KENNER, La. (BP)–Charmaine Fenstermacher had just three Gospel tracts left to share with families lined up to receive food from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers in Kenner, La.
“As a car pulled up, we’d say, ‘Hi, how are you? Do you want some lunch?’” Fenstermacher, of Southlake, Texas, recounted. When asked, “How are you doing?” some of the displaced Louisianans told how Hurricane Katrina had left them destitute and hungry.
“I had three tracts left and I was using them sparingly,” Fenstermacher said, as many of the evacuees had already heard the Gospel at some point in the post-Katrina disaster relief efforts. “Some of them wanted to talk and it was so nice to hear what they had to say,” though many of their stories began running together as they told of coping with the disaster.
When a black sedan rolled to the front of the line, Fenstermacher recognized the family to be of Middle Eastern descent. “The mother was wearing a beautiful, silk gown with gold threads. It was covering her arms as she reached out for food. She told me they had lost everything in the hurricane.”
Fenstermacher, a 53-year-old homemaker, is still amazed at the encounter God gave to her.
“I reached in and handed them lunch and we talked a little since there was a long line ahead of me. It surprised me the things I asked because I’m not normally so bold. ‘Do you know Jesus?’” she asked the man, his wife and their teenage son, uncertain of the response she would get.
“The husband spoke for the family and said, ‘We have been Muslim.’ I thought that was an odd way to put it — it was not ‘we are Muslim.’” Recounting the man’s gratitude for the food and resources freely given to him and his neighbors in the days following the hurricane, she quoted him as saying, “‘Our own people did not help us.’”
As Fenstermacher offered a tract and a brief Gospel testimony, she heard the man respond: “You know, we have heard that from other people. Who is this Jesus?”
“I thought, ‘Is this really happening to me? I hope I can explain this,’” Fenstermacher recalled. “It was not me at all. The Holy Spirit took over and I just basically explained what salvation is — that you speak out and repent and are sorry for your sins. I told them God loved us so much that He gave us His Son who died for each and every one of us and that the neatest thing is the resurrection.”
To Fenstermacher the conversation seemed to last forever, but she realized it was only a minute or two that she spent with the family. “He didn’t say anything for awhile and so I asked, ‘Would you like to say a prayer of salvation?’”
The mother shook her head positively and the husband answered, “Yes,” as did the son. Fenstermacher reached into the car to hold their hands as she led them in prayer.
“Then the husband said, ‘We want to do that!’ and I said, ‘You just did.’” Even though her disaster relief training advised against close physical contact with victims coming out of the ravaged area, Fenstermacher said only her legs were left hanging out of the car as she reached in to hug her new friends.
“I’ve always planted seeds, but I had never been there beside a person who made a decision to follow Christ. It finally happened to me,” she said, appreciative of the many Christians who had gone before her in sharing God’s love with this family. “It was awesome that I was the one witnessing this and God did His work through me.”
Tammi Ledbetter writes for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.