Tom and Brenda Preston waited for years for a prodigal son to come to God.
By Mary May Larmoyeux
Tom and Brenda Preston returned home after speaking at a church-sponsored marriage conference. They were totally unprepared for what awaited them.
One of their sons, Evan, who had just graduated from high school, had left a scribbled message saying that he was leaving home-that he could no longer live in deceit.
“It was devastating for us to get that note,” Tom recalls. “We really did not know what he meant by it because we had not seen a lot of things that were going on in his life….I was literally weak in the knees.”
Brenda remembers, “It was the hardest thing I have ever been through in my life. I was afraid….It was very painful.”
After frantically making some phone calls to locate Evan, Tom and Brenda began to think the worst. They pictured him in a dreadful place, making choices that would harm him for the rest of his life.
Tom began worrying and questioning God. “Lord, can this be real? If this was going to happen, why didn’t it happen when we were doing everything wrong [in our marriage]?” he asked. “Why, after we started doing things right, does our kid up and run away? It doesn’t seem right!”
He remembered Isaiah 43:26, where God says, “Let us argue our case together…” Tom began to pace back and forth in his living room. “I argued, and I argued,” Tom says. “And of course the more I argued the more I realized that I did not have a case to argue-we are in His hands.”
While Tom and Brenda were running to the Lord, Evan was running away from Him. As he grew older, he began to question the value of the Christian faith. “I hung around the wrong crowd,” he says. “Once I started, it was more fun. The biggest [influence] was the friends-people who respected me if I could drink more or fight more. People thought I was cool.”
Evan finally returned home after 72 hours, but that marked the beginning of years of disappointment for his parents. Tom and Brenda were driven to their knees numerous times. Brenda claimed Hosea 2:6, which describes Hosea praying for a protective hedge to be put around his wife to keep her from doing the things that were contrary to God’s will. She and Tom prayed daily that God would put such a hedge of protection around their son.
God honored their prayers. Once, when Evan was camping with a group of people, he decided to stand up to a man who had just gotten out of prison. “He hit me,” Evan said, “and he got a gun out of his car, but one of the guys got him [before anything happened].” Later, when Evan told his parents what had happened, they said that they had been impressed to pray for him at the exact time of the incident.
On another occasion, when the Prestons returned from a weekend conference, Tom discovered traces of marijuana in the living room. After three days of prayer, he confronted Evan. “I told him that his mother and I were united in what I was about to discuss with him,” Tom says. “I wanted him to know this was the last time that we would have this conversation. If I found it after that, he would have 30 minutes to gather his belongings under my supervision and leave.”
Tom asked Evan if he understood. Evan did and remarked, “I would not have put up with it as long as you have.”
Years passed. Evan moved out of the Preston home, joined the army, and married. Still, the Lord continued to pursue him.
Finally, he recalls: “I had nothing left but my parents. I had been forced into a situation I could not fix and called my parents and asked them what to do. They had not shut me out. They shared Christ and I accepted Him. For the first time I understood what it meant to be saved.
“God showed me everything I was, without excuses. He confronted me-how I was selfish, manipulative, judgmental, and arrogant. Once I confessed and realized that I could not [do anything to be accepted by God], I did not have to pretend. God said that I could not do it, but He would do it. I had always thought I had to be like my parents but could not.”
Evan’s life has completely turned around. Today he is the father of two daughters and twin sons, leads a Bible study at work, and participates with his wife, Tami, in a Bible study with his parents.
Tom and Brenda have certainly seen the grace of God in action. They are so grateful to have two sons who are now both committed to the Lord. “To be honest,” Tom said, “I anticipated that God would fix things somehow, but I never, in my wildest imagination, thought Evan and his wife would ask us to lead them in a Bible study.”
Tom’s advice to parents is simple: “Never ever, ever stop praying and never stop believing God.”