Friday, May 4, 2012

Random Acts of Soul Winning

I am not a bold soul winner, so I pray for more boldness, swallow my imaginations (fears are healthy imaginations) and then I keep my eyes open. The Lord put a soul directly in my path when I was in California recently for the Royal Ladies' Retreat at Liberty Baptist Church in Newport Beach. The Pastor's wife, Mrs. Gayle Tomlinson, took me to Sprouts Farmers Market. Stretching my legs in a natural foods store after a long flight is one of my favorite things to do, and I have visited them all over the country. This one was love at first sight, but before we got inside, we walked by a young man who was sitting at a picnic table in front of the store. "Would you ladies like to give some money to the homeless?" he asked as we walked by.

"Sorry, I don't have any cash," Gayle said as she continued walking briskly, and it was true, because she only had cards on her. I hurried along beside her, but my heart stayed back at that picnic table. I couldn't help but wonder: How did a young man who looked like he was in his twenties end up begging in front of an upscale grocery store? What went wrong to land him there? That could have been me, you, my son, or yours. Do you ever wonder how people end up so broken down in life? This young man was asking for money, but I was sure that he needed something greater: "...Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee..." (Acts 3:6).

We finished our shopping and as we walked by that picnic table, I was expecting the young man to start in on his sales pitch for helping the homeless again, but instead he simply said this: "You ladies have a nice day." And that was it.

No wheedling, no needling. Just "have a nice day."

That did it.

The Holy Spirit couldn't have been clearer if He had stood in my way holding a sign that said, "Talk to him."

Now I was the one walking briskly...to the car for a local tract (I always have Minnesota tracts, but when I'm out of town, I use tracts from the local church). Gayle became my "silent partner," praying as she waited for me to complete my assignment. You know how we sometimes think we're just going to hand over the tract and say "here's something for you to read" in a hit-and-run fashion? Not this time...

I had a $5 bill and the tract in hand when I walked over to that picnic table using my best "I'm the Mom" stride (you know the walk; like we're in charge of things). "Young man," I said with my best Mom tone of voice, "I don't know your story, but I'd like to invite you to our church." I handed him the tract with the "tip," and he said something that kept me from walking away: "I'm not on good terms with God."

When I heard his words, I walked back to that picnic table and sat on the other side. The sigh that escaped my body was not my own. "Young man, I'm from Minnesota and we're in California. Only God could have arranged for our paths to cross, so I have a question for you. If your heart stopped beating tonight, do you know where you'd go?"

His next five words were spoken with enormous conviction: "I'd go straight to hell."

He then went on to briefly sum up his reasons, describing in just a few paragraphs a life that was filled with self-inflicted misery. "I know I'd go straight to hell," he concluded after giving me a five-minute summary of his life. I asked him his name and his age. "My name is DeShawn and I'm 30 years old."

Our oldest son Austen is almost 26, so this young man was only four years older than our son, but he had the eyes of a 90-year-old man. Drugs and a street life had aged this young man rapidly.

"Well DeShawn, wouldn't you like to swap that for heaven?" I asked, now sure that this was God's appointment for the day. "Well yeah!" he said, looking at me with a bit of surprise and a lot of interest. From there, I went into Scripture-quoting mode, as I didn't even have my New Testament with me. With the tract and God's Word that has been hidden in my heart over the years, we walked through the Gospel one verse at a time.

No one had ever told DeShawn about what Christ had done for him. When I shared "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," (Rom. 3:23) this was news to DeShawn! As I went further and shared how God proved His love for us, DeShawn's eyes opened wider: "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8) As we continued the journey through several verses of Scripture, we landed on my favorite: "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Rom. 10:13) I told DeShawn, "I'm a 'whosoever,' and so are you."
 
That afternoon, a young man's destination was changed from hell to heaven. 30-year-old DeShawn bowed his head, prayed and trusted Christ as his Saviour at that picnic table right in front of the store. The sun was shining, but it seemed to be shining brighter after that.

Do you want to be a soul winner, but you're not sure where to start? Try alertness. The next encounter with a stranger may be your next assignment from the Lord. Be on the lookout, and be prepared. You may get to commit one of the greatest "random acts of kindness" possible: the act of soul winning.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Francie, You were such a blessing to me last weekend and this event in your life along with the young man was a Devine appointment for all of us. Thank you for the encouragement. Blessings and joy - Shari Winterstein

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  2. This was such an encouragement to read! Although I'm a pastor's wife and have been part of soul-winning ministries for 22 years, I still have to pray for boldness in soulwinning, because it just doesn't come naturally for me. Thank you for sharing your experience. I loved the "mom" attitude as you approached the young man!

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