Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Skid Row - Part 3

September 19-20, 2008

I spent my time on Skid Row tonight being challenged in what I was doing. I did not have the opportunity to talk with any of the homeless, but I was encouraged by my talk with Siona, thinking through what Skid Row has meant to me the last three weeks.

Skid Row has challenged me in so many ways. I have found that my faith is strengthened by going and sharing the gospel with people. This surprised me at first, because my thought has always been “I need to be super strong and not experiencing much struggle with sin or doubts whatsoever if I’m going to share the gospel from the right heart”. What I have found is this – sharing the gospel with people has actually strengthened my faith!

I think it stems from this: at TMC I am constantly taking in excellent Bible teaching, learning from professors and chapel speakers, being challenged by godly friends to run hard after God and to forsake sin – at times this can almost weigh down on me in the sense that I am being challenged so much that I focus almost entirely on the war within, and forget that Christ has paid for my sins and brought me out of the kingdom of darkness into his marvelous light! It’s almost as if we (Christians) tend to surround ourselves with so much light that we forget what darkness looks like – and the areas of sin within us can discourage us to the point of feeling as if we were in the very darkness we’ve been saved from!

What I’ve experienced on Skid Row is that I am faced with people who walk in complete darkness. I don’t mean because they are homeless (that is not a sin in itself) or because some smoke crack and others sell their bodies for unnatural uses – I mean they do not know Christ. They are completely dead and blind. When I talk with them and share the gospel with them, I realize that I have a hope that they do not have, and that I have seen the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6) – they never have! My doubts and discouragement fade as I see the Holy Spirit working through me and God placing me in situations where He can use me and glorify Himself.

As I said, tonight I spent my time being challenged in what I was doing. I met up with Chris Sykes again. He can come across very intense! He told us (after discussing some very difficult things) that he likes to ask very hard questions so that we all think about what we’re doing. I won’t go in to all the details of our conversations, but they revolved around motives, answering some of the arguments people will come against us with (role-playing the scenario with the guy railing at us from last week, only in a calmer way), and grilling us on our presentation of the gospel. He emphasized the need to get to know people, saying that he didn’t “know” Siona or me, or us him, because we haven’t cultivated a relationship yet with him (which is true). He stressed the dilemma that we face coming down from TMC and not being able to follow-up well with people we talk to. I learned a great deal from our conversation, even though Chris can be a little intimidating! I felt discouraged somewhat talking to him, somewhat confused and offended even, but in the end I could see that all he meant was to be honest and helpful.

As Chris helped us see some of these things, three of our group members were peering down into a large cardboard-box walled off area and talked with Alonzo and another person inside about Christ. They were receiving abusive speech in return, especially from Alonzo who was yelling and cursing the Truth they were being offered.

A man named Mike walked up. He was an older white guy with a ponytail and deep wrinkles in his face. We met him and gave him some water. Chris turned and preached the gospel to him like I’ve never seen. He was concise, to the point, thorough. He said, roughly “Can we talk with you a minute Mike? We’re down here telling people about Jesus Christ. Can I ask you a question – if you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?” Mike answered, genuinely and softly, “No, not really.” Chris then told him the good news, and warned him of the wrath to come. He asked him, “Mike, would you like to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior”. Mike said, “Uh – not right now”. So Chris bid him a good night and Mike went on his way. It was incredible. No pressure, concise and thorough, hope balanced with sufficient warning of the consequences of unbelief.

We were a little late getting back to the cars, by the time we all got on the road it was around 1:00 A.M.

Please continue to pray for this ministry – both for the people on Skid Row, their salvation and their safety, as well as for those of us trying very hard to learn how to bridge very real cultural gaps and be effective for Christ in such a hard place to know how to best minister the gospel.

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Here is my testimony: mike