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“The Love of Jesus Christ”

A Testimony by Fred Keenan
Terre Haute, IN

October 2000

I was one of the group leaders of a wilderness adventure for young adults organized by our church.  We were hiking  one of the many trails of the Bear Tooth Mountain range in Southern Montana.   It was early August and the high mountain trail wound along a beautiful stream and companion lake that was loaded with trout.  There were occasional Moose sightings and the weather was fairly cooperative.  

Some of the group of 16 young men and women already knew each other, but others were meeting for the first time.  It was obvious that one of the young men (we’ll call him Ned) was going to be a problem.  He had come with a friend of his who was a member of our church.  Ned would not participate in any of the initial fellowship activities and he was always sullen and would hardly talk to anyone.  I remember thinking – “why did he come on this trip?”  and feeling that he was detracting from the experience of enjoying the outdoors and the beauty of God’s creation.  As the trip progressed I found myself becoming more and more irritated and annoyed with this young man and with his behavior.  

At some point I realized that I needed to find a way to reach him.  On the second day of our hike I found myself directly in back of him on the narrow trail.  As happens on these type hikes, folks usually only see one or two people in front and/or in back because of the twisting nature of the trail and density of foliage.  The terrain allowed us to hike for about an hour at a time before we would rest.  

During one of these hour segments I kept my eye on Ned ahead of me and repeated in my mind “The Love of Jesus Christ, the Love of Jesus Christ”.  I don’t know why this mantra came into my mind – but I couldn’t stop saying those words in my mind – I kept it up for a full hour.   

Finally – we came to a resting point and I approached Ned and began to speak to him.   To my amazement he returned my conversation and seemed to be the most at ease I had seen him.  Later that night as we sat around the campfire and shared together, Ned opened up to the whole group and told how he had come on the trip with the mindset that he was going to “test” whether these people were Christian or not.  He then said that he didn’t know why, but during that day’s hike he had come to the realization that he was not acting in concert with God’s love and that something touched him and made him come to his senses.  He apologized for acting the way that he did and asked for our forgiveness.  He also shared some of the personal problems that were happening in his life that he needed help with.  

At a special service we held later that week we were able to pray specifically for Ned, that God would bless this young man through His Son, and make him whole.  I know that the change that came about not only in my attitude but in Ned’s was the direct result of that one perfect, powerful force available in the world – The Love of Jesus Christ!

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