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by Roy Lessin @ DaySpring June 3, 2016
When Joe Lessin was 40 his life was aimless, pointless, and full of despair. His health, marriage, and his business had all failed. He decided he would go to Las Vegas for one last fling, then come home and end it all.
As he restlessly stood by one of the gambling tables in a Las Vegas casino, he heard a voice behind him saying, “Joe, you don’t belong here.” He immediately turned around, but no one was there. Perplexed, he left the casino and returned to his room. He looked for some paper to write a note, but found none. When he opened the drawer to the nightstand he noticed a book inside. He pulled it out and read the title. Surprised, he exclaimed, “A Bible!”
Joe was raised an Orthodox Jew, but had never read an English version of the Scriptures. He sat down, opened to the first page, and started reading. He couldn’t put it down! Since he didn’t know where to find another Bible, he decided to steal it when he checked out of the hotel the following morning.
Joe hid the Bible when he got home and read it whenever he could. A few months later, while reading the Messianic prophesies in the Book of Isaiah, Joe’s spiritual eyes were opened. He knew Jesus Christ was his Messiah. Joe believed. His life was transformed. He became a new man—Peace entered his heart, his fear of death left him, and his body was healed of a heart condition. He was a new man.
My dad immediately started praying for his family… he prayed for me for ten years. These were my rebellious teenage years. I fought my dad and his message of Jesus every inch of the way. On August 15, 1961, I visited my dad at his home. I was nineteen. We talked about spiritual matters for over two hours. The struggle in me was great, but my need of Jesus and His forgiveness was greater…that night I knelt with my dad in front of his living room couch and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ.
My dad became my spiritual father, counselor, Bible teacher, and mentor. I saw through his life and witness that Jesus was the treasure of his heart. A comment he often made was, “I can’t wait to see Jesus!”
In 1971, I became one of the founders of DaySpring Cards. Eight years later, in 1979, we moved the company from Los Angeles to Siloam Springs, Arkansas. My dad, Joe Lessin, was 68 when I gave him a hug goodbye and drove off with my family to begin a new adventure 1500 miles away.
During the next 21 years, before the days of the internet and smartphones, my dad and I kept in close touch through phone calls, letters, cards, and occasional visits.
My dad was very thoughtful and loved to give…he was also very poor. One year, his birthday card to me included the following handwritten comment, “To Roy, heir of the Lessin millions.” I couldn’t help but smile! The humor of his comment also contained a much more profound meaning that we both understood…the true riches we shared because of Christ.
In August of 2000 my sister called. “We’ve taken dad to the hospital…they’ve discovered he has advanced leukemia…he has five days to live.” My wife and I booked a flight to L.A.
My sister met us at the airport and gave us more details. “When dad found out the news he really got excited,” my sister explained. “His immediate response was ‘Really! You mean I get to see Jesus!’” She then added, “He would tell visitors not to leave the room until he gave them his new mailing address.”
When I entered my dad’s house I was greeted by my siblings, some family members, and a few friends. After hellos and hugs, I went to see my dad. When I got to the doorway of his room I noticed a young couple seated by his bedside. The young man’s wife was crying. “No, no.” I heard my dad say in a weak voice,
“This is not a time for tears…this is what it’s all about…we live our lives for the Lord and then we get to go home to be with Him.”
My dad’s 49 year longing to see Jesus would soon be realized.
After my dad took his final breath, I gathered with my wife and siblings around his bedside. As he passed from this life into the presence of the Lord, all of us let out a shout of praise…even in our tears, we couldn’t help but celebrate his heavenly homecoming. Some in the house could not understand our response. They wondered how we could be joyful at such a sorrowful moment…for us, we found the joy of the Lord to be both our strength and our comfort.
Joe Lessin was a man who was poor according to the world’s standards, yet he was a man who made many rich…I am eternally grateful for the legacy he left, and for helping me, through his witness and his prayers, become a true heir of “the Lessin millions.”
As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. 2 Corinthians 6:10 NKJV
Want to read more about the extraordinary relationship between Roy and his father, Joe? Get the full story in the book “Sons from Afar” - on sale today for only $10!
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