Used car salesmen have not always received the best reviews when ratings of public esteem are assigned to the various professions. 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 teenage 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 your 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 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 the bond was Christ.
I learned Gerald’s car lot was his mission field and everyone who set foot on the 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 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 “just happened” to stop at the lot 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 every free Wednesday afternoon 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 two or three times he was given a nickname or an identifying phrase. Most often when I walked into his office which was usually filled with four or five men he would say, “Look, here comes Dr. Moore- all flash and no cash!” I never really knew exactly what he meant but accepted it as his way of saying, “I’m glad to see you. Come on in and take a seat!”
One particular 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 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 seven or eight 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 Gerald up 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 while continuing his shouting to Jesus. When Gerald could control himself he said James had just prayed to receive Christ as his Savior and was rejoicing “he was now sure he was going to heaven one day.” 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 of 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 rather a celebration of victory. Whenever I drive past the 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 atmosphere of the 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 Saturday evening he stopped his car, bowed his head and stepped into the physical presence of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.