Needing a change in employment as a young man, I crammed my carpenter tools and all the rest of my worldly belongings in my van and headed for Jacksonville Florida. Quickly landing a new job through a previous acquaintance I began working ninety hours a week as a carpenter.
Construction was expanding rapidly and I soon learned that electricians were making almost forty percent more an hour than carpenters. God sovereignly opened a door for me to work for Allstate Electric Company, one of the largest electrical shops in the state. One of my first assignments working near Jacksonville Beach was as the electrical helper for a spirited young journeyman by the name of Tyson Wheeler.
I had been powerfully saved and filled with the Holy Spirit only a couple of years earlier. I knew through the power of prayer that God’s call to evangelize was very strong on my life. My passion was to share Jesus Christ with every needy heart I could find, so it was inevitable that Tyson, although a reluctant listener, became one of my first audiences.
Tyson had a few hobbies in his life that caused a bit of a distraction in his normal workday. An avid surfer and fisherman, if he learned that the “surf was up” or the “shrimp were running” he would disappear for an hour or two letting his crew know that he had something important that he had to do. In addition, he liked to pull his van off around the corner from the jobsite and smoke weed as he enjoyed his latest Playboy Magazine from a stack he kept hidden under his front seat.
For some reason, Tyson started right out using me as his scapegoat. I found out later that when the bosses back in Jacksonville queried him as to why our crew were lagging behind on completing our condos, he was telling the boss, “It’s that Yankee Harkness that you sent down here. He is so slow, its hard to get anything done with him here.”
Meanwhile, Tyson’s wife and little girl back home were praying that God would soften his heart to the Gospel, and so God began to do something unique in Tyson’s life. During breaks I would share my testimony with Tyson and tell him of God’s undeserved love for him. Tyson’s daughter had caught him one day smoking a joint and looking at one of those magazines in his van while sitting at home in his driveway. She told him, “Daddy, Jesus does not like it when you do those things.” God used that incident to touch his heart and eventually Tyson gave his life to Jesus and started attending my home church with his wife and daughter.
Through one of the deacons of our church, a different job soon opened up for me working at the general office building of “Seaboard Systems Railroad.” As a maintenance electrician, I enjoyed a climate controlled work environment in a department with eight other Christian men who prayed every morning before starting work. I received paid vacation and full benefits and it was a dream job. I was told it would be a temporary position but could soon be permanent. The railroad wanted to hire one more temporary electrician and then decide between the two who would be brought on “full time.”
As soon as Tyson got wind that I had gotten a job with the railroad, he immediately approached me saying, “Nolan hey, if anything else opens up down there let me know ok?” I immediately thought, “Yeah right after what he did to me down at the beach job, and only one of us will be kept on permanently, no way Lord!” However, I prayed, “Lord, if this is You and You want me to tell Tyson about that job, have him ask me again at church this Sunday.” As soon as church dismissed, I made a dash for the door to avoid Tyson. However, as I was doing so, I heard a “NOLAN” yelled clear across the church. “Wait a minute, I need to see you!” Sure enough, the fleece was met, and you guessed it, Tyson was hired as the second non-permanent electrician.
In the ensuing months, Tyson began to grow wonderfully in his faith. God knew that he wanted to use me and the other Christian guys to help “big brother” him a bit. He hit some potholes and stumbled some, but began to love Jesus more and more and never once became a problem which ever put my job in jeopardy. Eventually my calling to be an evangelist led me to move back to my home area in rural Pennsylvania. Although I felt my heaven-sent assignment with Tyson was complete, we did continue to stay in touch. It soon developed that he was about to face his own calling; he was diagnosed with fifth level melanoma cancer and it spread rapidly.
In my last phone call to him, he said to me, “Nolan, I saw my two best friends this morning! I know they are giving me morphine but I am not taking it all and I am not imagining this. I turned on the TV and Nolan there you were, in a rerun of that time you shared your testimony on the local television station. A short time later Jesus appeared at the foot of my bed and told me not to worry about my wife and little girl. He told me that He was taking me home, and they would be alright.” I said “Tyson, pray for me when you get there!” His last words to me were, “I’m gonna tell them I know you!” Tyson soon thereafter caught his perfect wave and went home to be with Jesus.
We never truly know whose lives we will have a chance to touch. Ask yourself as you pray if there is a Tyson in your life?
Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is www.verticalsound.org.