So last friday was my third time doing some street outreach, and like other weeks there were few dull moments if any.
One moment that stood out in my mind, because it broke my heart, was of a man who was tearfully yelling at us, and especially at those preaching. He appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and looked very disheveled. I often wondered if he was staying at the shelter nearby. But his appearance was not the focal point, rather it was his words, as he repeated loudly: “I watched my son die in my arms! he died in my arms! How can you say these things? Who here believes this sh#t ?!” There was a steady stream of snot and tears falling from his face as he wailed in pain. He then squats down into a fetal-like position right in front of the presentation board. Another man soon joins in his sorrow, by placing his hands on his head and giving him words of comfort.
When the man gets up he continues yelling, only to be intercepted by a woman who earlier seemed quite disinterested in the gospel presentation. “Let him speak”, she says met with his compliance.
The preacher continues on, and ends with minimal interjections. I then turn to a man who appeared around my age, and asked him what he thought about the gospel message. He seemed open to talk with me, as he shared quite a bit about himself, but I also sensed that he was carefully crafting his words when he came to ask some questions about salvation. He disclosed to me that he was Catholic, but interested in Christian teachings. We had a conversation about the sufficiency of Jesus sacrifice, and I spoke about my journey from Catholicism to Christianity. During that conversation a man came from out of nowhere and stood uncomfortably close behind us, and spouted some accusatory words along the lines of: “You are practicing Paganism. Jesus lies. You are lying. You don’t know what this is really about.” I responded without looking directly at him, and simply said “We are having a conversation right now, ” because I soon recognized him as the aggressive heckler I was warned about. He challenged me about three times and thankfully that didn’t scare away the man I was talking to.
During the second round of preaching, this time in French by another man, the first man who was tearful came back and yelled at us, but was quickly consoled by a friend of his. I looked over to my left and saw another member of our team witness to a woman who was waiting for her bus. I wondered how it was going on between them, and I marvelled at his efforts.
After that round of preaching was over I handed out some gospel tracts with greater success than the week before. I found that if I mentioned the name of Jesus Christ, instead of just saying “have you gotten one of these”, that more people would reach out for them, even if they were quickly passing. When people rejected the tracts, and when people walked away from the preaching, I felt uneasy at their choice. But I also understand that we are complete strangers, being more forward than what some are accustomed to. I also understood that this is only one of many ways to evangelise.
The final thing that I remember from the evening of outreach was a conversation I had with a man during the second last ’round’. Out of all the random strangers nearby that I chose to speak to, I ended up speaking to a young preacher.
He told me about how Jesus spoke in parables so that people would be able to understand him and that it was also used as a segway into deeper things. He warned that “if we jump too quickly into deeper things, that people shut down and will walk away. They cannot handle it as their convictions get too heavy. ” He recommended building relationships first so as to show what your life is like to them, before they will consider you or what you have to say. – I was not in agreement with him, nor could I get a word in edgewise to vocalize that. All of my friends since I’ve moved here are Christians-which is night and day from back home, but nonetheless I would have no-one to lead to Christ through that means. Plus I acknowledge that there is an urgency for people to come to salvation, so I will try to plant seeds in unfamiliar places.
He added that when you do finally speak the truth to them, to not be surprised if they hate you for it. (1 John 3:13). -So it felt like he was both encouraging me and not encouraging me to share with others.
“So be slow to speak, and listen lots!” He interestingly joked that “when we speak we intend to say one word, but three come out. The first word may be our own, but the second and the third not. The devil likes to make us say things that damage other people. Say less.” -I thought that this was ironic because he would not stop talking.
He told me about how he became a Christian in his early teens: He was homeless for two months, sleeping on the streets somewhere in Africa. One night he heard music, it was really good and he wanted to be around it. It was at special event, and he had no money, but he decided to try to get in anyways. He was used to seeing many security guards at concerts, so he was worried that they would stop him. They were 5 dollars a dozen, he joked!
When he walked towards the entrance, he noticed that there were no guards in the entrance area that he walked through. So he kept on walking, expecting to get caught – and no one caught him. He knew afterthefact that God wanted him to be there, because He made a super clear way for him.
After an hour or so and not wanting to leave, he heard a call to accept Christ. He accepted him then and there. Soon after the concert experience, people took him in and he had a place to stay. Then 6 months later when he moved again, he had another, and better place to stay. It kept on getting better with each move. He said that as he obeyed God and sought after Him that some things improved, as he was no longer homeless or hungry… -I had to be careful to not buy into a subtle ‘best life now’ philosophy during this part of his story.
This man lit up more and more as he continued sharing his story and he continued with sharing some of his thoughts with me:(The rest of this blog post is a close paraphrase of what he shared with me. I apologize if it doesn’t flow as it should, since I am relying on just my memory.)
“God is not in competition with anyone. If you walk away from Him, he remains the same. He is still the same, and on the throne. Only Satan tries to compete with God. But he cannot truly compete with God as everything he says is not original to himself. He has to use God’s words, and he twists God’s words, like during the temptation in Eden:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”(Genesis 3:1-5)
“No one can really ever follow Satan, and even if someone tells you that you are following him, the reality is that he is following you. He roams the earth seeking after people, especially God’s children.” I need to be a berean and figure out the accuracy of this statement. It sounds true, but is it?”
“The closer you get to God, and especially when you get too close to him, you will find Satan gnawing at your ankles. It gets him into a panic and he wants you to fall and fail. He wants to tempt you, and for you to give into it. But need not worry, because God’s eyes are always on His children, He is always vigilant, seeing where we are, what we are doing, and where we are going.”
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3-12)
I was thinking of 1 Corinthains 10:13 as an example, because it says “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” I know that His eyes are on us, but I also find it good to know that he helps us resist it.
“If you meditate upon this verse, that it will help you obey God and his commandments.It is like having a supervisor at work who is always watching you which keeps you doing what you’re expected to do. His eyes are on you, his ears hear your prayers. So do not make it so His ears will not hear you or that His face will turn away by doing evil.” Once again I don’t want to start believing that everything is through my own power. I think that the best way to obey God is not through picturing him gazing down at us as a supervisor, rather it is regeneration that makes us seek after a life of faith and holiness. We are a new creature!
“Be vigilant, be aware of what is around you, be aware of the people around you, and seek to make a good rapport and reference with them so that they have good to say about you. And maintain those relationships so that they know you well. So that if someone does ask them about you, they can know the truth about you. And they might want to be like you. And come to God like you…”
“We have a plan of how we want our homes to look. Lets say we designed a Home. Then lets say someone, when we are not looking, someone takes that plan away from us, and changes it up. We still know in our hearts what that plan looks like and we build. We take the time to research every last detail so it will be as it should. We research the builders, the materials, etc. But then we have this neighbor who wants to be in competition as to who can build their house the fastest. This person is not patient. They do not look at the background of the builders, or take into consideration the materials used to build it.”
“When you and your neighbor’s house are built, you both may wonder whose is better, and how you can know. And if God sends a storm, maybe for a day, maybe for an hour, and your roof comes off you may become confused. You may think that you’re the one with the poor foundation. The house plans that you followed could appear to be less than your neighbour’s, because of the ruins in front of your eyes. But God allows suffering, pain, and loss to happen to both the righteous and unrighteous.”
“In the book of Job, Job was tested by the devil, and God let him be tested because he knew how faithful Job was. He only commanded one thing of Satan, and that was to not touch Job. And Satan listened to God because He is that powerful. Job lost his children, servants, his animals, and still remained faithful to the end. He did not give into Satan and give up nor curse God’s name for it!”
“We need patience and trust that God does not answer prayers on our timeline, rather it is on His timeline. Prayers are not instant. They make take a day, a month, a year, or ten to be answered. And the moment we decide to give up, walk away, lose our patience, and curse God could be right before the moment we were waiting for — if we only remained in place. For instance, the very day one walks away from church could have been the day of their deliverance. I’m not sure about that one. Or in the case of Job, after an incredible amount of loss, and adversity from friends, he did not curse God’s name, remained faithful and God restored his fortunes, gave him many more children, and years to his life! …”
“People rather hear things that tickle their ears. When they open up their bible, they look for things that make them feel blessed. They are quick to open up the psalms or proverbs. They know a book for blessings, a book for cursings, a book for comfort, and a book for joy. And they do not meditate upon the words, rather they just quickly read them over for basic understanding. When you read the word properly, your spirit walks side by side with the Holy Spirit. Like two friends who are walking side by side and can talk to each other the same time. When you read the word improperly, when you read it to just tickle your ears, your spirit is not joined with the Holy Spirit as you are looking to please your own spirit. And your spirit is walking with the words on the page, not the Holy Spirit. And your soul is God’s. When you pass, it knows that it is separate from your flesh and separates or leaps apart from it. God takes what is His…”
“Have you heard of barnabas? He wasn’t just a thief you know. He wouldn’t just sneakily steal things from you when you were not looking. He would forcefully take things from you right in your face. He was bad on so many levels. And yet he was the one who was freed. And think of sin. Some catholics say that there are many levels of sin, but sin is sin. Even if barnabas was a less forceful thief, or did the least of sins, he still would have been guilty under the law. And he was the one who was freed! And many people think that they are good, because they haven’t done anything outwardly terrible like him. Most people have broken every commandment. People do not know that they are lost, so it is important to speak the truth in love.“
… So that is what last friday’s outreach looked like. Some interesting interactions, and eye opening conversations.