For this part of our series, I want to share a story about a man named Hugh.
I have to say this is one of my favorite stories on so many levels. It was a real learning curve for me physically and spiritually.
The first time I met Hugh was at his front door. I was the Pastor of a church at the time and part of our outreach during the summer months consisted of helping the elderly with gardens, shopping, and whatever else they needed done.
The aim was obviously to get to know them on a personal basis, build a relationship with them and share about Jesus.
Overall, it worked very well, and a number of people had come to Christ.
On this given day I happened to call at Hugh’s door. When the door opened there stood before me a ninety-year-old man, who looked frail, but he had the heart of a lion. He had a very sharp tongue and in his sharp manner he said, “what do you want?”.
I explained who I was and where I was from, and immediately he came back at me.
“I know what you want boy. You want to preach about Jesus to me. Well, I don’t believe in Jesus, I don’t believe in God, and I am not interested in Christianity, your church, or anything to do with your church, but I will let you cut my grass”.
We agreed that nobody would mention Jesus to him, and I felt that this was the right thing to do.
I decided that Hugh could be a handful, so me and my friend Ali would look after Hugh.
We began to call with him every Thursday and cut his grass. He would ask us to take him shopping get his pension and take him to hospital appointments.
He was blind in one eye and had cancer at the back of the other eye.
I had promised Hugh that I would not talk to him about Jesus, but I had not promised that I would not talk to Jesus about Hugh.
So, we did. We prayed for Hugh, we prayed and asked God to save him.
This was the hardest year I had with anyone. Here was a man at the end of his life and I had never mentioned Jesus to him once, but for some reason I knew that was the way to reach Hugh.
At Christmas time, our church put on an evening of praise and entertainment and a three course Christmas dinner, free to all the elderly people we had made contact with. We sent out proper invitations and made it a big thing.
Coming up to the event I had been at the shop with Hugh. He was cross with me on this day, and when I asked why he told me that some people had been given invitations to our church dinner but he never got one.
I told him he didn’t get one because he had told me not to mention church.
On this occasion apparently, he was willing to go. So, to cut a very long story short, he came that night and agreed to come the following Sunday which was a baptismal service.
On the way home he never spoke, I took him into the house, and he never even said goodnight.
I was in town the next day when I got a frantic call from one of the women in the church. She had called in with Hugh and he had told her he wanted to be baptised.
As I drove to his house I prayed and asked God for wisdom and how to handle this situation. When I spoke to Hugh, he said yes he wanted to be baptised.
I simply said that there were a couple of things he had to do first. His answer was I know, I need to get right with God. I did that last night when I came home from the meeting.
Hugh had come to Christ, and I had the pleasure of baptising him aged 92, and the privilege of being with him as he slipped into eternity aged 94.
As I say, to me, this whole experience was a valuable lesson.
When I first met Hugh, he was arrogant and quite frankly nasty. It would have been easy to walk away and never go back, but we need to see people as Jesus saw people. Jesus spent a lot of time with what some might judge to be unfavorable people. We must never judge in these circumstances. I have found that behind the mask that people have there are real people with real issues.
People who need Jesus.
The hardest thing for any evangelist to do is not to talk about Jesus. Many times I could have said something to Hugh, prayed with him, etc. But I knew that this would drive him even further away from God. So, for nearly one year I said nothing about God, church or anything to do with Christianity.
One or two did criticise me for that but I felt that this is how God was leading in this situation. The lesson I learned here was that we must always listen to the Holy Spirit no matter how strange it seems to us.
For Hugh the witness was not coming through our lips, but it was coming through our actions, grass cutting, shopping and hospital appointments.
Again, proof to me that relationship evangelism is a wonderful form of evangelism.
So as an evangelist, yes speak the word of God into people’s lives at every opportunity but remember there may be much more to evangelism than we sometimes realise.
Written by Willis McDowell