Before church this morning I went to mile 22 of the Chicago Marathon, wanting to see the race but also looking for a conversation. However it was just as the frontrunners were coming through, and with all the action and spectators ringing their cowbells, I was kind of caught up in the excitement of the event myself, and a conversation about eternity was just not happening. I went back after church, however, and things were calmed down quite a bit, with many of the runners now walking at this point in the race. I stopped a spectator named Roberto on the sidewalk with a question about eternity. He seemed like he had never given it a thought. He believes in God, but said he had no idea what would happen after he dies. He believes himself to be a good person, though he had no idea what it was based on. He has heard of the Ten Commandments, but doesn't know them so I went over some with him. From his response he seemed to be more of a saint than a sinner, having told only one lie his entire life. His daughter Monica seemed more honest in her answers so I directed some of the questions at her also. Both listened very intently to the whole message of the Gospel despite all the excitement going on around us. I've heard it said that people often need to hear the Gospel 10 or 20 times before they are ready to respond, and I truly think I may have been number one for these two. May God bring more people into their lives to share the good news.
10/12/09 Audre, about 30
On an errand to Home Depot I passed out some money tracts to engage shoppers in conversation. I asked Audre, a carpenter from the Czeck Republic, if he thinks he will go to heaven. He didn't know. I asked if he had a church background. This often helps because I can then refer to what they have been taught in the past. He went to a Catholic Church but stopped going to church once he moved to America about 7 years ago. "I'm just too busy, and Sunday is my only day off " he said. "And I guess I'm just lazy". I didn't intend to make it sound like church attendance is the main point of Christianity, so I shifted the focus to the law. "Do you think you're a good person? He said yes, most of the time. "So the real question is, are you good enough?" I explained that God uses the Ten Commandments as his standard. Audre didn't know them so I asked him about a few and he soon realized he had broken God's laws. At this point he politely told me he needs to get back to work, so I sincerely warned him of judgment day and that in the Bible God lets us know ahead of time how we can be prepared for it. I thanked him for talking with me, encouraged him to read what I gave him later when he had time, and wished him well.
10/13/09 Goldy, 20
Late at night I talked to a young man who was standing outside the IIT student center for a smoke. He was very open to talking about his beliefs, describing himself as "spiritual, but not religious" and said he had a very eclectic background. He is from India with Hindu parents and a Jewish grandmother, but at age 10 they moved to Thailand where his parents brought the family to a Buddhist temple every week to pray. They enrolled him in a Catholic international school where he took a class on world religions. He has not read the Bible, and the only exposure he seemed to have had to Jesus Christ was that he had seen "The Passion". He believed all religions are basically the same, and feels that whatever happens after we die will be better than this life. I asked if I could explain the basic message of the Bible. It was cold out so he suggested we go sit at a table inside to talk, and introduced himself as Goldy. I told him that the Bible teaches that God has put his law in our hearts as well as in the Bible, and that we will be held accountable to keep that law. As I went through some of Commandments, he went from seeing himself as a good person deserving the reward of heaven to realizing his guilt in breaking God's laws. His eyes welled up with tears as I told him of what Jesus has done on the cross, yet he never acknowledged what he was feeling. I suppose I could have used an emotional appeal to press him into a decision of some sort at this point, but I really don't do that. I feel that what he needed was simply to know the Gospel message as clearly as I could explain it. At the end Goldy seemed glad to go, I believe to wipe his eyes and I hope to have a conversation with God.
10/14/09 Patrick, about 45
As he sat on a park bench waiting for his daughter to finish her volleyball practice, I asked Patrick if he thinks there is another life after we leave this world. "Of course I do, I'm Irish Catholic!" he very proudly stated. I asked if he believed in everything about the faith he had grown up in, such as the existence of heaven, hell, and judgment day. He said he did, but within a minute or so was also telling me he believes religion was invented by men to keep other people under control. He believes that after he dies he will go to purgatory for a while because, while he is a good person, he isn't perfect. I explain how purgatory isn't found in the Bible, but he told me he chooses to believe in tradition over the teachings of the Bible. He enjoyed our discussion, having experience debating with an avowed atheist at work and several southern Baptists while living in Texas. When his daughter was ready to go we hadn't finished talking but he told me he would definitely read the info I gave him.
10/15/09 Clint, 23
At the grocery store I started a conversation with a young African-American man by giving him a million dollar bill tract. He told me he used to go to church, but stopped due to laziness. "But I'm going to start going back" he said humbly. I found out that God has really had his attention after his girlfriend was in a car crash two weeks ago, breaking both legs and ending up in a coma. Clint really listened closely as I held up the "mirror" of the Ten Commandments so that he could see himself as he really is according to God's standard, and as I shared the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. He was in no hurry to finish his grocery shopping. He told me his girlfriend is a Jehovah's Witness, so I warned him that many religions like the Jehovah's Witnesses believe that we can somehow earn our way to Heaven, but that the Bible teaches that salvation is a gift of God and our obedience and good works come only as a response to that gift. I believe this was a timely conversation with a young man whose heart was ready for some truth.
10/16/09 Femi, about 45
10/17/09 Tom, about 35
At the weight room this afternoon I talked to Tom as we worked out on the treadmill and other machines. Early in the conversation I told him in passing that I am a Christian, and because of his profanity and worldly attitude I could tell he was not, but he seemed surprised and intrigued that I could be so open and casual about my faith. He is a lapsed Catholic, and, though he didn't want to offend me, admitted that he really wonders whether religion isn't all just a human invention. I had brought a Gospel booklet along just in case I ran into someone, and knowing that I could simply give it to him in case our conversation was interrupted I decided to let this be a more natural conversation and see where it led. Tom had never heard anyone talk about God with such simple logic before, and after I asked several thought-provoking questions he said "Now my mind is racing. I've got all sorts of thoughts about all this." I allowed long pauses as we worked out and as he worked things out in his mind. He clearly was thinking it all through and kept coming up with new questions. His weren't the questions of a cynic who is simply trying to prove me wrong but they were the honest questions of one who has never clearly heard Biblical truths before. He kept apologizing for interrupting me with his questions. After an hour of conversation like this it was time for him to go, so I gave him a small Gospel booklet which he very thankfully took. I may have raised more questions than answers, but he is now very clearly intrigued enough to look into it for himself.