The day we left Florida, we connected with the guy who owned the house we stayed in.
"Give any of your leftover groceries to Ted," he told us. "He'll love them."
Ted was our next door neighbor. He was in charge of turning our Cable TV on and off, and he always had a 3-4 cars in his driveway at a time. He was usually outside working on something.
As we were all packing up, I grabbed the plastic sack of leftover groceries and crossed the yard.
"Hi Ted," I greeted. "Here is some food we had left-- you can have it," I told him.
"Thank you!" He was grateful.
Standing in the driveway with him was a friend.
"You girls were here visiting?" he asked.
"Yes, headed back home shortly, though," I told him.
"Oh, well you have a nice trip," he told me, "and God bless you."
As I turned to walk away, he called to me, "Wait..."
"I have a gift for you, before you leave," he said, reaching into his back pocket. He took out a small pamphlet and handed it to me. I flipped it over and read the title: Do You Know for Certain that you have Eternal Life?
I smiled. "Well, I already know the Lord," I told him, "But I will be sure to pass this along to someone else."
"You do that!" he told me.
I was headed to the airport, so I was sure I would meet someone.
We ended up with plenty of time. After an amazing chicken parmigiana bagel sandwich, a Starbucks, and a game of Euchre, it was time to board the plane. Nothing monumental happened. We were flying Southwest, so there was no assigned seating. Unfortunately, we were one of the last groups to board, and seating is frist-come-first-serve, which meant we headed toward the back.
As a group of 4 young girls, we had to split up 2 and 2. In the back was a group of 5 men in their 40s-50s who were just flying him from a golfing trip in Florida. It was clear that they were extremely intoxicated.
They had to spread out, as well, and one of the guys ended up sitting right by me. I knew he wasn't completely aware of everything he was disclosing, but I did learn a lot about him-- we talked about his kids, his job, his life. We talked for at least 30-40 minutes. At one point, he looked over at Leah, who was sitting beside me by the window, and frowned.
"What are you reading over there?" he asked.
"I'm doing a bible study," she answered.
"We're Christians," I told him. "Do you go to church anywhere?"
"I'm Catholic," was his answer.
Seeing this as my opportunity to learn more about his beliefs, I asked, "What do Catholics believe?" merely out of curiosity.
With that one question, his entire demeanor changed, even within the state he was in.
"No, no, no," he told me nervously. "I'm not going there," he said.
"I was just asking the question," I told him.
He proceeded to tell me a story that didn't make a lot of sense at the time, but looking back, I know he was trying to express that the only encounters with Christians that sticks out to him are situations that seemed hypocritical. He quickly welcomed a subject change, however.
A little later, we were talking about cops.
"You would be a good cop," he told me, pointing.
"Why is that?" I asked.
"Because," he said, "You were drilling me earlier."
"Yeah. About religion."
I don't consider asking one question as "drilling," yet it was clear he was uncomfortable with the topic.
"I'll tell you what-- I have a gift for you," I told him.
"But I can't give it to you know, because I can't get to my purse. I'll give it to you later."
He fell asleep for the last half of the flight and I really didn't talk to him again until we deplaned.
Everyone made their way to the baggage claim, and I spotted him in his group. I wanted to say good-bye and see if there was still a good opportunity to share with him. I walked over and thanked him for sitting by me, and I was met with a hug.
"And here," I said, holding out the pamphlet. "Someone just gave this to me, and I told them I knew the Lord so would pass it along."
"Thank you," he said, and smiled.
So often, I think we measure our spirituality or witnessing efforts in terms of results. If we didn't walk the person through John 3:16 or sign them up for baptism, we feel like our efforts were meager. If we don't "make someone a Christian" on the spot, then we failed.
That's all wrong. The power to save a life lies not in our hands. God saves-- we are just the messengers. And a messenger doesn't necessarily have to verbalize everything. A messenger can deliver a louder message by saying nothing at all, at times, than by talking.
I recently received a letter from one of the prisoners that I write, and on the outside of the envelope, she wrote the quote: The greatest sermon you will ever preach is the one you have lived!
What do people see from my life?
We may not all be there when a person decides to accept Christ in their life-- each person has their own unique testimony made up of many circumstances and people that brought them to the breaking point. That's OK. If being the "messenger" who delivered a pamphlet on salvation to a 45-year-old on an airplane gets him one step closer to interest in Christianity, then I am excited to see how God uses it. It may not come to fruition tomorrow, next year, or even within the next decade... but maybe it helped plant a seed or water the one that was there.
God has a way of working in and through people to carry out His purpose... and although some things seem so small and futile to us, nothing escapes His attention and master plan.