A couple of Saturdays ago, I was blessed to help give a wedding reception for a beautiful Christian couple who now reside in Little Rock, Arkansas. Married in Guatemala, the place where much of the bride’s family lives, this reception was their American celebration. For some of us in that sweet place, it was a blessed collision of precious past moments and present blessings for which we have only insufficient words of thanksgiving. (Pictured above is Nathan and Ellen Anderson, left and right, and the Tuckers, center, at the reception….Oh, and Cliff and Nell Anderson, in arms.)
About 28 years ago, the Westside church in Virginia was getting ready for its annual Vacation Bible school. Little Nathan Anderson, in early elementary school, invited his friend from school, Grat Tucker. Grat’s mom, Diane, let him attend and, since he was her shining star—the only child—she kept the VBS take-home papers; colorful cardboards that meant little to Grat at the time, but were destined to be valuable papers, ushering into his world the best things of this life and even life eternal. But for now, they were placed in a drawer and forgotten.
So Grat and Nathan became best friends. Nathan was Grat’s campaign manager when he ran for class president in the fourth grade. They played ball together in community leagues and ate their lunches together at school.
And one day several years later, after some temporary reversals in the lives of Grat and his mom, Diane thought it would be good if they started going to church. She opened that drawer to look for those VBS materials and decided they would “try the church where Nathan goes. You remember…that one where you went to that Vacation Bible School?”
And so they did. Someone welcomed them warmly. Someone showed them around the building. Someone invited them back. Someone soon invited them for a meal. And someone asked Diane to study the Bible. Open hearts are easily convicted and the rest is a sweet history. Diane was baptized into Jesus and immersed herself in fellowship, study and growth. It was the beginning of a new way of life for Grat, who was, in a couple of years, himself, baptized into Christ on the campus of Freed Hardeman University during the Horizons program, where he worshipped and prayed and played basketball with our son, Caleb Colley.
Diane and I sat together in the cafeteria at FHU on that August day when we left our sons as students. They would eventually play intramural sports together, study for communication classes together and finally, spend a couple of years rooming together in Brigance Hall. Grat was a fiercely loyal confidant, a man of determined Christian character and one who always enjoyed a good practical joke. We loved having him in our home on weekends while they roomed together. I did lots of loads of laundry (Remember that time I accidentally bleached that red Nike swish into that faded pinkish color?) and his long legs were under the Colley table lots of times. He came in handy on moving days, with technology (He could trouble-shoot our computers like no one else we knew…and he was a very cheap technician.)…and he didn’t mind sleeping on the hammock on the porch when the house was bursting with college students.
Then they graduated and Caleb moved to Montgomery to do graduate work and work with Apologetics Press (http://apologeticspress.org). Grat soon moved to Jacksonville, Alabama to archive materials, develop the website and help Christians have access to the great materials that House to House/Heart to Heart publishes (https://www.housetohouse.com), working in that great ministry for the next nine years. This was the town, coincidentally, in which my father, Lee Holder lived and worshipped.
And that turned out to be a life-changing coincidence. I’m really certain it was life-changing providence. Early in 2012, my father was found unconscious in the Jacksonville church building on a weekday afternoon (https://thecolleyhouse.org/right-turn). An ambulance ride, a hospitalization, a rehab and many prayers later, Dad returned home. He was well enough to live mostly independently. He still worked and drove and went to the church building at least four times every week. But we needed a presence there at home with him; someone who could check in on him several times a day. Grat was that person. (Here’s Grat with Dad at the church building…and Diane and Grat “silly-posing” with some of the family at PieDaddy’s):
Moving into a quickly converted garage apartment, Grat lived with my dad for five-and-a half years. I can say with certainty that my father loved him very much and wanted to be sure that he was treated just as all the “other” grandchildren at every holiday and family event. (Grat’s on the front right here with the whole gang): The Holder family will always be indebted to Grat Tucker for the hundreds of chair side conversations, the times Dad went to Waffle House without reporting in and Grat had to go find him, the times he drove him to worship because it was storming, the myriad of lost things Grat would find (the hearing aid under the bed, the hearing aid battery in the church hallway, the telephone under the recliner, the Bible in the trunk of the car), the reminders and systems of taking medicines, the constant demands of the pool and the very confounding way Dad wanted that to be done, the scores of Monday Alabama football rankings brought home from work for Dad to read and “discuss” over and over with him, that one night Grat captured the bat in the living room (https://thecolleyhouse.org/sister-to-sister-tommy-in-trouble), and especially the many prayers Grat offered on Dad’s behalf in those happy years of decline. They were happy because of the great team effort that was put into the care of that nonagenarian and Grat was a huge part of that team. (Here’s Grat on the Holder “farm”):
And then there was Kiki. I knew something was up, when weekends found Grat absent from the farm. That was after we daughters had made the decision to be with my father at his house 24/7. Grat had more freedom those days to travel and, once, when I was in his room checking on the fuse box, or something, I saw an artist’s drawing with the signature “Kiki” at the bottom. That was the first I knew about someone I would come to love and admire…someone who would become Mrs. Grattan Tucker. Grat was studying the Bible with her…and falling in love with her. She is Kirsten…Mrs. Grattan Howard Tucker IV. Nathan Anderson, the first grade friend, traveled to Guatemala to perform this ceremony in which he presented the gospel to all of this large family. I am very glad Kirsten’s married to Grat. He needed her. I am infinitely more glad that she is now married to Jesus. Their children will grow up in a Christian home. I think I will one day go and hear a Tucker son preach or see a Tucker daughter bringing up children for Him. It’s the genesis of a Tucker legacy for Him.
All because of a child’s invitation. Oh, I know it is because of the Word and the blood and the love of John 3:16. But a child at school placed a flier in the hand of a friend…or he made a call to say “Can you come with me?” or he just invited him over on a Monday to play ball and said “Oh…we’re going to VBS, too…Can you stay for that?”
A child’s invitation. Children found their way to the Savior Who said “Suffer the little children to come to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” I’m glad Grat found his way through that one invitation to Vacation Bible School. A mom, a wife, children and grandchildren. peripheral people who will study with all of these Tuckers…all will gather around the throne because of one child’s invitation.
Of such is the kingdom.
(Grat with Ezra at the Holder Christmas 2014):