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Unexpected Moments of Grace


Have you ever stopped to think of what it takes for the Lord to touch someone’s heart? For Curtis Salyer, the Lord worked through a 5-year old boy’s prayer, a fall from a church steeple, and the return of a church key. Let me explain: Curtis was born in the coal-mining town of Lebanon, Virginia. His dad went into the military shortly after Curtis was born and his mother worked in a defense plant in Radford. So it fell to Curtis’ grandmother to raise him for the first three years of his life. Curtis says, “I was raised in a good home, but not a Christian home. The two happiest years of my childhood were when my parents were going to church for two years. Everyone that lived in the village went to church and I really enjoyed it.” Curtis and his younger brother would often walk to church when their parents didn’t take them and Curtis admits that, “Going to church was a social thing.” When Curtis finished high school the family moved to Richmond and for 10 years Curtis got out of the habit of going to church.  Curtis married his first wife whom he describes as a fine Christian lady who went to church regularly.

Curtis Salyer: Unexpected Moments of Grace

In the spring of 1971, Curtis took a construction job with a small church called Grace Brethren Church of Richmond, and over the course of the summer he worked part time doing remodeling work.  One Saturday Curtis was working at the church, and the  pastor and his two young sons were also at the church.  Curtis walked out to the car with the pastor when the pastor realized he left something in the church.   Curtis offered to watch the boys while the pastor went back to the church.  While Curtis was talking with the boys, the  oldest boy, Billy*, who was five years old, told Curtis, “Mr. Salyer, we pray for you everyday.” When they left Curtis had tears in his eyes as he thought to himself, “Here’s a five year old who has a better grasp of my need for salvation than I do.”

In late August, the church was getting ready to set the new steeple in place and the final thing Curtis had to do was put bracing in place to hold the steeple. While doing this Curtis’ foot slipped and he fell through the ceiling and landed on the podium, of all places, and it left him with a broken shoulder. Curtis recuperated from his accident and finished up his work at the church. Several weeks later, Curtis came home from work and decided to take his two boys out to dinner. While they were out Curtis realized he had a key to the church still in his possession so he took the key to the pastor’s house.  The pastor invited him to a revival service that was happening later that evening.  Curtis accepted the invitation and he said, the “Holy Spirit definitely worked on me that night.”  Curtis came; home and told his wife he found the church he wanted to attend.  His wife left her church and they began attending Grace Brethren together and they served in that church together for 22 years in a variety of ministries.

As Curtis’ faith grew so did his opportunity to serve.  In 1984 Curtis received and accepted an invitation to a Gideon meeting because Curtis’ pastor recommended him to be a Gideon.  As the meeting progressed, Curtis felt the Holy Spirit was leading him to join the group, but Curtis did not want to.  In the end Curtis listened to the voice of the Lord instead of his own voice. Curtis has been a Gideon for 32 years and he says, it’s one of the best decisions he’s made.  “It’s made me a better person, a better church worker, and it’s given me a great appreciation for the need for salvation for the world.

There are a couple of things from Curtis’ story I’d like to highlight. First, look at how God worked to call Curtis into a relationship with him. God worked through the prayers of a five-year old boy and the circumstance of a key that needed to be returned to the church. Curtis said if it were not for that key he may have never accepted the Lord. These were unexpected moments of grace, and here’s the thing: every moment has the potential to be a grace-filled moment. There is no circumstance that God cannot use to reach someone. I think the lesson for us here is to pay attention and to be attentive to where God may be working.  Trust that God is working in ways we cannot know and see.

The second thing I’d like to highlight is that God will sometimes call us to things that we may not want to do initially. Curtis did not want to join the Gideon’s at first, but he listened to God’s voice instead of his own and Curtis has been the recipient of countless blessings because he was faithful to that call.

The final thing I’d like to call our attention to is the work of the Gideon’s.  The Gideon’s are an organization of professional men and their wives whose goal it is to be a witness for Christ. And one of the ways they witness is through the placement of Bibles in hotels, schools, offices, prisons, hospitals and nursing homes throughout the world. Curtis has spoken at Bethel on several occasions about the important, life changing work of the Gideon’s. If you’d like to be a part of this life-changing mission, you can do so by talking to Curtis and you can also participate though the Gideon Card Program. In the People of Hope Center you’ll find a rack of cards appropriate for all occasions. Inside the cards are instructions on how your $5 gift can place a Bible in a hotel.

I want to thank Curtis for allowing me to tell his story and I’d like for him to have the last word in this article. I asked him if there was anything he wanted to make sure we communicated in this article and he said, “Yes, make sure you say loud and clear that God is in the business of changing lives!” Amen to that, Curtis. May God bless Curtis, may God bless the Gideon ministry and may God bless Bethel Baptist Church.


*When Billy was 15 he was in an auto accident that left him with serious injuries and he died 3 years later. Curtis said he often thought that Billy was responsible, as much as anyone, for Curtis’ salvation.

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