Stage (f)Right Part 9 (Conclusion)
Ritchie Jean could see Johnny Travers’ face in the light. He could see Kevin’s face. Both of them had a contorted look of writhing pain. Both were not as Ritchie Jean had seen them at Shu-Yi Huang’s house. Hideous cries were drawing closer and closer, but yet the light was full of peace and love.
As Ritchie Jean hit the light, it exploded into the most terrifying flames imaginable. A feeling of panic and hopelessness enveloped him. His memory was opened as he remembered the day Pastor Reynolds had called him on the phone and he had blacked out. Ritchie Jean had been here before.
Hopelessness overtook his every thought. There was indeed a Hell, and this was it. Terror filled his being as he realized beneath the pain that there was no way out. It was his own private Hell, for he was alone. He could hear screams all around him, but yet he was very much alone.
As the phone roused him from sleep, Ritchie Jean struggled to collect his thoughts as he realized it was only a dream. By the time he made it to the phone, the caller had hung up and as he walked by the front door he saw one of those religious papers come floating under the door. He had her this time.
He flung open the door just in time to see Miss Nameless catch one of her heels on the front porch step and fall. Embarrassed, she pulled herself up, avoiding eye contact with Ritchie Jean.
“Are you the one that’s been leaving these papers everywhere?”
Silence was the response.
“Really, it’s okay. You can look at me”, Ritchie Jean said.
As she brushed her auburn hair from her face, she gazed into the eyes of Ritchie Jean for the first time in nearly ten years. Not sure of his response, she turned away quickly.
“Betsy…Betst Markle. Is that you?”
“Yes, Ritchie Jean. I’ve been concerned about you, I just want you to get saved. I know all about your hospital stay. I know about your trips to that witch. I just want you to give your life to the Lord. Are you upset with me?”
“Betsy, it really is okay. I remember what happened that night when I blacked out. Do you know Pastor Reynolds?”
“Yes. I’ve met him once or twice. I can’t say I really know him.”
“ I had an appointment with him to get saved. I was confused about Kevin, trying to decide if he was dead or alive. I saw him on stage at one of the concerts, but I know now it really wasn’t him. He had entered another world and he took me with him.”
"The night I was supposed to meet Pastor Reynolds, one of Kevin's old CDs began to play on the stereo. I didn't put it on. No one was here. I really had no explanation for it. I could see someone whom I now know as Johnny Travers in the dim light. It was as if he reached right through me and grabbed my heart. I thought it was going to explode. I never felt so much pain, but then it happened!
"I left my body and I began traveling down this long, black tunnel. At the end was a marvelous light and I just wanted to get there. At the time, I didn't notice the demons hiding in the darkness, calling me, compelling me to come to the light. When I reached the light, it exploded into a torrent of flames. I was. . ."
"Ritchie Jean, save it. Are you ready to get saved?"
"No, I can't."
"Ritchie Jean, it's the only hope you have. What's stopping you?"
"I gave my life to Rega, but that's a whole other story. Rega's my god, and there's not room for two. Rega is the one I choose to worship. No one can change that."
It was obvious to Betsy that Ritchie Jean's countenance was undergoing a quick change--an evil change. It really didn't seem like Ritchie Jean at all, and Betsy knew she needed to act fast.
Under her breath, she muttered a quick prayer for wisdom and for Pastor Reynolds. A call went out from the heavenly host to one John Reynolds. A still, small voice seemed to say, "John, I'm ready for you now. Take Jim and get over to Ritchie Jean's right away."
As Pastor and Jim pulled up to the stop sign at the corner of the street, Miss Nameless was still in conversation with Ritchie Jean. She asked, not knowing what kind of an answer to expect, "Who is Rega?"
"Rega is my god. He is the true god."
Continuing to pray and stand on the promises of God, she never missed a beat. "Does he really satisfy all your needs, Ritchie Jean? You just told me that there really was a Hell. You just told me you were there. Would Rega allow an experience like that to happen if he were the true god?" A look of hatred and evil spread over the face of
Ritchie Jean. "Your Jesus sends people to Hell everyday."
"No, Ritchie Jean. People send themselves to Hell because they reject the one true God, Jesus Christ. Rega has blinded your mind. He wants you to think he is the true god so you won't accept the true God--a God of love and peace for your life, a God that will meet the deep needs of your life, a God that will save you, but you have to want him. You have to say you want him or Rega will rule your life forever and drag you down to Hell. Ritchie Jean, say you want Jesus!"
"I. . .I. . .wa. . .I. . ." A tremendous force grasped at Ritchie Jean's heart as Pastor Reynolds and Jim Lockhart made their way up the walk. Beads of sweat formed on Ritchie Jean's face as the three of them knelt and prayed on the front porch. The battle was on against that which is not flesh and blood.
A circle of demons taunted and laughed at Ritchie Jean as they applied more pressure to his heart. As the three continued to pray, Ritchie Jean was thrown through the front door and into a book shelf, all the while the pressure on his heart continued to build. He knew the scenario all too well and knew where he was headed, but yet he seemed helpless to do anything about it.
As Betsy and Jim prayed and quoted Scripture, Pastor Reynolds entered the apartment right behind Ritchie Jean. From the porch, Betsy and Jim could hear objects being thrown, and from the window they could see Ritchie Jean being thrown in all directions, but Pastor Reynolds held his ground.
As the ruckus grew to a crescendo, Betsy and Jim could no longer hear Pastor's voice, but they did hear Ritchie Jean scream the sweetest words they had ever heard. "Jesus, save me!"
All was quiet and an exhausted Ritchie Jean was collapsed on the floor. Johnny Travers was gone. Rega was gone. Jesus Christ had come and Ritchie Jean had found the Truth.
After resting several days, he called Allison to tell her that he was retiring for good, and on the following Sunday he attended Pastor Reynolds' church where Betsy presented him with his first Bible. On the flyleaf she wrote these words:
"Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses. And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation. O that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!" Psalm 107:6-8.
The real battles were just beginning for Ritchie Jean, but with the help of his new church family he was able to make it one day at a time. "O that men would praise the Lord."
The following days and weeks gave Ritchie Jean and Betsy time to become reacquainted. Betsy was very different than Ritchie Jean remembered her from high school.
"Betsy, do you still smoke?"
"No, Ritchie Jean. I gave that up to please the Lord. I feel better, too."
"If you don't mind me being so blunt, did He clean up your mouth, too? I never hear any foul language coming from you, and to be honest, it sounds strange! You used to be able to cuss with the best of them."
"Yes, Ritchie Jean. He cleaned up my mouth, too."
"Can he change me like that? I mean, I know I'm saved, but there's so much more I want to do for Him. He died for me. Shouldn't I want to live completely for Him? Pastor's message the other week on spiritual gifts and service--do I have a spiritual gift I can use for the Lord?"
"Yes, and he does want you to use it for Him. Time will show you what your gift or gifts are, and maybe you could talk to Pastor Reynolds about it, too."
"Betsy, When did you get saved?"
"Remember that progressive dinner we went to in high school?"
"The message that night really got to me. I knew I needed the Lord. I was so nervous. I felt like everyone was looking at me and I couldn't be still. Andrea noticed and talked to me at school on the following Monday. That's when I accepted the Lord and He's been so good to me ever since. You had worldwide fame, but I have the Lord. I wouldn't trade Him for anything.
"Soon after that I got over the "little girl crush" I used to have on you, but I wanted to see you saved. That desire turned into a major burden that I carried for years until you finally were saved. God is faithful.
"After college I got involved in a Bible study on campus. I saw campus life as a great opportunity to serve the Lord. I got involved with Campus Ministries, Inc. I've had the opportunity to travel the country and speak to and work with different campus groups. I figured I couldn't do much, but whenever I was in a town where you were playing, I made it a point to see that you got a tract. . .and I prayed a lot. I know you had some rough times, but I'm glad God was working in your life to bring you to salvation."
"What's Andrea doing now? Do you ever see her?"
"We keep in touch. She's married and has three children. They're in Turkey as missionaries. It's a tough job. The population is just about all Muslim and they are very antagonistic toward the Gospel. She knows she's where the Lord wants her to be and she knows she's doing what He wants her to do.
"She also knows you accepted the Lord. She's prayed all these years for you. We're so glad to see the way God's answered."
It was getting late and Betsy had an appointment with her Campus group. Ritchie Jean went to his apartment to study the Bible. As he turned the corner, Pastor Reynolds was just getting into his car.
"Hey, Pastor Reynolds! Wait!. . .How ya doin'?"
"Good, Ritchie Jean. I just stopped by to see if you could go calling with me. There's an elderly woman on the next block I need to see and I thought it be good if we could spend some time together. Can you go?"
"Yeah, sure. Just give me a minute to change my shirt and I'll be right there."
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