Do you believe in divine appointments? Consider this account from a sister church in Florida.
Our FAITH team from First Baptist Church of Crystal River, Florida, set out to make three visits for our church. The card from the FAITH office was labeled: "Please visit this one first." We were ecstatic, because the card said he was interested in finding out how to be a Christian. (Now, I ask you, is this a dream visit or what?) It was the first visit of the semester, and I had new people on my team. I was anxious about how I would model an actual FAITH visit before them.
Our excitement waned when we went to the home and his neighbor said he was not at home. The neighbor said he might be home around 8:00 p.m. We have our celebration time at church at 8:00 so we decided to come back, after other visits, if we had time.
Our next two visits were in opposite directions. It was now close to 8:00, and we had to decide to go on to the church or go back by Tom's home. All agreed to go back by his house. We sensed God was at work.
We arrived at Tom's home, and he greeted us with enthusiasm. He invited us into an apartment with no furniture. We stood in the small kitchen — four adults and a rather large dog that was very friendly. We introduced ourselves, talked about common interests, asked Tom about his church background, and Sandy gave her Sunday School testimony. Tom said he had recently moved to our community and had no family here. He had not been in Sunday School since he was a kid. He had come to our church the previous Sunday morning and left a visitors card stating that he wanted to know how to become a member of our church and how to receive Christ.
It was time for me to ask him the key question, "In your personal opinion, what do you think it takes for a person to go to heaven and have eternal life?" He gave me a works answer, and I was then able to share the gospel. He then prayed the sinner's prayer to receive Christ. The tears were flowing. We went through the S.T.E.P. tract, kneeling on the bare floor in this empty apartment with the very large dog all over us, probably wondering what we were doing. We enrolled Tom in Sunday School and looked forward to meeting him in church and Sunday School. After completing the tract, with all of us signing it and leaving our phone numbers, we left him the baptism information. We were excited about mentoring Tom in his new walk with Jesus. God had answered my prayer to model a FAITH visit from beginning to end for my new trainees.
Pretty typical visit? Now, for the rest of the story! The next day our FAITH team went about finding some furniture and furnishings for Tom. He was working, but had been on the job only a couple of weeks. Our Sunday School class helped, and they had not even met him yet. Tom was so appreciative and surprised that we were helping him because he had asked us for nothing.
Tom had no transportation, so we were going by to pick him up on Sunday. He didn't answer the door. Later I called his cell phone, and it had been disconnected. We were disappointed, because I knew Tom was very sincere when he asked Jesus to come into his life. A couple of days later, Tom's neighbor called to tell me that he had suffered a massive heart attack on Friday — four days after we visited him. She had found our numbers on the FAITH material we had left with Tom. We went to the hospital and found him on life support and in a coma.
We became his family, and the church began to pray for him. Our pastor, David Throckmorton, and our team began a vigil of visitation. Tom would move his eyes indicating that he knew we were there and would turn his head toward us. A week later, the doctors took him off life support and for awhile he was even more responsive to our talking. It was hard to leave him after each visit.
On Friday, Tom died. But he was not alone ... he had a new family of friends, and the best news is that he had a Savior that ushered him into the presence of God. He didn't have a long walk with the Lord on this earth, but he is walking with Jesus for eternity. How do we know that? Because we were there when Tom said, "Father, I am a sinner. Thank You for forgiving me of my sins, and thank You for saving my soul."
Would you say this was a divine appointment? Jesus has commanded us to be willing vessels. Do you know how to share the gospel and snatch someone out of the arms of hell and Satan? We must be ready to share our faith. The Lord is waiting with opportunities just like this — they are out there everywhere.
Bobby Welch is president of the Southern Baptist Convention, pastor of First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Florida, and originator of the FAITH evangelism strategy.