Sunday, October 30, 2011

People of Peace

In the Mike Breen/British evangelism lingo, the phrase "person of peace" gets bandied about. A person of peace is one who receives or welcomes you into their neighborhood as a Christian and is eager to bring others to meet you. The God-appointed neighborhood networker. I'm sure there's a better definition, but that works for the purposes of blogging.

This afternoon was "person of peace" afternoon. We (Christina, myself and a college student) were in the park, and there wasn't much going on. So we went for a walk around the block. About two blocks later, we ran into a man whom we had met several weeks ago in the park. We met him by playing with his nieces and nephews in the park and then untangling the swings that other kids had flung over the swing set. I guess you form a rapport with someone after you shimmy up a pole and step on his shoulders for balance to take down swings. He is a sweet man who is very open, believes in Jesus, and doesn't know much about him beyond that but would like to. And he knows all the white people in the neighborhood well. He walked with us for several blocks, chatting with us and greeting people he knows. And we realized that he was one of the "people of peace" we had been praying for. If we started a Bible study or prayer or a coffee house, he would come - and bring many others.

Later, back in the park, we did our usual snack time with some of the kids. Normally, we feed the little kids, then the teenagers start trickling over to get snacks. We had noticed this pattern for many weeks now: one particular teenager breaks from the game, comes over alone, asks politely for a snack, stands there and eats it, and waits for 5-10 minutes and talks to us for a bit. Then the others come trickling over to eat. We talk for a few minutes and they go back to their game. Today, while he was waiting, we talked to the first kid.

He excused his friends and relatives for being shy about coming over. We understand - older people don't like handouts. "Yeah," he said, "But they're hungry. But you notice how I'm not shy? I just come over and wait til they get here. Then they don't have to go first." Having noticed this, it was good for him that we could acknowledge what he does for his friends. He takes the humiliation of asking for food on himself, and the shame of going over to the church people and kids table and talking with them so that his friends will have the courage come over. He's gotten some of them to talk with us also. And he knows we're there every Sunday and someday, he says, his family won't be so shy and they'll come out too.

People of peace. A teenage boy who plays basketball. An unemployed man helping his grandma. These are the evangelists.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Aslan is on the move

So, we had a crazy day in the park today. We prayer walked for a bit and then we went to the park and played music while we waited for the kids to show up. We were playing “We Will Dance on the Streets That are Golden”, when two kids showed up. The older one had been hanging around the edges every time I told a Bible story, picking at the guitar when I put it down, etc. Just being there. But this time, they made a beeline for us, running across the park. They were even intercepted by the neighborhood quasi-bully, but they came over and made us sing the song again.

We sang, and then we got the drums out for them to play on, and then we sang it again. I asked them if they knew what the song meant. And then I got the immense privilege of sharing with two children whose only experience of Christianity was Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ what heaven would be like. I got to tell them that after we died, we would be brought back to life and we would never die again. I got to tell them that although Jesus died like they saw in the movie, he came back to life and that he did that because he loved them enough to die so that they could come back to life too. And I got to tell them that heaven would be one big party with Jesus.

Have you ever seen someone’s face when you tell him for the first time that Jesus came back to life? And that he died just for one little boy in North Central Troy? Their amazement and excitement was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. And then, while I was teaching the older one guitar chords, Christina got to talk with the younger one...

I showed the boy my cross. I wear a big San Damiano crucifix all the time since I'm a Franciscan. So I held it up and said, "This is what you saw in the movie, right?" The boy nodded.

"Well, every time I wear this, it reminds me that Jesus loves me and that I'm going to be in heaven with him later because he died for me and came back to life."

The boy (who I admit I thought was a girl at first, but he corrected me and didn't seem too worried about my blunder) seemed fixated on the cross. I took it off and let him hold it. He asked a bunch of questions:

Is this the blood? (Pointed to Jesus' hands). Yes, that's his blood.

Where's the devil? (I pointed to his feet). Beneath those -- because Jesus won.

Who's that up there? (Pointed above Jesus). That's the angels, watching. They can't believe what they're seeing.

He began to ask more about heaven and life after death. I told him anyone who believes in Jesus and follows him and is sorry for bad things they've done can go to heaven. They just have to pray.

He looked at me. He'd never prayed before. I told him it's just talking to God -- God can hear us, even if we can't see him. "So what do I say?" he asked. I began to lead him in a simple confession of faith and, unprompted, he repeated every word I said.

Afterward, he asked if he'd not die if he fell out of a tree. I explained he would die, but he'd live again in heaven, and he'd immediately be with God.

"And I'd see him?" he asked.

"Yes," I said. "You will."