FIRST-PERSON: Providential Car Repair

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--North Texas' blazing summer heat, which already has more than a month's worth of triple-digit days, all but warrants the necessity of an air-conditioned car. In June, as temperatures consistently soared above 100, I realized I was in for several miserable months unless I could get my 10-year-old Dodge Neon to blow cool relief.

I first considered a do-it-yourself approach to recharging my AC, but my mechanical ineptitude gave me caution. Reluctantly, I called a local repair shop and scheduled an appointment -- an appointment that reminded me to watch for God's masterful way of placing us in someone's path for His purposes.

When I arrived, I met Chris*, the assistant manager. As he entered my information in the computer, I noticed his arms were tattooed with demonic faces. I thought about commenting on them but refrained before sitting in the waiting room.

His friendly smile and conversational manner betrayed his rough exterior. His eyes lit up as he mentioned his wife would give birth to their son in a couple of days, to which I replied, "Children sure are a blessing from the Lord."

"Yes, they are," Chris said. "In fact, this baby actually saved my relationship with my wife. We were about to split up before she got pregnant."

I responded with a simple, but direct, question: "Chris, what's your relationship with God like?"

I could tell by his expression that I had just drilled to the core of his being. He offered excuses about growing up in church, but now working on Sundays, he no longer attends. I told him I understood the busy demands of work, family and school, which led us into talking about my seminary studies. He mentioned a friend who taught him about chakras and asked if I had ever studied world religions.

I shared with Chris about my own spiritual journey, including struggles with my faith several years ago. I explained that I had studied and explored other world religions and found them wanting. The real question, I told Chris, was, "Who do you say Jesus is?"

Chris looked me in the eyes with a sullen expression and said, "I really don't know right now." He knew what he had heard about Jesus as a child in Sunday School, but he struggled with who he believed Jesus to be today.

I shared the Gospel, told him about the exclusivity of Jesus Christ and how he could be reconciled to God. He thanked me for sharing and said he needed more time to think about it. I told him about "The Case For Christ" by Lee Strobel, a book instrumental in my own spiritual journey, and offered to bring him a copy. I then left him with my contact information and an open offer to talk anytime.

The next morning, however, my car would not shift into reverse, so I contacted Chris to see if it was related to my AC repair or just coincidence. It turned out to be just coincidence -- really, providence -- but it presented me with another opportunity to see him.

He received the book and a Bible I brought like I was handing him buried treasure, and expressed sincere gratitude for the unexpected gift. I told him I would continue praying for him and reiterated my offer to discuss spiritual matters.

A few weeks later, I needed an oil change, so I brought my car into the shop. Chris told me about his newborn son. He had not found time to read the Bible or book, but he had been thinking about our conversations. He claimed he believed that Jesus was the only way to God but still needed time to work it all out. As before, I told him I would pray for him and echoed my original offer.

The Lord has used this newfound friendship to teach me some simple, but forgotten, lessons.

First, mundane appointments often prove to be divine opportunities. We must be intentional and willing to share the Gospel with whomever God brings our way. You will be surprised how a simple, yet direct, statement about church or God can open up an evangelistic conversation, even with someone who has demonic tattoos on his arms.

Second, "thump 'em and dump 'em" evangelism is insufficient. Some people may only cross our path for one conversation, like Philip's encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch, and we must share what we can in the time we have. But more often than not, we can, and should, arrange follow-up discussions regardless of the inconvenience it places on our busy lives. Rarely does someone put his faith in Christ after only one conversation. We must invest in relational evangelism and continue to water the Gospel seed.

I plan to visit Chris often, sharing the Gospel and offering to walk the journey of life with him. I imagine we will talk at least every 3,000 miles, if not sooner.
 
* name changed

Established 1908 Fort Worth, Texas