It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon as Sarah, Kylie, Adro, Karl and I arrived to share the Gospel in the Toowoomba’s CBD. After meeting together and praying we decided to split into three teams and head out. Adrian and I took one side of Margaret street whilst Sarah and Kylie took the other.
Karl travelled by himself for a while down Ruthven street and was eventually joined by Paul who came after work to help with the work. The two of them continued handing out tracts and were even able to connect with some people who were sitting under a bridge. The Gospel is for people from all walks of life and thus sometimes you can find yourself in places you don’t normally expect to be. I always admire Karl and Paul’s quiet strength and this situation was just another example of where they stepped out for the sake of others. Looking back on their conversation we pray that those people under that bridge will personally encounter the God who loves them.
Meanwhile Sarah and Kylie were able to engage a number of people. One of those was a woman sitting under a bus shelter. When they offered her a tract the woman gruffly asked “Is it about Jesus?” Sarah gently responded “Yes it is ” to which the woman’s face suddenly lit up and she exclaimed “Praise the Lord!” Turns out this woman was a local Christian and she was thrilled to see the work of evangelism going on in her city. Which goes to show… you can never judge a person by appearances.
Buoyed by this experience, Sarah and Kylie continued their adventure down the street. Off in the distance they saw a large group of tattooed people and they thought “Let’s go share the Gospel with them”. Now reader you must understand: Large groups of tattooed people are unusual in Toowoomba. Generally speaking we don’t have large tattooed groups of humanity walking around as you see in larger cities…so groups of such people around here tend to evoke all sorts of disconcerting old-school stereotypes. Kylie and Sarah though walked up to them and offered them tracts that explained the Good news of Christ. The members of the group took the tracts and minus a few snickering remarks were willing to read them. This was the second time today God sought fit to explode stereotypes and show our hearts once again that appearance is not as important as we might think in exhibiting the heart underneath.
Adrian and I however were travelling down Margaret street during this time when we suddenly met an older man who was evidently quite drunk. As he began to speak to us you could tell that he was both friendly and earnest in what he was saying. He told us how he was a bloke who has made some mistakes with his life but that he would always be there for his family if they needed him. He also said he had respect for religion and knew of some of the ministries that serve the homeless in Toowoomba.
At the end of our rather lengthy conversation he said he would read the tract we gave him and thanked us for the conversation. We directed him towards some of those ministries who provide dedicated support for the homeless in Toowoomba and I genuinely hope we get to see him again someday. Jesus has often freed people from the grip of alcoholism and has reconciled families and we pray that this may be the life-story of this man as well.
After bidding farewell to our new friend* we had only walked a few meters before we met a completely different type of person. After rather bluntly refusing a tract, this man walked a little further on before spinning around and saying “Actually, I will take one of those!” He then came over, quickly grabbed a tract out of my outstretched hand and said rather triumphantly “This is going on FaceBook!” His tone left no doubt regarding what he thought of the Gospel tract.
Before I could get a word out he turned around and stormed off. To be honest I find this sort of behaviour really frustrating. We are currently living in a society that is more fractured than ever. It seems like everyone is talking and no one is listening. Never before have it been so easy for us to live an “echo chamber” of our own group’s thoughts and opinions and therefore genuine, truly respectful dialogue between opposing sides on *any* important topic is in short supply.
If we as a society are going to live together I believe we need to learn to listen to each other (this includes Christians learning to listen to others as well). We also need to learn how to “fight well”…where we can passionately debate and critique other’s views and then shake hands afterwards and share a drink. And when you think about it there is a no more profoundly important topic which holds such wide-reaching ramifications as that of religion. All religions…and all non-religious philosophies… need to learn to speak beyond the memes and the triumphalist talk and actually have a face-to-face discussion with “the other”.
So I suppose that is part of my frustration. But as is the case with street evangelism, things tend to change quickly and it wasn’t long before Adrian and I met a tradie who was happy to dialogue.
This tradie (Nathan) had come up to work on the new Grand Central development and was presently waiting for a door to open so he could grab some tools he’d left on the job site. The three of us chatted for a while and Nathan told us that he was an Anglican who went to Church with his aging mum. We went over his understanding of the Gospel and helped point out that God saves people not because of how good they are/have been but because of the fact that Jesus is good and has made a way back to God for all who would trust in Him and leave their life of rebellion against Him.
Overall we had a great chat together and I encouraged Nathan to become involved in a Small Group at his church. As I look back over the events of the day I think I can speak for the whole Toowoomba team when I say it was fantastic day and we pray that God will receive all the credit for what He has done and will do in Toowoomba.
*name withheld to protect privacy.