Monday, March 12, 2012

Cross Encounter: 'Should I Still Honor My Father?'

I made my way to the corner of 16th Street and Orchard Village Road. It would be the first time I carried the cross at this intersection.

While en route to the intersection, I called Zack, one of my sons-in-the-faith. He wanted to talk about a recent witnessing encounter he had--an encounter that raised objections from one of his fellow college students. We continued our conversation as I parked my car and made my way to the corner.

After a few minutes on the corner, I saw a young lady walk toward me from across the street. I handed her an "Are You Ready?" gospel tract as she stepped from the street, onto the sidewalk.

She looked at the cross and gasped. "These are my friends!"

"What? You know the kids in the picture?"

"Yes I do." She proceeded to point to each one as she stated their names.

She looked up at me and said, "I see you everywhere. Do you have a job?"

She wasn't being sarcastic, which made what she said all-the-more humorous to me.

"Yes, I have a job. I serve with a ministry in Bellflower. I try to come out with the cross for an hour or so each day, when I get home."

"How long have you been doing this?"

"About 2 1/2 years."


"So I can have conversations with nice people like you."

She smiled. She pointed up to the cross and asked, "What does that mean?"

On the back side of my cross I have "John 14:6."

"John 14:6 says, 'Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."'"

Because of the personal nature of what I am about to share, we will call the young lady "Karen."

I knew I still had Zack on my phone, but I also knew Zack would understand that I had to have a conversation with Karen. After a while, I heard the computerize voice of my Bluetooth say, "Call disconnected." I later learned that Zack's phone battery died. He texted me to say he was praying for Karen.

Karen told me she believed in God, and believed in Heaven and Hell. She was seventeen and graduated early from an area high school. I learned she has lived in the community for a couple years, but was originally from Moorpark, where she attended a non-denominational church.

I asked Karen if she knew what would happen to her when she dies. She didn't know.

Like most people, she believed she was a good person. She believes that people who do "bad things" will go to Hell.

I took Karen through the commandments. She admitted to being a liar who dishonored her parents by lying to them. She was concerned as she came to the realization that if she were to die today, she would spend eternity in Hell, as the just punishment for her sins against God.

Then Karen asked me a question that broke my heart.

"My dad raped me. Do I still have to honor him?"

She told me that although the crime was reported to the police, her father was never arrested or faced charges for the assault. She no longer lives with her father.

It was difficult, and I was as gentle as I could be, but I explained to her that honoring one's parents is something children are to do, regardless of whether or not the parents are honorable. I was quick to assure her that what her father did to her was despicable and he should be in prison for the rest of his life.

She asked me what honoring her father, considering the circumstances, would look like. I told her that she shouldn't seek vengeance or act out of hatred toward her father. I really was at a loss for words.

I told her how sorry I was that she had been victimized in such a horrible way. My blood was boiling toward a man I would never meet, who violated a girl the age of my youngest daughter, Amanda. At the same time, I wanted to give her a hug. Of course, I didn't.

I used the court room analogy with Karen as a transition to the gospel. I asked her what she would think of someone who would pay her fine so she could be set free. She said, "I would be forever-grateful and I would love him and follow him the rest of my life.

I shared the gospel with Karen, which she understood.

Karen, who was waiting to meet friends, seemed to be in no hurry to leave.

As we continued to chat on the corner, I told her where I attend church. I learned Karen aspires to be a college hockey player. She graduated with a 5.0 GPA. She was offered a scholastic scholarship to a prestigious university. If the hockey goal (no pun intended) doesn't work out, her back-up plan is to be a photographer.

We continued to chat until she received a call from her friends. I encouraged her to read the Gospel of John and explained to her where she could find it in the Bible. She said she would read it.

Karen walked away to meet her friends; and I thanked God for the opportunity to talk to her.

Lately, I have been hearing more of the silly mantra that talking to strangers and open-air preaching doesn't "work." The sentiment is one born out of either ignorance or arrogance--a sentiment that may also be born out of fear.

Karen and I talked for almost an hour. Before the conversation was over, we were no longer strangers. I knew about Karen's spiritual beliefs, her aspirations, and her pain. There's nothing "cold" about this kind of evangelism (as some would errantly characterize it)--not if you care about the people with whom you are blessed to speak.

Pray for Karen. Pray the Lord saves her.

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