His property was only a block from the northern Minnesota elementary school named Churchill and catty-cornered from my home. I don’t remember the man’s name. I only recall a vague image. Thin. Gaunt. Dark. Sad. Angry. Addled. Many children passed his property on the walk home. Many, when they walked home, made fun of him when he was outside.
He knew and welcomed my family by sight. My parents brought him food. I had my turn as well. He would invite me to his place. Not much bigger than the shed I have in my backyard today, his living arrangement was something to which I was unaccustomed. He didn’t say a lot. “Thank you” was mumbled when the food was received.
One day my mother told me the reason he was the way he was. Being a veteran of World War I, he had been exposed to poison gas. Not many knew or cared about his story. He told my parents that he liked my brother and me because we didn’t yell at him or throw things at him.
So here I am, five and a half decades later asking, what of this man’s soul? Why am I thinking about him now? The world had been unkind to him. His dreams could not have possibly been to live in a shack and be the object of mockery all because he served in a war long since “resolved.” The cruel nature of man changed him early in his life. The cruel nature of man would chase him through to the end of his life in the form of insults cast by ignorant children. Still, he kept going.
We see the thousands even millions lost in our world. We are overwhelmed by statistics and numbers. So what do we do? We do what we do best. We develop appropriate strategies and we create attractive programs. But in all of the excitement do we miss the one soul lost not far from us?
Not missing the one soul lost is the work of an evangelist: One person listening to another and one person serving another in the name of Jesus. Leave the conversion to Him.
I know that my father witnessed to our neighbor about Jesus. I suppose there was a strategy and a program even in the mid-sixties. It turns out that my father had both a strategy and a program. Maybe the food brought and the gentle words spoken to him opened doors to his soul so that this man would be healed eternally. If so, his name is known in heaven and he and my father have met. That is what an evangelist will do.
By Rev. Steve Misch
Mission and Ministry Facilitator, Area A