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Story… My Atheist Neighbor Ted

Story… My Atheist Neighbor Ted

Posted by Kenny Vaughan on 26th Jul 2022

Story… My Atheist Neighbor Ted

This is the story of my atheist neighbor Ted. I learned a lot from this guy. He kind of forced me to learn it—to learn to love him.

We live in the rice fields in the country. Across the pasture from our house is my parents’ house and across the pasture from their house on the other side is a third house where someone new had moved into…actually they had moved into the house about two years ago. But no one knew who the not-so-new neighbors were, they never got out. They were reclusive; and it seemed like no one ever visited them.

It was Thanksgiving Day and there were about 40 cars at my parents’ house. The whole family was there and we were all eating mom’s delicious cooking; and there was no one at this neighbor’s house, but I could see there was someone home.

So, I asked mom to make an extra Thanksgiving plate and I walked over there and knocked on the door. I wanted to just wish him a happy Thanksgiving and give him the plate and head back to the family.

I knock on the door and Ted answers the door, and wants me to come inside. I didn’t want to go in because I had family at home, but I thought, I can take a few minutes. So, I went in.

He told me his name was Ted and I introduced myself.

When I gave him the plate of food, he asked me what it was, so I explained it was my mom’s homemade cooking: dressing, turkey and all the trimmings.

And I remember he kind of mocked the food and said he wondered why anyone would eat that kind of garbage.

I was kind of caught off guard and confused.

Still, somehow he seemed strangely kind and welcoming.

Then, he started talking.

He talked non-stop for a solid two hours. Somewhere in those two hours, he figured out I was a Christian. I tried to make that clear to him. After that, he told me about every hateful despicable Christian he had ever met in his life.

He told me how much he hated God and how he didn’t believe in God, and about standing in his driveway cursing God and daring God to strike him with lightning; and about spitting on the Bible, and all kinds of crazy stuff.

And by the time I got out of there, I thought: Wow, at least I understand why no one ever wants to visit Ted. It was miserable. The place was just a wreck. It was somewhere you would never, ever want to go again.

One of the things I learned about him that day was that he was sick. So, after that, every now and then I would stop by. I wouldn’t get out and go inside anymore. No one could ever drag me back in that house.

But if I saw him outside, I would swing by, say hello and try to check on him—pull up in my truck and call out to him from the truck window and scoot on.

Every single time, he would tell me the same ridiculous stories and trash Christ.

His stories got me to repenting, and I told God, “I am so sorry for listening to this and doing nothing.”

But I was making it perfectly clear toTed what I believed and that I didn’t believe what he was saying was the truth. But I hadn’t choked him out yet.

He was trashing my Savior. For some reason, I thought I needed to defend God. And I was thinking and praying and I told God: “Lord, I am sorry. The very next time he says anything about Jesus I am coming for him."

It was as if the Lord told me, “I appreciate it, Kenny, but I am big enough to take care of myself. And I called you to love.”

I am thinking, how am I supposed to love this guy? How could anyone love this guy?

But I set out to try.

Because he was sick, his yard had just grown uncontrollably, about chest high with trees sticking up that he hadn’t planted but that were growing wild.

His yard had always been well-kept until he got sick.

So, one day I called my brother Gabe to help me and we mowed Ted's yard. It took no less than six to eight hours to mow it all because it was several acres.

When we finished mowing his yard, I knocked on the door to tell him we were done. And then he complains about some shrub we must have cut down that had been growing in the middle of all those chest-high weeds.

I told him I was sorry and if he would tell me what the shrub was, I would go and get him another one.

He told me to never mind.

After a while, Ted’s health started getting worse. I didn’t visit him often, but I would check on him.

I saw him outside one day. I pulled through the driveway. I didn’t get out of my truck…just pulled up. I asked him how he was doing.

He said, “Kenny, I want to die.”

So, I thought, here we go--and I got out of my truck and went over to him and asked him why he wanted to die.

He said, “I am miserable. I am getting sicker. I am terrified all the time. I have no reason left to live. I just want to die.”

I said, “Ted, you do not want to die. That’s not the end, it’s just the beginning and until you accept Christ, you do not want to leave this life.”

He laughed like he always did and he said, “Kenny, you know that’s never going to happen!”

“You know, Ted, maybe it won’t, but, Ted, it won’t be because Tammie and I don’t pray every night that you will,” I told him.

I turned around and walked to my truck. That’s when I heard him say, “Hey Kenny! I love you. You are the only Christian I ever liked.”

I really didn’t know whether to be grateful or ashamed. I told him I loved him, too.

It was the first time I had seen any sign of a soft heart in him. It was as if he was saying, “Thank you for caring.”

Ted didn’t live much longer after that. When I knew he was close to death, I went over and knocked on the door. I thought I would see him one more time.

But the guy who was taking care of him said Ted didn’t want any more visitors.

So, I told the guy to please let Ted know that I loved him and that we were praying for him.

I went home and I didn’t know what to do so I wrote Ted a letter. I knew he loved animals. I knew from talking to him that he took care of every stray animal that came his way.

And I knew Ted had his own code of conduct and ethics. I knew Ted, no matter what, would never receive Christ—for one reason: because Ted thought that if he were God, he would never receive himself, because of all the things he had done.

I knew that Ted didn’t know that God wasn’t like Ted.

And I didn’t know how to accept that. So, I wrote the letter and it said: “Ted, we are still praying for you. I think of you often. Until you take your last breath, it’s never too late to trust God. I know you think God is mad at you. But it’s no different than when you go out to feed every stray animal that comes up to your back door, and they are growling at you and biting at you and barking at you, and you are thinking: if that animal would just calm down long enough—that animal is not scaring you and you are not scaring God; those animals are not offending you and you are not offending God.—and if that animal would just calm down, you would give it some food and water.

“What those animals do says nothing about you and everything about them. What you do says nothing about God and everything about you.

“I hope you understand that God loves you whether you love Him or not. And if you would only accept Him before it’s too late,God will accept you, wherever you are, however you are.”

Later, after Ted was gone, the man caring for Ted told me, “I don’t know what you put in that letter, but he read it several times.”

All I am trying to say is that knucklehead Ted taught me how to love unconditionally.

And as crazy as it sounds, when I get to Heaven--I’d like to see my grandfather first and talk to him—because I never got to meet him; but somewhere in there, I would like to know if Ted made it to Heaven.

I encourage you to love the people in your life who are easy to love, but I hope someone comes along in your life who is hard to love--like Ted--and God shows you how to love them anyway.

Matthew 5:43-44

You have heard that it was said: Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Think about it.

Trust God no matter what.

Keep your eyes on the horizon.

If you haven’t already, read my book, “The Right Fight: How To Live a Loving Life.” It’s all in there.I spent seven years writing it. It will help you set your life on a path of fruitfulness and show you how to live a loving and courageous life instead of a life driven by fear. Order the book on Amazon and at .