12/28/09 Tommy, about 30
Today I met with Luke (our church's full-time teaching elder) to go witness together. I want to learn how to bring beginners along with me so Luke went along in the role of an observer. We went to the grocery store and I used a million dollar tract to help start a conversation. When I pointed out the question on the back - "Will you go to heaven?" - Tommy told me "I've been raised to believe in a punishing God, and I don't think I'm the kind of person who would be allowed into heaven". Tommy has been avoiding church ever since he left home, and has been in and out of jail ever since. He is extremely sorry for the effect this has had on his children and that he can't get a good job to take care of his family because of his criminal record. He believes God is punishing not only him but his children for his sins. I told him he is right - God will indeed punish sin as He promises in the Bible, but that there is more to the story. He is a God of justice but he is also a God of mercy, and he gave his son Jesus to take the punishment that we deserve. The case against us can be dismissed if we put our trust in what He has done and turn from our sins in repentance. I encouraged Tommy that because of Jesus he can and should get into a right relationship with God today, and from the look in his eyes I knew he needed someone to pray for him right there, so I did, and he was thankful when I gave him some additional info. Afterward Luke and I realized I forgot to give him any contact info but we couldn't find him again, so we just trusted him to the Lord in prayer.
12/29/09 Tommy, follow up conversation
Back at the same grocery store (Dominicks) today with Tony, after our conversation with Sonya and Norma, we ran into Sammy whom I and Luke had spoken with yesterday. He was shocked to see me, and went to shake my hand telling me how thankful he was that we talked to him. He had read much of the info I gave him and had a two-hour long conversation with his wife about it. He had forgotten some of the points I had made, but definitely felt that God was speaking to him and moving in his life. I restated some of my questions - "If you walked out that door and a bus hit you right now and you found yourself before God's judgment throne, where would you be?" "I'd still be in trouble" he answered. Tommy is counting the cost of following Jesus. Though he doesn't look the part, he and his wife are homeless, having spent the night sleeping at the airport. (I don't know where the kids are) He knows he must repent of his sins, but said that one sin in particular provides income for him and he is not ready to give that up. I didn't ask for details, but I did ask a hard, challenging question: "What sin is so important to you that you will hold on to it while it drags you into hell?" He basically agreed that this is the issue. Pray for Tommy and his family while he counts the cost.