Another week of gospel outreach brought us into the large and broken housing estate of Lochside, located on the north side of the coast town of Ayr.
On noticing that the local council’s motto was ‘sense and worth’, I couldn’t help but reflect on how detached these words were from the scenes we witnessed in this specific area, as we walked the streets and talked to those who lived there.
If the motto’s words had been ‘senseless and worthless’, we would have clearly understood why. The people we reached out to with the good news had, in general, no sense about the worth and value of anything they had or didn’t have. Yes, tragically, scenes of brokenness and devastation abounded on every side.
We had hardly began knocking at doors when one elderly man said, ‘I have lost count of the numbers who have been either stabbed, battered or murdered on these streets over the years. All because’, he said, ‘of drink, drugs and fall-outs with partners. We have found it a distressing place to live in. An animal is far safer here than a human!’
He shared with us the happy story of how his son had been delivered from the curse of drug addiction. Although thankfully, released from this snare, he and his dad were oblivious of the freedom that the gospel offers. He, at least, agreed that man’s greatest need was God and a spiritual transformation in his heart to make him a ‘new creature in Christ Jesus’.
On the very next street, I met a man in his early 60s, standing with a wee lad who I thought was his grandson. On opening the conversation with the words, ‘I see grandpa has his hands full’, he quickly corrected me. ‘No, this is my youngest 3-year-old boy, the oldest is 30. I have 13 children altogether’.
In showing empathy with a wife who obviously had more than her hands full, I was startled with his reply, ‘I don’t have a wife. The 13 children are from seven different women. This wee boy’s mother doesn’t live here anymore. She’s gone like the rest of them’. Like the Samaritan woman in John 4, this man was living out a debauched and broken lifestyle.
We tried to show him how a relationship with Jesus Christ will last forever when we are united with Christ by faith. Like the ‘woman at the well’ (John 4), he also heard how the life-changing power of the gospel was able to make up for all the broken and crumbling affairs he had had.
At least he listened and accepted ‘good news’ literature. Our hope is that, like the Samaritan woman whose heart the Lord opened, he too will yet be able to say, ‘Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?’
Sadly, he was not the only one whose life was in a mess. They lived on every street. We heard the sad and complicated stories of those who had mixed, broken, separated, disjointed, shambolic (the list goes on and on) relationships of one kind or another.
These heart-rending stories, you just couldn’t make up. We heard it all: ‘I never seem to be out of trouble. Life is cruel to me!’; ‘I’ve been trying to sort myself out for years’; ‘Good fortune never comes my way’; ‘I’ve been in prison at different spells’; ‘My partner beat me up many times, so I had to leave him’; ‘I think I would be better off dead!’
It was a joy to leave all these souls with a message of hope, through speaking with them and leaving them gospel literature of one kind or another. Not everyone was receptive. A small number, who didn’t want to hear about religion, chased us away from their doors. One retorted, ‘Don’t dare come back here!’
One man was persuaded that my work of reaching out was all in vain. ‘You are wasting your time with me’, he said. ‘There is no God. When you die, you die; death will be the end. When I die, my dead body will feed the worms. I will then become compost for the grass and flowers. I don’t believe in any afterlife. This life is the only one we have. I have a body but not a soul.’
His disbelieving words sent a cold chill through me. Happily, he began to patiently listen as I showed him from Scripture how foolish his atheistic prattle was about everything he had said.
Assuring him I was a fool for Christ, I posed the question, ‘Whose fool are you?’ I continued, ‘I wouldn’t, my friend, dare call you a fool. But God has every authority to call us fools, and he does when we stubbornly disbelieve in him’.
Further dialogue continued over coffee, before leaving him with materials to enlighten his darkened mindset and release him from the deceptive power of Satan, ‘the Father of lies’. We pray that he too might become a fool for Christ.
Another elderly, widowed man of 90, invited me into his home. He had worked with British Airways all his life and had travelled the world on numerous exotic holidays. Like many we spoke to, he had not been in church since his days at Sunday school.
Pointing to all the books in his library, this man was very knowledgeable. Sadly, however, he didn’t know Christ nor the way to heaven. Despite having a Bible on his bookshelves, he hardly ever read it.
‘I have gone to it many times’, he said, ‘thinking it might be just be my lucky day. But, it has never done anything for me’. He would not allow me to pray with him and was reluctant to accept the gift of gospel literature. ‘All will be well with me’, he said, ‘at the end of the day’. ‘No, it won’t’, I respectfully reminded him, ‘if you die without your sins forgiven’.
Pray for this man in his sunset years, that he will yet be plucked ‘as a firebrand out of the burning’. Pray also for the many people we met in ‘broken’ Lochside, and also in the high street on Saturday, where many tracts and magazines were given out to the throngs of shoppers.
Donald J. Morrison is an evangelist working with the Free Church (Continuing) of Scotland.