Hi again everybody!
Well it’s about time I catch you all up on what’s been going on here on this mission field! I wanted to leave the following sentences in my newsletter opener due to the truth that they speak, which withstands time. To preface just a few of the conversations God has blessed me with, I wanted to say that we never know how the person we share with is going to respond. They could be completely uninterested or they could be the next Billy Graham (someone had to share with him). Their response is their responsibility. If they respond positively or they respond negatively, it’s the message of Christ they are ultimately accepting or rejecting not you. This past month has been rather unique in that I was able to finish training for my other job and officially started. Having another 20-25 hours a week of work has forced me to become more organized with my time as well as more intentional with the time I am given. Zach and I, who I will better introduce in the next part of this letter, have had to drop our Tuesday/Thursday evangelism time. I miss my time on campus working with him, but God surely had plans well in advance of my schedule change. Literally the week that I was no longer able to meet with Zach marked the first week that we were able to get a member of Zach’s small group out sharing the Gospel with Zach. The transition from me working with Zach outreaching to Zach working with Jonathan was too smooth for any humans planning. Plus the fact that we hadn’t planned for anything to change anyway. I will talk more about Zach and Jonathan in my next letter, but for now I’d like to explain how I met Zach, who he is, and reference just a few of the individuals that we were able to meet in mine and his last times outreaching together as well as those I met on our Spring Break Missions trip to Maryland this month.
My First Disciple Part 1: How I met Zach
Zach Babb, the Asian fellow that I was pictured beside in the last newsletter is someone that I met evangelizing this past summer. I had been outreaching for almost a year by then and was tired of only meeting people in our initial conversations and then never seeing them again. I had begun to truly understand the importance that our church and The Bible placed on the discipleship process. When I started sharing the Gospel I thought you had a better “spiritual” portfolio or resume if you got the chance to disciple people and lead studies, in other words the intentions I had in my heart in finding people to do these with weren’t exactly in line with God’s intentions. There are no coincidences in the Christian faith. At the point in my life when I had finally became eager to meet someone that I could pass the wisdom I had received onto for the reasons that God saw fit was the exact time that I met someone to do so with. When my heart changed and God saw that I was ready, He delivered. One afternoon this summer, one of my former roommates had a friend/ fellow brother in Christ visiting our apartment from Asheville, NC. This fellow by the name of Jordan was curious as to what “outreaching” was and how it was done. God told me that the best way for him to learn was to see it in action. I was already planning to head to campus that day to outreach with a sister on campus at the freshmen dorms of Tucker and Owen. I lived in Owen my first year at NC. State and I knew how strategic the location was in reaching students. I decided to prompt Jordan to tag along with us and to feel free to join in when he was comfortable. Once we arrived on campus, we realized that no students were out and about from the dorms and our attempts to spread The Good News needed to be more creative. None of us had access to the dorms, not being residents of either, so we tailgated our way in behind current residents. God had a distinct plan that day and we were vessels in this plan. I have mentioned a heavier amount of events leading up to the events in this retelling to remind that the reader that there are no coincidences. Amber, the sister we met to outreach with, was comfortable stopping students outside of their dorms on campus, but was very hesitant to try the door to door method that we had came up with once plans had changed. Jordan was just tagging along for the ride, so this left me up to direct our time. I had never been in a dorm evangelizing for the Gospel before but it wasn’t I who was carrying us that day. We immediately got to work, knocking on the first few doors on the halls first floor. Our initial contacts were bumpy; the people that we spoke with were as surprised about what we were doing as we were. Long story short at the end of the hall and after about 45 minutes of many interesting conversations, we had the choice to finish the time by going into the dorms lounge or calling it a day. The lounge was full of students watching TV, playing cards, and board games and by this time Jordan was ready to do some talking. I was drained from the prior conversations and was myself ready to go. When we got into the lounge, Amber had the idea to simply join in the games. As we played conversation came to life. We had made friends, but we hadn’t asked any tough questions relating to why we were there in the first place. As I said, I was done for the day and Amber wasn’t going to initiate to the crowd, but Jordan, the guy that was on his first trip sharing, finally spoke up and said ” I have a question for you guys, Do any of you have any spiritual backgrounds?”. It was as though our cover had been blown and the group which was lively just prior to the question fell silent. Awkward silence is obviously were God chooses for me to thrive, because as the silence loomed I spoke up and explained to them who we were and why we were there. Slowly but surely people began to each explain their religious beliefs/ practices. One guy spoke up and said “I’m a new Christian, I have never met people like you that just do what you are doing, I like it and I want to be a part of it!”. Just the fact that we were able to initiate with the entire hall of students door to door, give Jordan the opportunity to experience sharing the Gospel and then speak with these people had me tickled with joy, but Zach speaking up was just icing on the cake. I introduced myself to him, we swapped contact information and planned to meet within the next few days. The rest is history as they say, but I will pick up in the next letter from here. Even though you now only have the beginning and the present without the in between/ rest of the details please pray that Zach continues to be as reliable, passionate and consistent in his walk with Christ as he has been since I met him.
Speaking Life to a Sheep Gone Astray.
Hayden was the last person that Zach and I met on a day that God used to truly test our perseverance for the sake of the Gospel! Our day had begun by speaking with a guy who claimed to not believe in or care about anything. This was sad to hear and not the best beginning conversation to a time outreaching. It reminded us of how callused hearts can become. The following conversations seemed to increase the feelings we had as we began to run into rejection after rejection. We realized that God was up to something as He always is. He wanted to see if we truly meant that we had joy in all things and whether we meant that our time sharing the Gospel was for Him and those lost not us. With this being said, by the time we crossed paths with Hayden we were determined to share the Gospel and to do so with authority and clarity. This was exactly what the Great Physician had ordered for Hayden. He began speaking with us by saying that he was pressed for time and that if we wanted to pray for something to pray for the civil war possibly starting in the Ukraine. This was an important topic for prayer, but we didn’t let this attempt of avoidance faze us. As we began to press further about him personally, Hayden began to relax and engage in conversation with us. He said that he didn’t believe anyone could be certain in their salvation and that he was still a pretty good person even though he didn’t practice a religion or attend church. We were able to explain to him that a lot of people placed their trust in things that would never give them true salvation. That a lot of people, including himself, were relying on things they were either doing or had failed to do. We then began to share the Gospel with him, what had began as him immediately wanting to take off soon lead to him giving us five minutes of his time and eventually to us going through the entire Gospel and being able to figure out from him why he had not accepted Christ into his heart. He said that he had filled his life with other things that kept him busy and had chosen to put a relationship with God on the back burner. We let him know the consequences of his prior choices to do so and our hopes that he wouldn’t take his life for granted. Hayden was visibly glued to our conversation by the Spirit, here a guy uninterested in God was listening to us speak about him for almost half an hour. We were able to clear up misconceptions that he held towards being a follower of Christ and explain to him how he could have a personal relationship with God. Hayden thanked us for taking our time to talk to him and we hope you will be praying that He chooses to give his life over to Christ.
God’s Timing is on Point
A tradition of Grace’s for Spring, Summer and Fall breaks is to send teams on mission trips to help strengthen sister churches with their fields of influence or help potential/current newly planted churches grow. With it being NC. State’s Spring Break, Grace sent three teams on mission trips. One to Clemson, SC, one to Charlotte, NC and one to Columbia, MD. I was part of the Maryland team. Since our mission trip team consisted of an odd number of members on our first day, it left someone to wage spiritual warfare on their own. Due to having prior experience and an eager spirit I accepted the position as odd man out. Approaching random people can be intimidating enough when with a partner, but going alone is different. It is a different ball game, one I really began to enjoy. When I met Bryan he was initially shocked/ thrown off about being approached by a stranger, but once I explained to him why I was in Maryland and asked him if he needed prayer for anything, I noticed a complete change in his countenance. I noticed that his eyes began to appear glassy/ glossed over. Bryan explained to me that just the night before he had lost his grandfather, someone that he had been very close to. Bryan let me pray for his grandpa Joe and then I was able to ask him how confident he was that if today were his last that he’d go to heaven to be with God. His response was that he believed there was really no way of knowing that. He was on his way to pick up his laptop from the tech support in the school’s library, so I asked him if it’d be fine if we walked and talked about this topic. I walked with him to check on his laptop repairs and began to get to know him better. Once we left the library he said he was ready to see how he could personally know God and spend eternity with Him. We stopped in a dorm to get out of the icy weather and found a stairwell. Here I was able to share the Gospel with him, during this time he began to open up even more and broke into tears concerning the loss of his grandfather and the timing of our meeting. He truly understood that God wanted something to do with his life. Bryan’s response to the Gospel was that he had known God existed, but never knew that He wanted to interact with him on a personal basis. I told him not to take his time/ life for granted and that telling me that he desired to know God better wasn’t enough. It would take him and God getting that straightened up. I was able to pray for Bryan, his family and his future. I also was able to connect him with true followers of Christ on campus in order for him to have fellowship and community for growth. Please be in prayer for Bryan to respond to what God has done for him through the sacrifice of His son and for him to find fellowship with believers on campus.
A Conflicted Soul meets the Love of Christ
I met Erik on the first day of our time at Howard Community College. He was the last person that I spoke with on that day and another person I met during my time outreaching alone. God was really showing me that He could use any situation to effectively spread His love to the lost. When I approached Erik he explained to me that he had a whole list of things that he could use prayer for. He said that he was in the midst of battling financial issues, discrimination issues, psychological issues as well as an overall identity crisis. He said he really didn’t know where to go or what to do. God had me meet Erik at this exact point in his life for a reason. Erik needed to know that in the midst of all of this pain that his creator loved him with incomparable passion. Erik allowed me to share the Gospel with him, but our conversation was unique in that he had very specific questions that revealed he had spent time reading/ thinking about them and really wanted answers. He didn’t understand why a loving God punished, why God allowed Satan/his followers to still exist on Earth rather than wiping them out immediately, why a loving God would bring sin/ death into our world or why Christians treated/ approached those dealing with particular sins such as homosexuality differently than say drunkenness/ lust. I was able to explain to him that God punishes/ disciplines those He loves because he loves us. In caring for us He wants what is best for us and that means not letting us do things that bring harm on ourselves. I explained to him that even Satan is a tool that brings glory to God. Placing temptation in our lives, Satan expedites the process of our strengthening to choose God’s will over our own. God never forced our hand in the relationship, true love is a choice and He has given us free will to choose Him, but we by nature chose sin and that’s why sin/death were brought into the world. Finally I explained to him that as a true follower of Christ I see sin as sin. Anything in disobedience to God’s will. I struggled with drunkenness, another person struggles with homosexuality. We are both loved by God and those struggles are to be approached through love not judgment. Loving someone through something, coming alongside them and truly caring about them takes work though and many people would rather throw judgment in their direction and play the hypocrite role. Erik did not accept Christ in our conversation, but he was able to see the love that Jesus has for us. He gave me his number and we are still communicating currently. Please be in prayer for Erik to make the choice to trust in God’s love for him and what He has done for him.
I’ve decided to leave this the same as well, when things work well I often times continue to go to them. This ministry would otherwise be impossible without the support that you provide. Thank you again for your interest in what God is doing in the hearts here on campus, you are greatly appreciated! Please keep these names and this ministry in your prayers!
Thomas F. Saunders IV
Grace at State l Raleigh NC