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‘Turnin’ on the Lights’ evangelistic effort reveals darkn

EDITORS’ NOTE: The following story can be used in tandem with the BP story, “Students paint, repair, share Christ during World Changers experience,” dated 7/1/99.

ATLANTA (BP)–During the first week of World Changers “Turnin’ on the Lights” evangelistic emphasis, I rediscovered that sometimes an “uttermost part of the earth” can be in your hometown.
At the Turnin’ on the Lights rally at Terry Mill Elementary School in southeast Atlanta, more than 300 World Changers received final instructions before hitting the streets. They were to go to residences and give them a light bulb in a container that had the plan of salvation imprinted on its sides. From that initial contact, the students hoped to share their testimony and make a complete presentation of the gospel.
Most assignments were routine, visiting established neighborhoods. One was not so routine, and as the project coordinator asked for volunteers, I joined several World Changer summer staffers to assist.
The destination was Atlanta’s Little Five Points to support a new work there that’s about two months old. Meeting in the basement of an “established church” that averages less than 10 members each week, Tim and Donna Andrews have begun a new work among the residents of the area.
Tim compared Little Five Points to Haight-Asbury in San Francisco and Greenwich Village in New York City. It is a hub for America’s counterculture. Trends that begin here soon infiltrate much of our society. There is virtually no evidence of Christ here.
In Little Five Points, tattoos are the norm. We’re not talking about the “Hi, Mom” or ankle-flower kind. One resident has painted his face with symmetrical, horizontal stripes. On another resident’s arm, a black cougar had been imprinted that stretched much of his arm’s length. Here, the body is not the temple of God. The body is an easel, and life is art.
The neighborhood is saturated with homosexuals, crack addicts and the homeless. You will also find professionals living in the homes there that despite the age and condition of the structures, easily sell for more than $200,000.
One of the residences that I accompanied some World Changers to visit was a duplex. On one side, the light was on. The other doorway was dark.
The students went first to the lighted doorway. There, an elderly, ailing man eventually met them. He gladly received the light bulb and confirmed he was a believer and had a church home. Though the elderly man seemed out of place in that neighborhood, it was encouraging to meet a believer, the only one we met that night in the neighborhood.
While the students talked to the elderly man, I kept noticing movement in the darkness next door. Once or twice, a face quickly peered through the screen, then disappeared.
When the students knocked on the darkened door, a man yelled out from the darkness, “I don’t need any light bulbs.”
The students held their ground and encouraged him to come to the door. Once in the light of the setting sun, we saw a 30-something white male who wore a T-shirt with a red ribbon and verbiage about an AIDS fund-raiser. He had tattoos on each of his fingers.
Though he continued to indicate little interest in the student’s presentation, they persisted.
“Do you have any prayer requests?” one teenaged girl asked.
She repeated her question.
It was clear that the resident had no idea what she was talking about. Soon, the conversation was over, and he disappeared back into the darkness.
I have never met anyone who refused to be prayed for. I also had never met a person who didn’t seem to know anything about prayer.
It happened in North America, in the Bible belt, down the street from a Baptist church that’s been in that neighborhood for decades.
The teams that visited in Little Five Points did not lead anyone to Christ that Thursday night. They did find a handful of prospects. Tim and Donna were elated.
At the same time that visits were made in south Atlanta, World Changers in 11 other cities were Turnin’ on the Lights. Between 15,000 and 20,000 homes received a copy of the plan of salvation. More than 290 professions of faith were reported.
There’s a story behind every door.
None of those stories would have been told had there not been students and their leaders willing to take the gospel to the streets. If Christians don’t go, then the lost won’t hear.
And the lights don’t come on.
Please pray for World Changers this summer as they prepare to saturate other “uttermost parts of the earth” in North America.

Burton is director of the North American Mission Board’s volunteer mobilization team.

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  • Jim Burton