It’s a constant source of joy to hear the stories our Anglicare chaplains tell of the conversations they have with those they visit in hospital and prison. Conversations with those who, for one reason or another, feel they are beyond God’s reach. How could he forgive and accept them after so much sin, or a lifelong rejection of him?

But God does not think as we do. We know that no one is too broken for him. 

For those who have spent years – decades, perhaps – praying for family or friends to turn to Jesus without seeing an answer to these prayers, let me share a story with you.

One of our chaplains visited John*, a widower in his late 80s, in Liverpool Hospital’s intensive care unit. He had identified as a Christian on his admission record, and when she asked him about this, he hesitantly replied, “I believe there’s something... I guess there’s a God”.

When she said this was a great start and added that it would be even better to have a personal relationship with God, John became silent. Then his eyes filled with tears.

“I …  I should have started long ago,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion as tears streamed down his face. He eventually explained that his wife, who had died some years earlier, had been a Christian. “She always wanted me to...” he faltered. 

Chaplains know to be “quick to listen and slow to speak” and, after a few moments, our chaplain gently asked whether John’s wife had wanted the same for him. He nodded, amid more tears, mumbled that he had been stupid and added, “It’s too late now”.

Looking straight into his eyes she said: “John, can I tell you something? it’s never too late to begin a relationship with God”. Hopeful, he responded that, in that case, he’d better find out quickly!

The chaplain then shared with John about how much God loves all people, and the lengths he had gone to, through Jesus, so that a broken humanity’s relationship with him could be restored. She told him that when people believed and accepted God’s forgiveness, they could be restored back to God. Would he like to consider that offer? 

“Yes,” he said at once.

John then prayed, one sentence at a time, a simple prayer of tearful repentance – acknowledging that he was a sinner, that Jesus’ death and resurrection paved the way for him to be forgiven and inviting Jesus to be his saviour and Lord. 

Welcomed into new life and God’s family by the chaplain, John was asked if he had any thoughts about what had just happened. “I’m happy,” he said with a smile. “Thank you.”

John had thought it was too late, but to his joy found that God’s kingdom was still open to him through Christ. 

There will be surprises in heaven: John will be there with his rather surprised wife. She had prayed faithfully, no doubt for many years, for her husband to know Christ as she did. And her prayer was answered. Praise God!

*name changed for privacy reasons


The Rev Stephen Gibson is the manager of health and justice chaplains at Anglicare Sydney.