Conversation over coffee challenges homeless man’s false beliefs
While preparing to explore historic German Village in Columbus, Ohio, during a break from a work assignment, Southwestern Seminary photographer Neil Williams noticed a homeless man sitting against a brick wall. Feeling the Lord “tugging at his heart” to share the Gospel with this man, Williams approached him and struck up a conversation.
The man, Darren, asked for money to buy food, but Williams did not have any cash on him at the time. Williams did, however, offer to buy him food. Darren said what he really wanted was coffee, so Williams brought him to a nearby coffee shop and purchased him a cup.
After returning outside, Williams sat with the man and asked him about his life. Darren revealed that his wife passed away five years ago, and Williams discerned that he still harbored much grief over this loss.
Williams inquired if Darren and his wife attended church, and Darren affirmed that they did. “We were good people,” he said. “I’m sure she’s in heaven, where I’ll be one day, too.”
Williams affirmed him in this but then dug deeper, asking whether Darren had a relationship with Jesus Christ. In response, Darren said he prays to Him at least once a day.
Again, Williams affirmed the sentiment, but he knew he needed to inquire further. He asked Darren whether he knew he would go to heaven when he died.
Darren proceeded to share all the good things he had done in his life. Furthermore, he said, “I hate bad things. I hate adultery. I hate lying—I just can’t stand it. I hate when people are stuck up. I don’t do any of those things. So I know I’m good with God.”
Williams began to explain to Darren the Gospel story. Specifically, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; that no one is good.
“Yeah, I guess that’s true,” Darren responded. “We all make mistakes.”
Williams continued his Gospel presentation, using John 3:16 as his primary text. He explained that though man deserves to perish because of his sin, God, out of his love for humanity, has made eternal life available to all through belief in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.
When he concluded, Williams asked Darren, “Do you think you’re perfect, like you’re in good standing with God?” Reflecting at least a partial understanding of the Gospel message, as well as the change that had occurred in his outlook since his conversation with Williams began, Darren answered, “You know, to be honest, I don’t think I’m 100 percent there with God. I think I’m close enough, but I don’t know for sure.”
Williams assured him that he can be confident in his standing with God. “If you trust in Jesus with all your heart and make Him Lord of your life,” Williams said, “then He will come in and help you start changing, and you’ll be completely certain.”
Darren told Williams that he had given him great things to think about. But when Williams asked if he was ready to make a decision to follow Christ, Darren said he was not “quite ready yet.”
They talked a bit more, and Williams encouraged Darren to attend church. As Williams stood up to leave, Darren expressed his appreciation to Williams for taking the time to talk to him. Williams now prays that God will send another believer to nurture the seed that was planted during his conversation with Darren.
“I pray that he can see that he’s not good enough,” Williams says. “That even though he thinks that he’s done good things and even though he hates sin, he is still a sinner and that he does need Jesus as Lord of his life.”