ATLANTA (BP)–“So, what’s the tattoo supposed to say?” I ask him.
His name is Bruce, a Chinese-American kid about 20 years old. He lives in a crowded apartment complex near Six Flags Over Georgia.
Bruce has just gotten out of his car, no shirt on. As I am walking toward him, he glances at me and lifts his head a little in that “What’s up?” gesture.
On his left arm is a tattoo in Chinese characters. “It says, ‘Live life to the fullest!’” Bruce tells me.
“Cool!” I say. “Did you know that Jesus said, ‘I came so you could have life, and have it to the fullest’?”
That was the beginning of a great conversation. For the next 30 minutes, Bruce and I talked about what it means to follow Jesus. He didn’t accept, but he heard and understood. As I walked away, I know the seed fell well into fertile ground.
I am writing these words from Atlanta. Five students from Indiana (Skye Axe, Megan Rorhmeyer, Walter Schenk and Kevin Brooks from Indiana State and Jonathon Braden from Indiana University Southeast) and I are here and involved in Crossover Metro Atlanta. Crossover is held in conjunction the yearly Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. For eight days this year, college students and campus ministers are helping to share the gospel all over and around the city, from the wealthy suburbs to the “head shops” of the Little Five Points area deep in downtown Atlanta.
It is astounding how open and ready people are to hear that life can have purpose and direction, love and hope. Let me tell you about a few whom I have already met.
This past Saturday (June 12), the very first day we were out, at the very first door we knocked on, Robby accepted Christ! Jessica (a Baptist Collegiate Ministries student from Idaho State) and I were part of a group surveying for a new church near Jonesboro, Ga. Shortly after we knocked at his door, Robby, a 20-something self-employed contractor, admitted he really didn’t know how a person could be in right relationship with God or how one “qualified” for heaven.
As I walked with him through a “Here’s Hope” tract, I saw the lights start to come on. About 10 minutes later, Robby said, “Yes!” to Jesus and accepted him as his Savior! Don’t ever forget that sometimes the person we are witnessing to is ready the first time we share because someone else has been sowing seeds ahead of us!
Several houses down the street that same day, we met Elbert, a middle-aged African American. Judging by his house and surroundings, Elbert has been fairly successful. He invited us in and amiably answered our questions. He insisted that the solution to the problems in our society today is that people need to get back to reading and believing the “Good Book.”
But when I asked what the Bible says about how we get to heaven, Elbert wasn’t sure. I briefly told him about myself — growing up in a small town in a good family; as a good student, being considered a good kid. I told him that I was so good it took me 18 years to understand that I was lost! I told him how relieved I was to find out that God doesn’t weigh us in the balance, good deeds versus bad deeds. Instead, God invites us to accept the free gift of forgiveness, new birth, freedom and heaven by simply trusting Jesus and what he did for us on the cross. Elbert was a kind host and good listener. He didn’t accept before we left, but I have a good feeling.
The next day, Jerry (a student from Stephen F. Austin University in Texas) and I were in the “projects” out on Thomasville Road. We were doing follow-up visits to people who had already accepted Christ a few days earlier. There we met Angela, 18 years old, three kids and very sad eyes. I am confident that her conversion to Christ is real, but my heart is heavy for her.
Angela asked us to pray about an upcoming court appearance. Whatever trouble she got into, she deeply regrets it now. We assured Angela that God will get her through that trial regardless of the outcome. Better, we assured her that Jesus has already forgiven her and will never change that verdict, nor will he ever leave her alone.
And yet I am afraid for Angela — afraid that she won’t get the follow-up, attention, discipleship and love she is going to need. Her name and address will be given to a pastor nearby. She will get a Jesus video in the mail soon. All this is good. But my prayer is going to be that she will be surrounded by other flesh-and-blood believers.
I am so glad I have come and brought some of our Indiana BCM students to Crossover. It has rekindled my desire and sense of urgency about sharing and celebrating the Lord Jesus and his saving gospel. It has reaffirmed something I have known for some time: People want to be, are actually longing to be reborn, to know God personally and to live the life Jesus offers. They are ready to hear, turn about, accept and go forward in hope! The Holy Spirit has prepared them. But someone has to tell and show them the message of the glorious gospel.
Bear is the Baptist Collegiate Ministry coordinator for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, and he and his wife, Rose, direct Baptist Collegiate Ministry outreach at Indiana State University, Terre Haute; Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology; and St. Mary of the Woods College.