We were commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ at His ascension into heaven that we all be witnesses for Him into all the world (Matt. 28: 18-20). That includes all believers living in a town named El Dorado in South Arkansas, and those who may be working at a car wash located on Northwest Avenue. Such a place for a short time was the focus of the ministry of a man named James Gray who took this Lord’s command very seriously.
James was an employee of the tiny car wash I frequently used, because it was conveniently located between my home and the hospital. I’m not certain how long he had worked there when I first saw him in the early 1980’s, but later learned his tenure there was not long. He was easy to pick out of a crowd because of his particular stride. He had some type of medical issue with his left hip or leg, because he walked with a noticeable limp, and his pace was always fast. He wore a corrective shoe with an elevated heel on the left, and those shoes appeared to be at least 10 years old. All his clothes were old, but he never appeared dirty or unkept. He had a full head of hair which was neatly combed, but it looked as if he cut his own hair. One very distinctive of James was the well-worn King James version of the Bible he always carried except during the time he was washing cars. I would occasionally spot him during his break time, and he would either be reading his Bible or using it in conversations with his fellow workers. I once asked if I might see his Bible and even though the binding was intact, it was obvious he had read and studied every page over a long period of time. The corners of many pages were turned down, and not just a few of the pages had greasy finger prints.
After observing James at his car wash ministry for over a period of at least 6 months, I drove into the station one morning and didn’t see James in his usual place. I asked one of the employees if James was off that day, to which he responded, “James was fired last week because he was annoying everyone with his constant talk about Jesus.” My only response was I was proud of James for his witness for Jesus, and his only reason for talking to you guys so much was because he really cared for you and your future. The listener only shrugged his shoulders and said, “Oh well.”
While having my car washed that particular morning and thinking about James’ firing I concluded my priorities for life and living were upside down. As I sat in my expensive automobile, dressed in a tailored suit and preparing to go to work as a well respected surgeon, I more fully understood God’s economy for success was opposite from the world’s view. The majority of people including myself at the time, desire a comfortable life style which includes a generous salary, a nice home with a well-watered lawn, expensive clothing and rich, tasty food on our tables. None of these worldly things are wicked or sinful in themselves, but when they become the objects of our desires and the focus of our lives, the god of this world has snared us into his trap.
Our Lord warned us not to love the world nor the things of this world, because they would lead us away from Him. (I John 2:15-17). James Gray didn’t have many of the things the world says are important, but he had a huge heart for God, and for the things which God says are not only important but essential to obey and follow Him. He didn’t care if obeying God cost him his job just so long as he loved God first and loved his fellow workers by showing them the way to God. That morning was a turning point for me, because James showed me what was really important in life, and he was not even there. I distinctly remembered thinking, “I wish I could be more like James Gray because he was so much like Jesus.”
I went to church with James at Second Baptist while growing up. I haven’t thought of him in years. Thank you so much for this story. He deserves to be remembered. He was a simple man who followed God always. Prayer the you and Cathy are well. Love. Kay Hardin.
Yep, I remember riding with Jimmy Meeks in his red VW and going by to pick up James. Can’t remember where we were going, probably a Bible study or prayer group somewhere. I’ve often wondered what happened to James. Good guy and yes, well worn KJV! Todd Turner
Thanks Kay. Cathy and I hope you are doing well and are praying for you. John Aaron and Gina were here last weekend, and we talked about you. So grateful for your friendship and the friendship and memories of your Mom and Dad.