A Little Boy’s Faith Has A Big Impact

Last week, one of our long-time supporters went home to be with the Lord. For many years, Mrs. Willa Townsend shared her testimony and that of her son, Otis, at events of The Gideons International. We would like to share her story with you here, in her own words.

My husband and I lived in Mississippi and we thought we had everything we needed or wanted. My husband was tops in his profession. We had a new home, two cars, and six beautiful sons. I was happy and gave God credit for our good fortune. I also thanked Him for my sons every day, but that wasn’t being saved, and that wasn’t accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior.

My second son, Otis, was born in 1948. I was a very anxious mother and scarcely let my boys out of my sight. If they went somewhere, I took them and I picked them up. I took them to school, to ball games, and I picked them up, but I never took them to church. In fact, we never went to church.

Otis was in the fifth grade when he got a little New Testament in school. I’ll never forget the day he came rushing in and said, “Mother, guess what! Mr. Gideon was at school today, and he gave me a Bible.”

I said, “Well, that’s nice, son.”

Hear Mrs. Willa Townsend share the powerful testimony of her son, Otis, in this audio which was originally recorded at an event of The Gideons International on March 2, 1982.

There was a man in our town who had once been the town alcoholic, but he got saved and then became a Sunday School teacher. He would see my children as they came out of the movie every Saturday and would invite them to Sunday School. I would tell him “all right.” I knew the children needed to be in church, so I told them if they wanted to go I would take them and pick them up. Otis wanted to go, so I took him. He carried his little red Testament with him.

This went on for a while; then they had Bible school at the church. Otis attended every day. One day he came home very excited. He said, “Mama, mama, I’m saved!” He had his little Bible open to Romans, and he said, “Mama, let me show you how to be saved.”

I said, “You go on, honey. Mama hasn’t got time right now. You go ahead and let Mama finish cooking. I’ll listen to you later.” I could see the disappointment on his face, but he went on out of the room.

He carried his little Testament with him everywhere he went. His little shirt pocket was too small for it, but he carried it anyway. Everybody he met, he said to them, “Do you know Jesus?”

I would say to him, “Don’t do that. You’re embarrassing people. Why not put away your Bible; you’re going to ruin it.”

He would say, “Mother, I want to carry it with me.”

Every day, Otis would say to me, “Mama, let me show you how to be saved.” I never found the time to listen.

My sons would work, putting out sale papers for the stores. Otis would spend his money on candy, give it to the children on the street, then invite them to Sunday School.

One day, I was in the kitchen cooking and I started praying, which is something I didn’t do. I said, “Lord, there is something I need and I just don’t know how to get it. I want what Otis has.” Then I thought, I don’t know what they are teaching him down at that church. He’s just too young. I’m not going to let him go anymore!

One Sunday morning, he was playing and I thought I’d let the time slip by. But he came rushing in and said, “I’m almost late for Sunday School!” I said, “Mother doesn’t have the time to take you today. “He said, “That’s all right, Mother. If I run, I’ll make it.” That really bothered me, and I started praying again. I said, “Lord, I know there is something I am missing. Give me what Otis has.” Right then, the Lord came into my heart. I could not wait to get to church and walk the aisle for Him. As I did so, I looked around and my oldest son (just a year older than Otis) had followed me. He looked at me and said, “Mother, I was already saved. I was just waiting for you.”

They asked Otis if he would like to lead in prayer. He said, “Thank you, Lord, for saving my mother.”

Otis was so happy that I was saved, but he didn’t stop there. He went to work on his daddy, and his other brothers. Before his daddy accepted the Lord, our next two sons accepted the Lord. We began to attend church regularly. The pastor asked me to be director of the nursery.

One day they called me from school saying that Otis had a stomachache and did not eat lunch. I took him to the doctor. He had a little knot in his side. We thought it was a pulled muscle from playing ball. The doctor said he believed it was some kind of tumor. He wanted us to let a specialist examine him, so we took Otis to Hattiesburg. The doctor there said it was a tumor on his intestines and that it could be removed with little trouble. However, he said if it was inside the intestines, it would be a little more complicated.

They took him to surgery and were gone a long time. The doctor came out and said it was cancer and that Otis had a 25 percent chance of being healed completely. His father and I prayed and Otis came through the surgery with flying colors. He gained weight and looked so good. He wanted to be a missionary and began corresponding with a missionary in Tahiti.

The doctor told us if the cancer came back, Otis would be gone in six months. It came back in his liver.

He went into the hospital. Every time someone came to visit him, Otis asked them to pray with him. He kept his red Testament with him all the time. This was two years after he had been saved and he had never been without it. We prayed that the Lord would not take him from us. I stayed with him all the time.

One day, Otis said, “Listen, Mother, to the music.” I said, “Maybe you hear a train.” He replied, “No, it’s a choir singing.”

His father walked in about that time and Otis said, “Daddy, pick me up.” Then he said, “Put me back down. I have everything in the world I have wanted.” His father put him down. We both looked at each other and told each other that we had prayed, “Thy will be done.”

At that moment, God took Otis.

The doctor came in and knelt by the bedside. He said, “Mrs. Townsend, I have never had anyone touch me ‘Christian-wise’ like this child has.”

We went home without Otis, but we knew he was all right.

In his casket, we placed his Testament in his hands. He had on his new school clothes. I knew that he had gone to be with the greatest Teacher of them all. I also knew that if I had not had Jesus with me, I could not have made it through this time. I would go to school to pick up the children and I would wait for Otis. I would see him coming from the school, running, with his Testament in his hands.

Otis is still blessing our family. All of my sons are now saved, and my grandchildren have been saved. Two years ago I lost my husband, but I did not really lose him. He went to be with Otis and Jesus.

God has been good to me. He could have taken Otis before he was saved, but he gave us two years in which our entire family came to know Christ. God had it all planned when my son said, “Mr. Gideon gave me a Testament.” I praise God for The Gideons.

—Mrs. Willa Townsend

Help Carry On The Legacy Of Otis

Otis told his mother he wanted to be a missionary and share the Gospel throughout the world. If you would like to help carry on the legacy of this precious little boy, please click here to help send God’s Word now.

And please, share this page with your pastor, family and friends.

Share in the effort