The following anecdote by Kary Oberbrunner, associate pastor of discipleship and leadership development at the Grace Brethren church in Powell, Ohio, is currently posted on “Preaching Today” from Christianity Today, Inc.:
Kary Overbrunner, author of Your Secret name, shared a story about his encounter with an older man named Bob. While Kary was at the local gym, trying to stay focused on his exercise routine, he noticed an elderly man fumbling with an MP3 player and headphones. At first, Kary tried to ignore the man, but as the man was becoming more frustrated with the technology, Kary reluctantly introduced himself and asked if he could help.
The man dejectedly explained, “Hi, I’m Bob, and I love jazz, but I can’t get it on this dumb player.”
When Kary asked Bob if he had heard of iTunes, Bob shot back, “‘I’ what?”
It slowly dawned on Kary that God had placed Bob in his path for a reason. So they set a date when they could spend some more time unraveling Bob’s MP3 troubles.
Kary continues the story:
Against his initial wishes, I visited him at his apartment. Turns out his wife had died a couple years before, and all his earthly possessions were crammed into a small apartment. She had been their main breadwinner, so the bank repossessed his house when he was unable to make payments.
Bob and I made a makeshift space in his back room near his desktop computer. One at a time I imported his jazz CD collection onto his hard drive, intending to transfer the MP3s eventually to his player. While importing his music, Bob and I talked about life, his wife, and God.
The weeks following I checked in on Bob often. Kind of funny how two guys who are complete opposites can become the best of friends, all because of an MP3 player.
Bob is 71. I am 32. Bob is black. I am white. Bob doesn’t have much money. I have more than I need. Bob is an ex-convict. I’ve never been to jail. Bob is a widower. I’m married. [In short], we’re opposites.
A short time later I invited Bob to church, deeply desiring for him to meet Jesus. After a few invitations, he eventually accepted and sat with my wife and me last spring. If he felt awkward sitting in our mostly white church, he didn’t let on.
After the service … [we] knelt near the altar, and Bob told Jesus that he wanted to follow him. Bob confessed that he wanted to stop trying to control his life and invited Jesus to take over …. Bob wept and when I looked into his eyes I noticed the distinct peace that now defined his face.
Bob changed my life and the life of my church. I get more joy from him than he’ll ever understand. Whenever I say goodbye to him at the YMCA or hang up the phone after talking with him, he always tells me to “give his love to my family.” He wants me to baptize him this June at our next baptism.
I’m saddened by the reality that I almost missed Bob simply because I was too engrossed in my own little world.
Kary Overbrunner, “‘What About Bob?’ How That Question Changed My Life,” New Man. eMagazine (4-14-09)