Jan Karon is the author of the beloved and hugely successful Mitford book series. The books follow the lives of the denizens of a small North Carolina mountain village called Mitford. One of the central characters is the small town Episcopal minister, Father Tim. Karon’s books are embraced by the Christian community for their loving view of small town and church life.

In her newsletter, Karon tells the story of something that happened to her at a recent speech. In one of Karon’s books, A Light in the Window, there was a character named Buck Leeper. Buck was drunken, profane and violent. In one scene, he breaks up the furniture in front of Father Tim, while the minister prays for help. Eventually Buck finds hope and help and is a changed man. This leads to what happened at the speaking engagement.

As the author stood in a receiving line, she noticed a large man at the back of the line. He greeted her and said shyly, “I was Buck Leeper. I wanted to thank you.” Jan Karon said that she was profoundly moved and will never forget this man.

You never know how the gospel will get through. People can and do change and it is it not just fiction.

J. Michael Shannon is professor of preaching at Cincinnati Bible College in Cincinnati, OH.