, I said, “Come on Nell, what’s the old boy up to now?” She said, “No, I’m serious, Gerald just drove down to the lot, and when he got there, he slumped over the wheel and his heart must have stopped.” I was in total shock just like Nell.
We buried his remains a few days later, but his funeral was not a concession of defeat but a celebration of victory. Whenever I drive by that used car lot now, my mind is flooded with many wonderful remembrances of spiritual battles which were fought and won there. In the process of learning, witnessing, laughing and crying at that place, I know my spiritual life enlarged while having the time of my life. I can’t say about the current spiritual condition at that lot, but I can attest to the fact once the Spirit of Christ, embodied in my pal Gerald House, walked and worked at that used car lot. Many souls received Christ as Savior and heaven as their reward right there. It is only fitting on Gerald’s last trip to his lot that evening, he stopped, bowed his head and stepped into the physical presence of his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.