On this classic Focus on the Family program, the Rev. Mike Adkins tells the humorous and poignant story of his efforts to befriend and share the Gospel with his neighbor Norman, who was a recluse and a social outcast. (Part 2 of 2)
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Mike: He looked at me out of those eyes, out of those thick glasses. And I said, "Norman, do you know who Jesus is?" He said, "Do you know who Jesus is?" I said, 'cause people were beginning to look, I said, "Norman, did you ever think about asking Jesus to come into your heart and your life?" He never repeated me. For the first time, he said, "I’ve given it serious consideration."
John: Well, that scene in an ice cream shop was just the beginning of a 29-year friendship between our speaker today, Mike Adkins and a man called "Norman," a man who the Lord had asked Mike to befriend. On today's edition of "Focus on the Family" with our president and author, Jim Daly, we'll hear the lessons that Mike Adkins learned. And these are lessons that will benefit each and every one of us.
Jim: John, I've always loved this message because it's a motivator. It motivates us to act, not simply to just read our Bibles and pray, which are very important, but to actually do.
Jim: And I think the story of "A Man Called Norman," it's profound in so many different ways. The first is the fact that God loves Norman.
Jim: And even though he's not perhaps as sharp as everyone else and he has other issues, God sent Mike Adkins as his neighbor to befriend him--
Jim: --and to learn more about Norman and to care for Norman. And it's a beautiful story, I think that could come right out of the Scriptures for us today if they were still being written--
Jim: --and to illustrate the beauty of brotherly love, one for another. And that really captures it, doesn't it?
John: It does and I really like the way that God worked on Norman and Mike, too. I mean, Norman had to be pulled of a life of--
Jim: Abuse, yeah--
John: --outcast and yes. And Mike had things that he had to wrestle with and God spoke to both of them and through both of them to many, many people. And it really is an amazing testimony of God doing remarkable things.
Jim: And last time, we even heard Mike talk about the Lord laying on his heart to invite Norman on his family vacation. Now I don't know about you, John, but if I had kind of a strange neighbor and I felt the Lord saying to me, "Take Norman on your family vacation," first of all, I'd have to get through that myself. Then Jean and I would (Chuckling) have to--
John: I'd have 101--
Jim: --and Jean ... (Chuckling)
John: --reasons not to do this.
Jim: And again, it just is a great testimony to Mike's faithfulness and he did it and look at the beautiful bouquet that Norman became--
Jim: --because of Mike's faithfulness.
John: Well, let me just quickly introduce Mike Adkins for those who weren't with us last time or haven't heard the previous airings of this presentation. He was a federal coal mine inspector, until God led him into a full-time ministry of evangelism and singing. And he's got a number of Gospel music albums and lives now in West Frankfurt, Illinois with his wife, Carmel. And after we hear this portion of Mike's message, we're going to do something, Jim, a little different. We're gonna give him a call and get an update about what God's been doing in Mike's life and I know he'll have a story. He always--
Jim: Yes, he does.
John: --has a story to share.
Jim: He's a great storyteller.
John: Indeed and let's go ahead and let our listeners hear. We're gonna roll back just a little bit, get a recap from the last time. And with that, here's "A Man Called Norman" on today's "Focus on the Family."
Mike: He walked out of that house and I saw that he lived there and I said, "Oh, no!" (Laughter) I said, "Lord, that’s weird Norman over there!" (Laughter) I said, "You had me buy the house across the street from weird Norman." (Laughter)
This time he came out to work on his lawn mower out in the backyard. Suddenly the presence of the Lord settled all over me. I didn't expect it. I was surprised by it, but it settled all over me and when it did, it seemed that faith or confidence or I don't know the right word, more than I normally possessed, it began to well up in me and I did something that surprised even me.
I got up, barefoot, coveralls, walked across that street and walked up to Norman in his backyard by his lawn mowers [sic]. I said (Clearing throat), "You havin' trouble with your lawn mower, Norman?" He looked at me and he said, "You havin' trouble with your lawn mower, Norman?" (Laughter)
I said, "I'm not much of a lawn mower mechanic, Norman" and I heard him say, "I’m not much of a mechanic, Norman," as I looked at him. (Laughter) I cleaned a spark plug, tightened a screw or two. I don’t know anything about a lawn mower. And I prayed and pulled that rope and it ran like it’d been to the repair shop. It just hummed--just "hm." I got up and I looked at him and he looked at that lawn mower and he looked at me and he looked at that lawn mower and he did something. For the first time I saw when he grinned real big, I saw a green and yellow tooth right here. (Laughter) And I saw one over here and one here and one here. (Laughter)
It'd been a busy year, busy year. (Laughter) I’d been workin’ at the coal mine and I was tired and I’d been singing in churches on the weekend[s] and I was telling the Lord about it, you know, ‘cause my vacation was comin’ up. And you know what the Lord told me? He said, "Why don’t you take Norman with you on vacation?" (Laughter)
I said, "I’m goin' to Opryland, Lord. Norman at Opryland just ... " And I said, "Lord, I’m not gonna do it, now. Sir, I’m tired and ... " A couple of weeks later we was [sic] going down the highway to Opryland (Laugher), Norman sitting in beside me, my wife and kids in the back.
We got to Opryland and I didn’t put him on the Wabash Cannonball, you know, because he’s about 62-years-old at the time and I was afraid he might have a heart problem over that, you know. So, I tried to pick out a ride he could handle and I found the bumper cars. We got him in there. He sat down in that big old bumper car and he got everybody in the place caught over to one side. (Laughter)
They turned that ride on. He had the whole crowd pinned and he had his car sideways and had 'em jammed in over there and they were mad. (Laughter) And he was lookin' around and lookin' at me goin', "Heh." And he couldn't figure it out. And we began to laugh and we were standin' outside that place, tears began to run in my eyes. I said, "Look Carmel. Look at him, Norman, he's got everyone caught over there." And the kids went, "Uh-ha."
And finally somebody got loose. And the ride was about half over and they felt like they had been cheated and they were in a hurry. They came all the way around that rink and they wanted to hit somebody before that ride was over and there sat Norman. And they hit him full speed ahead. He went, "Oh." And then he really tried to get that thing going. And here comes someone else and they were starting to get loose now in great numbers and one-by-one, they’d come around and they’d hit Norman.
And the Spirit of the Lord spoke to me at Opryland and He said, "That’s what they’ve been doin' to Norman all his life. People [have] been hittin' on him. They've been hittin' on him.
I had taken Norman an old suit of mine that I didn’t wear any more. God brought that to my attention. And I went over and looked in his closet and I couldn’t believe my eyes: old shoes of every description you can imagine, old suits, sweaters that hung this way, all kinds of ties--bolos, sparkly ties, big wide ties, little ties--nothing that anyone would want to wear.
I said, "God, give me an opportunity to bless me some way, Lord." And a revival to sing at came in and I know they gave me an offering at the end of the revival. And the Lord said, "Buy Norman a suit." I went downtown. I bought one of the nicest suits I could find. I made sure it cost at least more than any suit I owned in my wardrobe. And I went to get him and take him and he picked it out. He liked it. It was kind of dark blue. He had good taste. It had a little stitching around here; it was polyester. It was nice; it was expensive.
I said, "Norman, you ever been clean?" (Laughter) He said, "It’s been years." (Laughter) He said, "I’m a hermit, you know. My dad got killed in the coal mines about 50 years ago. [He] went to work one day. I was just a little boy and he didn’t come home. Some men came to our house and said the roof fell in on him. I remember his funeral. I saw my uncle, haven’t ever seen him again." I said, "Norman, I’m gonna run some water for you in your bathtub and I really want you to get clean, ‘cause tonight I want to take you down to a church that’s having a Gospel singing."
I went in his bathroom. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I pulled the curtain back--oh. The floor was like dirt. The tub was so filthy, I had to take all the sacks out of it first. He saved paper sacks; I didn’t know why. I took ‘em all out and then I cleaned the tub with SOS pads and when I turned the hot water faucet on, it fell in the tub. (Laughter) And I got it back up and taped it back on. It leaked a little, but it worked all right.
And I got his hot water ran [sic] in there and I went in there and I said, "Now, Norman, see, you’ve got a new white shirt and a tie to go with your suit and you got new shoes and socks and underclothes. And let’s really get clean. I mean, you know, really, really" ... and I said, "When you’re through, holler at me, okay?"
He went in there, in the bathroom and I went into the living room to look at that unbelievable house he lived in. Wallpaper sagging--rain had got [sic] in--falling off the walls and the ceiling and dirt everywhere. He had an old coal furnace that belched smoke in the wintertime. Something was wrong with it. I don’t know how he lived at night when he turned that on in the wintertime. Sometimes he didn’t use it; I saw that he had several covers on his bed he’d just crawl under.
And that old mattress, it was like that and I shook the curtain and dust just came out of it. And I said, while he was in there in the bathtub ... I heard him in there. He was in there soaping, "Oop-a-loopa, loopa, loopa, loopa," he was beginning to sing. He finally said, "I’m okay, I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m clean."
I went in there and I pulled that curtain back. I had told him to get out of the tub and just put a towel around him. There he stood. His glasses were off, water dripping in the floor and I … with a towel around him. And I looked at him and I ... have you ever seen mud that had just been smeared? (Laughter) I said, "Not clean enough Norman. I want you to get back in the tub? Now, Norman, I’m serious, now get clean. We want to be ... " And went back into the living room, looked ... went back in after he said he was okay. That went on time and time again. Finally, the floor was wet; the mirror was wet; the tub was wet; I was wet; he was wet, but when he got finished, I had scrubbed his head. I got him down like this; I didn’t hurt him, but I got him in a headlock where he couldn’t get away.
I got an SOS. I got some Lava soap and I got a sponge and I began to rub the top of his head. And I rubbed it and he’d go, "Mm-m-m, m-m-m." (Laughter) I rubbed it and pretty soon I looked and there was a bunch of white showing through. He had beautiful white hair.
I scrubbed some more; I said, "Put your face up here." And I scrubbed his face and I gave him the sponge. I said, "All right, big boy, from the neck on down is yours; get it clean." (Laughter) When we got finished--water all over the place--you could rub your thumb on him anywhere and he’d squeak. (Laughter)
We went downtown to the church, to the Gospel singing. We sat down; people would come up to me and say, "Well, Brother Mike, we’re really glad to have you visiting here tonight. God bless you. And who’s your friend?" About the time they’d get his hand, I’d say, "That’s Norman" and they’d go ... (Laughter)
One Sunday right after that, the Spirit of the Lord spoke to me and said, "Today is Norman’s day. Take a Bible; get a pastor friend." We went over to Norman’s. We got the Book of Romans and we began to tell him how we’ve all come short of the kingdom of God--how he could receive salvation. At first he didn’t understand and then he grasped it. He said to me, "Oh, I see what you mean." He said, "I used to listen when I was a little boy to the radio. My mom would play ... that preacher was on." He said, "You mean like my windows right there are so dirty."
He said, "And you’re saying that Jesus--if I’ll ask Him--will clean my heart up like sometimes when I wash my windows?" I said, "Yeah, Norman, he’ll clean up inside of you and then the outside, too." And he said, "I would like that." In that old house, with the wind blowing and the cracks in the walls--old dirty house--Norman prayed a simple prayer. And he said, "Jesus, Mike said that if I’d ask You to, You’d come into my heart and I’d like that. Come in" and he was washed white as snow.
I rejoiced and God began to do a work in him, but God began to do a work in me. I didn’t mind if everybody in town knew I was helping Norman. I used to tell ‘em down at the ball game a little bit during the intermission. A bunch of us guys would be standing around drinking a Coke and I’d say, just out of the clear blue--I couldn’t stand it anymore; I wanted praise so bad [sic] for this little good deed I was doing--I said, "I’m helping Norman." (Laughter)
These guys would look at me like, "Huh? What do you think they’re gonna do in the second half, Fred? They gonna run the ... " And God said, "That’s not loving your neighbor as yourself."
Now, folks, I want to tell you something. When I’m in a church that needs this message because they have a lack of love, I always mention to ‘em that God is praised in a lot of places. Most Christians, generally speaking, love God, but not many love their neighbor as theirself [sic]. I’m gonna finish with this.
I had pride in me. God still works on it. He said, "Are you willing to help Norman, no matter how long it takes? Are you willing to help him, take him places, make him a part of your life? Are you really willing?" I said, "Oh, God, he’s so unlovely sometimes." And one night He challenged me with what I want to close with.
He said in the bathroom one night, I was standing there looking at his bathroom. I had remodeled his bathroom by now, fixed his faucet. I fixed his sink. I’d got him some new walls and I put him a new Celotex ceiling in and had a light I was working on. And there was one thing in that bathroom that I just would not touch. It was over in the corner. And (Laughter) it was dirty and I just said, "No." (Laughter)
I said, "Now, God, sing in a choir? I’ll sing in [a] choir; I love 'em. I love You all the time, but yeah, I’ll do that. Travel all over the country and sing and tell 'em about Jesus? Okay, Lord. Not that." (Laughter) He kept troubling me about it, troubling me about it. I kept telling Him no, kept telling Him no. I fought that thing. I said, "No way."
He said, "All I want you to do is fix that ring and lid on the top of it." You see if you look at it and I did, it had the two bolts that held the ring into the ceramic part. One of those bolts has broken off. And if you accidentally bumped into it, it would just swing down by that one bolt and hang beside the bowl. And He said, "Look over there." And I looked and someone ... and I’m gonna ask Him one of these days. I’m not brash towards our Father, but I’m gonna ask Him. I don’t think He’ll mind. I’m gonna ask Him who put that there. In a plastic bag was a brand-new ring and lid. All I had to do was take a bolt off, take the old one off, throw it away, put the new one on, put the bolts on it and it was finished; but I wasn’t gonna touch it.
Sat over in front of my television. One night He troubled me so bad I couldn’t watch television. I finally turned around to Carmel, my wife and I just said, "I’m not gonna do it." (Laughter) She was looking at the Sears catalog or something. She looked at me like ... (Laughter) I couldn’t stand it. About an hour later, I went up and got my coveralls out of the pantry and I put ‘em on and put the collar up. (Laughter)
I pulled the sleeves down, found me some gloves that came down over the sleeves. She laughed and told me later if I’d have had an operating mask like a surgeon, I’d have had that on. (Laughter) I got my toolbox and I crept across the street real late over into Norman’s bathroom, got the tools out, started working on that thing. And that one bolt that was left, I just couldn’t ... tried to get that box-end wrench on it. It just wouldn’t ... and if I was God and a guy was finally willing to do somethin' like this, I’d just have him touch that thing and it’d come right off, wouldn’t you? But it wouldn’t do it. I just …
And finally, I tried to get as close as I could to it (Laughter) without touching it, you know--"Watch it, whoa, watch it." (Laughter) And I’ll tell you something. You gotta hug one of them things to work on it, you know? (Laughter and Applause) And I just couldn’t get it off. And so, I know we’re in a church and I’m gonna trust God, He’s got a good sense of humor, because here’s what I finally had to do. It’s true. I had to get down on that old filthy floor so I could see up under that thing. (Laughter)
And I crawled (Laughter) and I took that wrench and I finally got it on that nut and I moved it a little bit and old rust and dirt just hit me right in the eye, like that. (Laughter) I said, "This ain’t the `700 Club’! (Laughter) This ain’t `PTL." And I began to have one of Jim’s pity parties he was talking about and uh ... the Spirit of the Lord took care of it. He spoke to me and said, right there on the floor, He said, "When you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto Me." It changed me. I didn’t care if anybody noticed. I didn’t want any money. I didn’t want any acclamation for it. I didn’t care anymore. I just began to see when it said, "I’ll give my body to be burned, but if I have not love, it’s for nothing."
I began to understand that word "Loving your neighbor as yourself." I went back home and I said, "God, what else will You have for me?" He said, "Son, get in your car and take those songs that I’ve given you all over the country and leave ‘em at radio stations."
I think maybe He thought, "Maybe I can trust him, maybe use him a little bit." And I went in the car, over all the radio stations and He opened up television and suddenly, record sales came in and then doors opened to speak all over the country. But He never allowed any of that to happen in my life, not the first bit of it, no matter how much I agonized with Him for 35 years, no matter how much I hollered and said, "Why can’t You use me, God? Why am I havin' to wait?" until He had taught me to love my neighbor as myself through my friend, my neighbor named Norman. He opened the doors and today one of the favorite things that I get to tell around the country, if it be in Indonesia or Holland or America, is the story of how God used the old man named Norman to teach me to love my neighbor as myself.
John: What an unforgettable "Focus on the Family" broadcast, a real classic for you today. And it should be obvious why this message has resonated with so many over the years. Jim, this is the Gospel. This is "love your neighbor" lived out and told so powerfully, so beautifully by Mike Adkins.
Jim: Yeah, this is it, John. And I hope this message has inspired our listeners to really think about being a good neighbor, just what the Gospel says and befriend someone like a Norman and really allow the Lord to change their own hearts, as well.
Jim: That's what it's about, isn't it? And you know one of the best parts of working at Focus on the Family, John, is getting to meet amazing Christians like Mike Adkins.
Jim: I mean, he's just a wonderful human being. And I gave him a call yesterday and he agreed to be on the phone with us to answer a few follow-up questions about Norman.
Mike, as you know, we've been listening to "A Man Called Norman," a great story of redemption and you tell it so well, Mike. It blesses me every time I hear it. But over the last couple of days, we've been listening here at Focus on the Family. It's great to have you on the phone. We really enjoyed the stories you shared in the early part of the message, which we heard last time, Mike. But I'm just wondering, when the Lord asked you to take Norman on your family vacation to Opryland--
Jim: --Mike, what was in your head?
Mike: I was wondering if I'd really heard God when I felt a leading to take him with us, you know, on vacation. But boy, it sure turned out to be the Lord and--
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Mike: --and He taught me so much through Norman. I’ve often told people and they’ll say, "What’s that story about?" I’ll say, "Well, God I thought was sending me across the street to help an old fella, get him cleaned up and everything else. And the truth was, God was cleaning me up in a lot of ways, where maybe not physically did I need that, but I needed it a lot of ways spiritually.
Jim: Now your good friend Norman, he did pass away a few years back. Tell us about that--
Jim: --moment, that emotion.
Mike: Well, he had become almost a replacement for my grandfather. My grandfather passed away when I was just a teenager. And Norman just sort of replaced him in my heart.
And in April 24th, in 2000, he went to be with Lord. I got to be with him the last three hours and it was one of the most precious times of my life, because I had felt God there so strongly—His presence.
Mike: And I watched him shed his last tear and as I was comforting him, telling him that he was gonna see Jesus pretty soon; everything was all right. And he was at real peace. And I know he heard me and I know he understood what I was saying. But it was one of the most difficult times for me personally, because I still miss him. He was a blessing to my life, I could never describe to ya how much really.
Jim: You know, one of the things John and I, we were talking about last time is just the conviction that the story brings to our own hearts, to look for the people around us that are like the "Normans" in our own lives. And you’re talkin’ to an awful lot of people right now, Mike. And what would you say to encourage those of us that might give the excuse that, you know, the pace of life is too fast and I’ve got young kids and the list goes on and on? What can you say?
Mike: Well, those things, of course, are very true. I got a call a couple weeks ago. It was a young man’s wife. And she said uh, "My husband started a men’s group down at our church, age 7 to 70. And they have each month a project where they go out and they help someone in great need. And that really blessed me to hear that.
Mike: And then, you know, we get some wonderful, wonderful letters. I got one here. And this was a minister in Tennessee and he said, one Sunday after church a man came to his office, very distraught, crying. He said he’d been lookin’ for work all over the area, been sleepin’ in his car, driving around for six days. He said, "I’ve got a full tank of gas now and I heard about a job 200 miles from here, where I might get some work."
And he began to weep and he said, "I’m so exhausted, I don’t think I can make the trip." So, the pastor bought him a motel room and when they went in to pay for the motel room, his wife, the pastor’s wife and kids had followed in another car. And when they got to the motel and went inside, his children asked their mom. "What’s going on? What’s this about?"
And she explained how desperate the man was. And the children were just flabbergasted. They said, they didn’t know any human could be that alone. And so, when the man came out of the motel office, the children ran up to him and the little boy handed him a dime.
Mike: And he said, "The tooth fairy left this for me, but I don’t need it."
Mike: And then, the little girl had a box of Graham crackers a lady at the church’d given her. And she said, "I don’t need this either." And that so profoundly impacted that man, that it gave the minister a great opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus with him. And then on the way home, the daughter said, "That man reminded me of Norman." They’d seen—
Mike: --that story. (Chuckling)
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Mike: --and heard that story.
Jim: Well, Mike, it’s such a powerful story and even that little story about Norman’s impact illustrates the point and for people to get involved in their neighborhood and in their community, that’s really the essence of it and do it in name of Christ. It’s not simply to be a good friend, but it does have a purpose to it and that’s to lead someone to the Lord, right?
Mike: That’s the bottom line, because if they don’t know the Lord, wow! It’s almost like, what’s the point?
Jim: You know, one place I’d love to be in heaven is standing near you as you and Norman say hello to each other in heaven again. That’ll be a great day.
Mike: (Weeping) I’m sorry
Jim: I want to see you two embrace each other, my friend.
Mike: I look forward to that. (Sigh) Sorry, I didn’t want to get emotional. (Sigh) But thank you for that.
Jim: Mike, we love you. Thank you for your witness and your example to us all.
Mike: Thank you.
Jim: God bless you.
Mike: God bless you.
John: What a touching way to finish this two-day program and it's a "Focus on the Family" classic, pretty to see why, isn't it? We've enjoyed our relationship with Mike Adkins over the years so much. He has such a big heart and we've heard from hundreds and hundreds of people who have really responded to the message of this presentation.
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Mike AdkinsView Bio
Mike Adkins is an evangelist, singer and songwriter. He is also the author of the best-selling book A Man Called Norman. Mike has sung and spoken around the world and has appeared on more than 300 national television programs. He and his wife, Carmel, reside in Illinois.