The man at the mall

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes . . . “  Romans 1:16a

This website strives to make disciples–that’s job #1.   Even as a long-time Christian–one trained years ago in evangelism–I find that reaching many nonbelievers presents unique challenges.  How do you open the mind and touch the heart of someone who seems unreachable?

My wife and I walk our granddaughter in a stroller in our local mall frequently.  Just about every time, we encounter a rather strange man.  Most people want distance from someone like him.  Yet, we have been drawn to learn his story, so we talk with him regularly.   

He’s very much physically unfit, dirty, and unkempt.  His hair is curly and long, and it hasn’t encountered a brush, comb or shampoo in quite some time.  Every day his clothing remains the same.  Tattoos cover his hands, and every finger bears its own  large ring.  He’s 45 years old.  Surprisingly, he’s not homeless.  We suspect his residence is some kind of halfway house, but we don’t really know.  He lives about a mile from the mall and  walks there every morning to arrive when it opens at 6:30 a.m.  He’ll spend the next several hours hanging out and talking to passers-by.  Earlier in his life he belonged to a motorcycle gang.  He has reported that if he had continued his involvement with it, he’d either be dead or in prison now.  

Recently we noticed him sitting outside in a solitary location, looking quite distraught.  We walked over to talk to him and find out what was wrong.  His emotions caused great difficulty in speaking.  He reported that he had received terrible news and couldn’t say anything else.  We asked simply, “Are you a Christian?”, and he responded negatively.  It broke our hearts.  This is the kind of situation where the rubber meets the road.  Knowing Jesus as we do, it’s almost unfathomable that someone would not believe in Him.  In his emotional state, I didn’t launch an evangelism attempt to convince otherwise.  He’s in a desperate place, but it just didn’t seem the right time to tell him about the love of Jesus when his receptivity appeared lower than low.  

We returned to the mall a couple of days later to walk off some calories.  There he was, sitting at his usual place.  We went up to him and started a conversation.  He told us that he had a brain tumor and only one to two months to live.  We asked if he planned to pursue a treatment, and he responded “no”.  He wants to die.  We witnessed to him about eternal life and Jesus, but he had zero interest.  He believes that he has a soul, but he doesn’t care what happens to it.  He refused to give us his name, and stated that he just wanted to be left alone with his own thoughts.  Prayer wasn’t something he wanted.  He left us with the message that he’d be dead soon, and we wouldn’t have to see him around any more.

While this attempt seemed to fail miserably, perhaps we have ignited something within him to seek Jesus.  We should have another opportunity to speak with him this week, and we may take another shot at witnessing to him.  We have nothing to lose by being rejected, and he has everything to lose by rejecting Jesus.  

I realize this devotional is a downer that won’t inspire anyone.  Nonetheless, I wanted to share this experience as you may have a similar encounter.  Perhaps it’ll help in your witnessing efforts.  In the meantime, please pray for the man at the mall.  

Prayer:  Give us the courage, dear God, to convince others of your marvelous grace.  Amen.

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