Incident happened in 1961


There is one special leading of the Lord in my lifetime that thrills me as much as, or more, than any other. It happened during a youth camp where I was the evangelist. When I preach a salvation sermon, I sometimes make the point that a person must be born into God’s family by spiritual birth, saying something like this: ‘Physical birth brought you into the Smith family, the Jones family, the Johnson family. But it takes a spiritual birth to bring you into God’s family’.

That truth is based upon the third chapter of John’s Gospel. As often as I can, I make that third name one that is familiar in the congregation, or at least typical of the area. If there is a strong ethnic group represented in that church I often choose a name that is obviously of that ethnicity, like ‘Friesen’ in a Mennonite area, or ‘Swensen’ in a Scandinavian area.

At Rivercrest Bible Camp in Fremont, Nebraska, I was preaching one night and heard myself say those familiar words, but the final name on that list was not a familiar one! On the contrary, it was quite a tongue twister! ‘The Gilliland family’, I said!

I remember thinking to myself right while preaching, What an unusual name to include! Somewhere I have heard it before, but it is difficult to say that name, let alone to remember it! (Actually, I realized later, I had seen the name ‘Gilliland’ months before on an application form that had crossed my desk at the St. Paul Bible College).

When I gave the invitation, there was a young lady who came to the altar crying. I prayed with her. She said: ‘Oh, pastor, when you included ‘the Gilliland family’, I knew that God was speaking to me. My name is Wanda Gilliland!’

God had chosen to slip an unusual, unfamiliar name into my mouth, to achieve His wonderful purposes. I wish this were the norm, rather than the exception!


From: Charles W. Shepson, Quite miracles and other true stories of God’s guidance, provision and care, published by Christian Publications Inc., Camp Hill PA, printed in the USA, 2001, pages. 111-112