“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps” (Proverbs 16:9)
Sister Helen has once again provided an excellent and methodical write-up of our summer outreach, which saw over 10,000 tracts distributed and our banners seen by thousands!
Every outreach is like a treasure box. We are never sure of what we will encounter, whether believers, unbelievers, scoffers, weather, accommodations, illness, attacks from the evil one, and so on. This time around, it was no different. So much so that we found ourselves having to change plans almost daily, at least that’s what it seemed.
A small group did some street work in Manchester and surroundings, immediately following the terrorist attack at the Ariadna Grande concert on May 22nd. Then we all travelled from our different homes and continents to meet in Cambridge from 1-12 June. Although England had suffered a heat wave the week before, it was cloudy at times and sometimes quite rainy during our stay. A few of us even had to buy warmer clothing! We found a couple of good spots in the pedestrian area of the center of Cambridge, in Cambridgeshire (England) and spent the first five days there. Reception was not too bad, although the first day, James and Patrick had their first encounter with the “town atheist,” a man who peppered them with expletives and facetious questions, without taking a breath or allowing them a spare moment to answer. This was not the first encounter, more later.
Along with working our local town center throughout the day, a few went door-to-door early mornings and early evenings, letterboxing gospel tracts. Time is very much the essence during such an outreach. Brother Martin joined us on Saturday, and we had a lovely day in town where many passersby accepted a tract but few stopped to speak. We spent the next few days in Cambridge, and although we did not have many conversations, almost every single one was with someone from another belief system or religion.
Our first mishap was that the megaphone to broadcast an audio version of the Gospel of John had been left behind in Manchester, but we figured out a way to use Bluetooth between a portable speaker and an iPad to substitute the original plan. Certainly an example of the Lord directing our steps! Brother James had quite a long conversation with a cheerful lady from the Bahá’i Faith, the first such person he had ever met. She explained her own ideas briefly and he encouraged her to find a Bible and read it.
Sister Tantri was challenged by a young man rather caught up in a Calvinist set of beliefs. He did not seem to have given thought to the meaning of many Scriptures, but James also joined her to help open the Scriptures as much as they could. On Saturday, the “town atheist” had another go at Patrick, who also spoke briefly with this man’s wife. His anger and questions seemed to reveal some kind of religious upbringing, and evidently something had happened in the past to sour him completely on the Lord and the Bible, although he had quite an extensive knowledge of the Bible passages and seemed almost as able to twist them as the devil himself.
Another day, brother Enrique had a nice conversation with two young people who were Seventh-day Adventists, one a former Hindu and the other a former Catholic. They seemed to understand some Biblical concepts but not all (as common with this sect), and as usual, this conversation devolved into a discussion of Sabbath-keeping. Although, Helen explained Ellen White’s many false prophecies regarding the date of the Lord’s coming, they felt we were misinformed. Perhaps they will investigate this sometime in the future and come to understand the true gospel.
Brother James was quite surprised by six young Jewish men in their early 20’s who came over to comment on his shoes and ask about the banner, which had a verse from Hebrews. James’ friendly tone apparently put them at ease as he mentioned that yes, Hebrews was the name of a book in the New Testament. They had no idea! Three of these stayed a few moments, one of whom quickly left. James asked the remaining two to explain what they had been taught and believed about three key Messianic passages in the Old Testament, namely, Isaiah 53, Zechariah 12 and Psalm 22, and also about whether they really could keep the law and how can they atone for their sin. What they do with it, well, only time will tell, but it was truly a joy to speak to the Lord’s chosen people in such a brief manner and hopefully, they will remember the conversation over their lifetime and understand the great love that the Father has to have sent His only Begotten to gain our salvation through His blood.
On Sunday, we saw our “town atheist” again, this time he was a bit toned down and even invited Brother Patrick for a coffee, but it seems his anger just got the better of him, and he couldn’t help but spew out bitter questions and some choice words, which led Patrick to walk out. Shortly afterwards, this man came over to three of us, verbally attacked Patrick again, had a few words with James who rebuked him, and even tried his hand at Helen with the “same-old, same-old.”
We met a lady who said she was born again some years ago, apparently does a fair amount of tracting in Cambridge and surroundings, was KJB and seemed to have had a rough background, but she was surprisingly very anti-Zionist and quite upset, even a bit angry, at how apathetic people were. She turned out to be from Spain, so we had a few words with her in Spanish, too.
We met a young American lady who was studying at Cambridge University. Sister Jane had a nice conversation with her and she seemed very sincere, perhaps a new Christian not entirely well grounded. Still, it was rather surprising that when James asked her if she read her Bible, her answer was: does it matter? She seems to have some Charismatic or Pentecostal leanings, so we hope she gets a hold of a Bible and sticks to it alone.
Brother Patrick recognized the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams as he walked right by with a disdainful look. This man confesses to also being a druid, can you believe it? Well, at least he saw the banner, we’re sure. After several days in Cambridge, it was felt that we were seeing the same people again and again, so we began to look at other possibilities. In hindsight, this was the Lord most certainly directing our steps. On Wednesday, we went to Huntingdon, where many people accepted tracts but we had few conversations. Sister Jane had a most interesting conversation with the taxi driver on our way there, but it’s hard to tell how much he was just being chatty and how much he was truly listening.
To our surprise, we came across a free Oliver Cromwell museum, which James obviously visited, photographed and filmed for his future article. In fact, we were amazed how much of the east of England remains dominated by Cromwell, in way of plaques and statues. We also happened by “chance” to come across his house in which he once lived in with his family. More photos and videos were captured of course.
Sister Helen had this most unusual conversation with a Catholic who asked her:
“Have you ever thought of becoming a Catholic?”
“Why would I do that? I used to be a Catholic until I heard the true gospel when I was 15.”
“And what do you think is the true gospel?”
“Well, I already knew that Jesus died for me and rose again, and that I was a sinner and could go to Hell but I didn’t know that salvation was a free gift, that I could do nothing to earn it and that in fact, I had to come with empty hands. Catholics add tradition to the Scripture, and that’s not okay”
“You really need to come back to Mother Church, to the glories of the Eucharist!”
“I wouldn’t dream of it!!”
On Thursday, we went to Ely and despite the rain we had some people accept tracts, including an elderly gentleman of around 90, a Baptist, who seemed saved. He asked us “How long have you known that?” (referring to the Hebrews banner) and so we asked him “Are you saved?” to which he replied, “I know where I’m going…off to meet my wife who was promoted to glory 9 years ago.” He even grabbed another tract and crossed the way, to give it to someone he knew. Yes, you are never too old to give someone a tract!
Brother James had a conversation with a halfway-lapsed young Catholic man who listened carefully. Only the Lord knows what will come of it. And there were even a few surprising types who, despite their oddities and evident sins, accepted tracts. (True story: we often find that those we’re sure will accept a tract are those who refuse, and vice versa. So, never refrain from offering a tract based on looks!)
Brother James and Sister Jane had a long conversation with an agnostic who had many questions and seemed sincere in them, but didn’t seem too interested in hearing their opinion. He was an older gentleman and seemed to have too many years of unbelief and blindness to readily accept the gospel. It is our hope he will go back to read the Bible some more.
On Friday, we went to St. Ives, and were well received. Tracting was evidently something the population was not familiar with, as they were mostly rather happy to accept them. On Saturday, we travelled two hours to Peterborough on a bus. Due to the train schedule, it looked like we would only have an hour to spend there, but tracting was so well received that we decided to stay another hour. There was quite an ambiance there, with some kind of motorbike thing going on. We even had some tough bikers accept a tract and carefully put it in their satchels or pockets; we can only imagine they have seen more than their share of friends lost to accidents and more aware of death than usual.
On Sunday, we spent our last few hours in Cambridge, and had several conversations with a young fellow in his late teens from Malaysia. It seemed he understood some of the gospel, but thought that being born again was the same as baptism. Still, he did seem eager to understand more, but despite some stumbling in English. Helen suggested listening to James’ studies on John and Romans, with a King James Bible alongside, then writing to James with any questions. And of course, we had a final glimpse of the “town atheist” who couldn’t help by come over to clash one last time with James and Patrick. He was rebuked sharply for the final time!
As usual, we had many one-liners and a bit of back-and-forth with some others. There’s not much that could have prepared us! Here’s a sampler:
Most common answers:
–I’m already saved
–I’m a Christian
–I’m a believer.
–What church do you go to?
And the most interesting:
–I’m the biggest sinner on earth (said with no sorrow, only a sarcastic laugh!)
–I’m going to burn (also said as a joke, but Hell is no laughing matter)
–No thanks, I’m a pagan
–Why does that message have to be so negative? The gospel is love and hope [Helen: what about Jesus and the cross?]
–[From a lady:] I’m also an ex-Catholic, I’m an Anglican priest [James: there are no female priests in the Bible] [Her reply:] Where have you been in the last few years? Take your tract back!
–Good job, much appreciated
–I don’t want one
–[Overheard, mother to child:] It’s about Jesus [Child:] What about Jesus?
–[From a lady:] I’m training to be a vicar
–I wish you well
–[From us: Gospel message?] [Reply:] That’s the problem!
–I’m already a Christian, I’ve got an intercessory and healing ministry
–I’m a tourist
–I became a Christian two years ago, I read my Bible most days but it’s hard to understand some things and I have no one to teach me
–Sorry, the tract is not in English so I won’t take it; Welsh is the language of heaven. [Enrique spoke with this man two times: once in Cambridge and once in St. Ives, an hour away. Can you believe it?]
–So he still hates gays, heh?
–We’ve got one, thank you
–I’m an atheist, thank you
–If he made all men, why are Muslims killing people? [Our reply:] Because man makes religion, not God
–Do you have a local presence?
–I know that verse [pointing to the banner]! [Our reply:] Do you read the Bible? [Answer:] I’m a Christian, I don’t need to
–Already born again in the Spirit of God
–No, I’m a witch, wouldn’t do any good [sadly, this woman showed me her pentagram, and she had a small child. Does she even wonder where she is leading her child?]
–How do we know He exists? [Our reply:] There are probably 28 ways; just look everywhere you go
–Sorry, can’t carry that
–Oh that’s very nice
–Do you want some Swiss rolls? [Our reply:] No thanks, but you could give them to a homeless person
–I’m not really a believer (but he did take a tract)
–No thank you, I’ve got a Bible
–I already know the Lord [Our reply:] Take it and give it to someone. [Answer:] That’s okay, I know the Lord without that
–I don’t do gospel
–I deny it, I do my best [in reply to the tract with Psalm 41:4 on top]
–Can I have another one? A small one for my girlfriend?
–I’m a Catholic, a convert [Our reply: That’s ok, you can keep it and read it]
–I go to church but I swear a lot
–I’m not interested, sorry
–What’s the story? Oh right! We’re forever lapsed Catholics, then, yes!
–I’ve done that and I’m doing that
–That’s not love, that’s not hope, that’s not redemption [Our reply:] Yes it is; it’s the Bible [Loud and angry answer:] No it isn’t! [a passerby kindly told us “Wow, a lot of angry people today!”]
–[About the banner:] Can I take a picture?
–Yeah, why not?
–I haven’t got my Bible
–You could have this verse
–Bless you guys
–I don’t believe in God
–No, keep it!
–End times already here!
–Why? Ok, I’ll just take it!
–I don’t speak English
–I already went to church today
–No, thanks. Oh, sorry! The gospel? Yes, of course I’ll take it!!!
–What’s that? Oh right, here’s what I think of that… [man ripped the tract right in front of us and threw it on the ground]
Much of this saddens us. First, that there is much apathy and sometimes even anger. We fear for all of these who will one day remember at the Great White Throne the day they were offered the gospel and refused. Or they accepted the news but then forgot about it.
Still, we noticed the Lord turning us the way He wanted us to go, we had a lot of the usual Satanic opposition before and after outreach, and we trust the Lord’s words:
“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).