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Christ and cribbage

A chaplain uses an age-old game to share a lifesaving message.

I knocked on Nick’s door and asked if I could come in. I was the new chaplain at Wellhaven Senior Apartments and wanted to get acquainted with him. I saw a large cribbage board displayed on the wall and asked about it. Nick told me that he served in the Marines in Vietnam and that he had made that cribbage board while he was there. He showed me the pegs for it. They were spent cartridge shells. He invited me to come in and play sometime. I said I would.

An opportunity

Not too long after, I decided to take Nick up on his invitation. I knocked on his door and asked if we could play cribbage. He told me to take the cribbage board off the wall, and we played. He had to remind me of the rules because it had been years since I had played cribbage. He was a good teacher.

Playing cribbage was an opportunity to visit with Nick. I didn’t think—at first—he would want me to visit if it weren’t to play cribbage. I would always bring my Bible along with me.

While we played, we bounced back and forth from kidding each other to having serious conversations. This led to Nick telling me that he grew up going to a Roman Catholic Church and was an altar boy. After he went to Vietnam, however, he never got back into hearing God’s Word. I asked him if he knew why God should let him, a sinner, into heaven. He didn’t know. I explained how Jesus took our place on the cross, receiving the full punishment for our sin in our place. I told him that Jesus also had done all the work of keeping God’s laws for us perfectly as our representative. I think that last point lingered on Nick’s mind.

A win

Nick started to decline in health, and I began going to his apartment two or three times a week to play cribbage with him. During one game he picked up on that thread of Christ keeping the law. He asked, “Pastor, is Jesus my Savior because he showed me how to live or because he did everything for me?” I thanked the Lord for causing that planted seed of his Word to grow! It created another opportunity to share the gospel. I was excited to explain to him how the second explanation was correct. I told him how Jesus had done everything for him as his substitute, that eternal life was God’s gift to Nick, with no conditions for him yet to meet.

Nick took a turn for the worse. The next time we played, we knew it would be the last. I visited him again that same evening, and this time his daughter was with him. I explained to them the assurance of Christ’s resurrection. That night Nick was taken to the hospital and never returned to Wellhaven. Instead, he went home to heaven.

Nick gave me his cribbage board and “pegs.” Now I use his board to play with residents and listen to their stories about upcoming doctor visits or happenings in their families. Before I leave, I pray with them, asking the Lord to bless their treatment or protect their family members.

Jesus can use game playing for sharing his Word. I win some games, and I lose some. But it’s a win every time I get to share Jesus.

Author: Kenley Mann
Volume 108, Number 9
Issue: September 2021

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