Johnny held out his arms to his father. But before he even had a chance to tell his father goodbye, the soldiers hurried Mr. Wesley away to be locked up in Lincoln Castle.
“Mother,” Johnny cried, “why didn’t Father pick me up and tell me goodbye?”
“Your father owes so much money,” Mother said, “and we are too poor to pay. The soldiers have to put him in prison until he can pay his debts. It’s the law. He wanted to tell you goodbye, but the soldiers wouldn’t let him.”
At that time in England people were locked up in jail sometimes when they couldn’t pay their debts. And this is what happened to Mr. Wesley. After a while, Johnny’s father was released from jail for a while. But as soon as his creditors—the people he owed money to—heard that he was home, they came around demanding that he pay them. They took the cow and the horse. They shouted at Johnny’s father.
Mrs. Wesley gathered Johnny and his brothers and sisters around her and tried to comfort them. Before long, someone smelled smoke! Someone else shouted, “Fire! The house is on fire!” Johnny was so excited and so scared that he ran upstairs instead of running outside. There were so many children running in all directions that Mother and Father couldn’t keep track of them all. They tried to make sure everyone was safely out of the house, but in all the confusion, they didn’t realize that Johnny was missing.
Mother and Father and all the other children were standing in a safe spot underneath a tree in the yard, when all at once they discovered that Johnny wasn’t with them!
“I thought you had him,” exclaimed Mother to her husband.
“But he’s always with you. At least, you always know where he is,” Father replied.
Everyone began looking for Johnny. The fire was creeping up to the second-story window. Smoke was pouring from the front door.
“Father! Father!” came a child’s faint cry. Mr. Wesley stared into the blazing building. He saw a small hand waving from an upper window.
“Father!” came the voice again. Then Johnny’s father saw him. Johnny was standing at the window with the smoke and flames gathering around him! In an instant, Father climbed onto the shoulders of some men standing nearby. They stretched and lifted him as high as they could. Reaching up, Father was able to touch the window. He reached inside, and his strong hands lifted Johnny to safety. He handed the little boy down to his mother. She carried him to the shelter of the big tree where the rest of the family was waiting.
All his life, Johnny was certain that God had saved him from the fire for some important reason. He often wondered what that reason might be. As Johnny grew, his mother taught him about the Bible and Jesus. She taught all her children about God, and it took her a great deal of time to teach all the Wesley children, because there were nineteen of them!
You can imagine that with nineteen children in the family there wasn’t much money to go around. But Johnny went to school and decided to become a preacher. He wanted to tell other people about God and His love. Johnny’s mother wrote him a letter to encourage him. In the letter, she wrote, “Every morning and evening give your heart to Jesus, and He will save you. Jesus will guide you and give you strength.”
Johnny read that letter over and over. Soon he had it memorized. And he prayed every day that Jesus would help him. John Wesley grew up to be a great man of God and a powerful preacher. He learned many lessons from the Bible. He learned that no matter how hard he worked at being good, he could never earn heaven. Heaven is a gift from God that He gives to everyone who believes on Him and loves Him. John Wesley spent his whole life preaching and helping other people know God.
It wasn’t always easy for John to preach and teach about God. Sometimes people didn’t want to listen. Sometimes people became very angry because they thought John wasn’t teaching the Bible correctly. But every time things grew difficult for John, angels would help him.
One winter day, John Wesley was walking to church where he was going to preach. The path went down a steep hill that was covered with ice and snow. It was hard to walk on the path because it was so slippery. As John came down the path a group of angry people crowded against him. They tried to push him to the ground. But John kept walking and hurried on.
One man grabbed John’s collar and tried to make him fall. The collar came off in his hand! Then another man came holding a large club. He tried to hit John over the head with it. But just before it struck John’s head, it swerved as if pushed aside by an invisible hand. John was sure that an angel had kept the club from hitting him.
Still the angry mob pushed against him. One man raised his fist to hit John. But as he tried to hit him, his arm stopped in midair as if it were frozen. Then gently, he touched John’s hair, looking surprised. John knew that an angel had stopped the man’s hand.
Finally, John reached the church and began to preach. The mob followed him into the church and started shouting and making fun of him. But as John kept on speaking, they began to listen. Soon they were listening quietly to God’s words to their hearts.
Later, John described how God had protected him time and time again. “One man threw a piece of brick and hit my shoulder,” he said. “Another struck me with a stone right between the eyes. I’ve been hit on my way to church and on my way home after the church service. My face has often been bruised and bleeding. Yet I felt no pain because God helped me and I trust Him.”
All his life, John tried to help others. He didn’t have much money, but sometimes he would go hungry himself to give food to some poor family. John Wesley was always doing kind things for other people—and pointing them to God.
Storytime, Character-building Stories for Children, 90–93.