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August 20, 2007

I Have Chosen You

Over the years, there were times when God directed Richard Forrest to accept a student that other colleges may have turned down. Such was the case with George Akins, a man who hitchhiked from Savannah, Georgia, to Toccoa Falls. He came without any formal recommendation, except a short note from a Presbyterian pastor—a friend of Dr. Forrest, stating that he was sending this young man to Toccoa Falls because he felt that he should receive some Bible training and preparation for life.

Two or three nights after George’s arrival, Dr. Forrest was on his way home from campus when he had a feeling he should go into the chapel building and make sure everything was all right. It was nearly 10:30 at night, as he climbed the steps that lead to the second floor classrooms. He began going from room to room turning on lights. When he came to the last room, he found George Akins inside sobbing with his face in his hands.

Dr. Forrest immediately went over and put a hand on the student’s shoulder, and asked what was the problem? “I’m going back to Savannah tomorrow,” came the answer.

“Why do you want to do that,” Dr. Forrest questioned.

“I’m not fit to be here. You don’t know anything about me.”

“That’s true,” said Dr. Forrest, “but you told me you are a Christian and that is all I want to know. If it will help you to tell me more, go ahead.”

George began telling Dr. Forrest that he had grown up in a family where his brothers drank a lot. And he had done the same thing up until he accepted Christ as his Savior.

Thinking back on that evening, Dr. Forrest later said, “It was a different era and at that time, most Christian college presidents would have been tempted to ask him to leave and return to his home. But I saw potential in this young man’s life. Instead, I insisted that he remain in school. We talked and prayed until two o’clock in the morning. That night changed George’s life forever. Up until that point, he knew very little about God’s unconditional love and acceptance. Now, he was being given an opportunity to live in the light of both of these.”

And live for Jesus Christ was exactly what he did! While he was at Toccoa Falls, George memorized a great deal of Scripture and often went to the woods to pray. Once, he had a serious need for financial assistance. No one from his hometown was interested in him. He was sick and behind on his school bill. After praying and asking God to give him a sign about what he needed to do, he returned to his dorm room only to find out that Dr. Forrest wanted to see him. He was sure he was about to be told that since he could not pay his school bill, he would have to leave.

However, the opposite was true. Dr. Forrest told him that he had been thinking about him—even in the morning when he first woke up. George was shocked and told Dr. Forrest about his financial situation. Then Dr. Forrest looked him in the eye and said, “Today, some money came to me from a person living up north. I was instructed to give it to a student, who I thought was worthy and who truly needed it. George, God has laid it on my heart to apply it to your account.” Tearfully, he left Dr. Forrest’s office aware that God had heard his prayers and had answered.

Years later, he returned to Savannah and started a rescue mission. In the beginning, it was located in a dilapidated building in the city. However, God began to work. Soon the mission out grew its original location. Area businessmen and pastors began to donate money to the mission and hundreds of men and women, who would have been forgotten by society, discovered a safe haven along with the saving grace of Jesus Christ. George went on to establish a mission camp for children and young people, where thousands gave their hearts to God. He even started a small Christian high school.

“It’s good to be a Christian,” George Akins later told Dr. Forrest. “It is good to know that back in 1933, God saved me and led me to Toccoa Falls. TFI is home to me—it’s where I learned to pray, trust God, and live for Him.” The young man who came to Toccoa with hopelessness written on his face—thinking he was not worthy to attend Toccoa Falls Institute—became a man who realized just how much God loved him. Not only this but he spent a lifetime offering this same love and acceptance to others. But this is not just George’s story. It belongs to each one of us who, at some point, have faced the temptation to give up. When the enemy strikes with words of doubt and unworthiness, remember: there are no hopeless causes from God’s perspective. There is only potential because of His life within you. Therefore, never give up and never give in to any discouraging word.

(Taken from the online book Grace in The Wilderness © 2007 Some material used in this devotional was taken from Achieving the Impossible with God.)