After months of procrastination, I finally committed to go downtown (Cleveland, OH) to witness with Jonathan Eckel and some of his regulars one night. Upon arriving, I was given a stack of tracts and was asked to simply hand them out and try to engage people. Hey, I thought, I've listened to enough of Wretched Radio's Witness Wednesdays. I could do this.
After moving through Public Square, up East 4th Street, and back again, I had failed to hand out a single tract. My reason was fear. What would I say? What would they think of me? Clearly, my heart wasn't in the right place.
Jonathan, noticing my unchanged stack of tracts, took them back, and gave me a single Million Dollar Bill tract. He challenged me to give it away ... tonight. Good, a much more manageable task, I thought. Surely, I could engage one person and give away one, measly tract.
So there I stood, at a busy urban bus stop watching others hand out tracts and engage people. Some were strangers, while some were clearly familiar to the members of the group. I witnessed (pun intended) conversations from a distance. Some were lighthearted, and some were heartfelt.
I knew we were going to be moving on to the shelters soon, and I began to get a little anxious. So, I started trying to make eye contact with the passersby. I spotted a nice looking, middle-aged, black woman. She was apparently heading home from a day of work. She smiled. I smiled back and handed her the "bill" while saying something truly clever … “Do you have one of these?”
She accepted it and laughed after glancing down at the front face. She thanked me while continuing to walk away. Before she was out of sight, I motioned to her to flip it over. Without being creepy, I tried to keep an eye on her as she waited for her bus. Sure enough, she was reading it!
HERE IS THE MILLION-DOLLAR QUESTION: Will you go to Heaven when you die? Here’s a quick test: Have you ever lied, stolen, or used God’s name in vain? Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” If you have done these things, God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart, and the Bible warns that one day God will punish you in a terrible place called Hell. But God is not willing that any should perish. Sinners broke God’s Law and Jesus paid their fine. This means that God can legally dismiss their case: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Then Jesus rose from the dead, defeating death. Today, repent and trust Jesus, and God will give you eternal life as a free gift. Then read the Bible daily and obey it. God will never fail you." www.LivingWaters.com
I recounted this turn of events to one of the guys, and he said “Go back and talk to her!” Uh, really? Okay.
As I approached her, I asked her what she thought. She said she had been thinking of this a lot lately, and that it “kinda hits you”. I acknowledged this feeling and reminded her that it was never too late to repent. I recall explaining that it didn't mean we wouldn't ever sin again, but rather that we no longer wanted to sin. I fumbled on for a little bit more. At this point, there was an uncomfortable silence, and I knew she had a bus a catch. So, I wished her the best and said goodbye. All in all, it was a good exchange.
Naturally, I've replayed the event in my head over and over. Each time thinking of things that I could have and should have said. It's easy to beat yourself up in this situation, but the fact remained that this woman was impacted by what was given to her. I like to think that I was put there for a reason. (Isaiah 55:11) That she needed to be given that tract that day. (Hebrews 4:12)
Since then, I've shared this story with many Christians who have never done anything even close to this kind of evangelism before. No doubt their preconceived notions of street evangelism have been challenged by my experience. In a way, I feel like I'm witnessing to them too.
As for the woman, I can only hope and pray that something positive followed our short exchange. There's one thing for sure though; the small victories easily outweigh the apparent losses. Handing out tracts can have a very positive effect on building God's kingdom.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” - Matthew 28:19-20