A story of personal evangelism told to this editor by Ron Zywotko.
I was in Seattle preparing for my next meeting when I received a call from the pastor. He confirmed my engagement and told me of a man who was leaving soon for his second tour of duty in Iraq. He said the man had surrendered his life to serve God as an evangelist. Now, when have you heard of anyone doing that. I have, as I am sure you have, known of men to surrender to be a missionary, or a pastor, but almost never (in my case never) to be an evangelist. Praise the Lord!
The pastor asked if I would take this young man out with me to do personal evangelism in the public places of Seattle. He wanted him to gather some first hand experience from a man who has been doing this kind of work for the last 27 years. I assured him I would be happy to do this and we arranged a time to meet.
As is my custom, I arrived at the church early—about two hours early. It was unseasonably hot for Seattle and I remained outside in my car and prayed. I normally don’t spend a solid hour in prayer—especially in my car on a day like that one was, but I felt keenly I must have God’s power. I wanted this young man to have a blessed experience. So I prayed and I prayed some more.
When the time arrived for us to meet we were together and exchanged greetings. The pastor left and off we went to see about winning some poor lost souls to Christ.
When I tell you that we had a rough time of it, I am not joking. One person after the other rejected my approach. No one, it seemed, had the slightest interest in hearing anything about Jesus. We went into several public stores, a coffee shop, a market, a restaurant. The fish were not biting–they were snapping! Get out of here! Leave us alone! Nothing doing!
After a good long while, even I was discouraged. Remember, this is my line of work. Outside evangelism is my ministry. I am supposed to be gifted at this work. I am supposed to demonstrate that I have God’s power for this work. Nothing! People shouted—yes, shouted, profanities. I was ordered out of places. Angry people made hand gestures at us representing their attitude toward us and the Lord.
I was greatly disappointed, because I had hoped to show this young man how to engage people in public places and prayerfully win them to Christ. That didn’t happen. I felt badly for me, and I felt awful for him. I don’t think I have ever had an afternoon with so many painful rejections as that one.
I paused for a moment and walked over to a pole where I leaned my body against it and started praying. I remember telling the Lord my concerns and even fussed at Him a little. I wondered out loud to Him what good did that hour of prayer do? I felt like a complete failure.
I opened my eyes and the first thing I noticed was a young woman coming toward me from across a parking lot. She walked almost straight to me. I moved out to speak with her and asked her if she could possibly help me. I have used this approach a number of time to start a conversation. I asked, “Lady, I am not from here. I am from Tennessee. I wonder if you could give us some directions?” She was an Asian lady and she very kindly responded, “I will help you if I can. Where do you wish to go.?” I asked, “Could you give me directions to Heaven? I want to know how to get to Heaven.”
I thought the young lady would cry. She had a most pained expression form on her face, her countenance fell and she was obviously saddened at that question. She was not offended in the slightest.
She replied, “Mister, you have asked the wrong person. You see I am from India. My parents are steeped in their own religion over there, I left India to come to America where I hoped I would find this salvation that I know so little about. I visited one church and one religious group after another, but to no avail. I have been here for seven years and no one, it seems, knows the answer. I am very, very sorry that I can’t help you. I, too, want to know how to get to Heaven.”
I smiled and then told her that I could assist her. I explained that I was out here on the streets looking for people who wanted to know about Jesus. I asked, “Would you permit me to tell you how you can become a Christian?”
“Oh, yes. Please tell me.” And I did and right there on the sidewalk in Seattle I shared the Gospel with this Asian lady and she bowed her head asking Jesus to come into her heart and save her soul. I am happy to report Jesus, indeed, saved her on the spot. She was so happy. I asked if she had any word for us. This is what she said.
“I arrived in America some seven years ago. I have been searching for Jesus. I didn’t know how to search for Him. I didn’t know the right questions. I visited many of your churches and religious meetings and talked with numbers of people. It seems no one really knew the answer, at least no one that I was able to speak earnestly with. Then, today, just a few minutes ago, I was over at that Pizza place—she turned an pointed to it. I had ordered my pizza and the waiter said we are rushed it will take about 30 minutes. You can take seat, or you can walk around the mall while your order is being prepared. I took a seat at a table and was there about a minute when I had the strangest impression to get up and walk over here. I was compelled to come to where you were stranding. I didn’t know why. So that is what I was doing when you spoke to me.”
“Now I know why, but over at the Pizza place I didn’t know. God was ordering me to come to you and get my prayers answered.” She didn’t know it, but God was answering my prayers, too.
She gave us her name, her address, her phone number and her email address. She was so happy to be a Christian. We, too, were happy. The young man rejoiced with me and asked, “Does this kind of thing happen often with you.” I laughed and said, “Sure, all the time.” Then I told him the truth. This is the first time in 27 years it has been this way.
He left for his tour of duty armed with a remarkable answer to prayer and a testimony I am sure he will repeat many times in his ministry. I know I will. Winning souls is a work we are commanded to do, but we must never forget the salvation part is entirely God’s work. He does His work in mysterious ways and he uses all kinds of people to do it. Here was a case where He brought the workers and the sinner together under unusual circumstances. To God be the glory!
Editor’s Note: I have known Ron Zywotko since 1972. We worked together in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He has been a frequent guest in my home. He is an unusual human being. To say he is unorthodox would be a gross understatement. He may very well be America’s last circuit riding preacher. He goes from church to church to church each week. Usually preaches in 150 congregations each year and will have from 50 to 200 people saved in his personal visitations. I don’t know of another soul that has the discipline or drive to do this kind of work week after week. He rarely stays in a motel taking rest in church prophet chambers or private homes. Most of his worldly goods are stored in his car. I am glad to report this story here with complete confidence it is true.