An Evangelistic Funeral

I was recently thinking about the most successful evangelistic effort I ever had. It wasn't really an evangelistic meeting in the ordinary sense of the word. It was a funeral. Here's the story behind the story.

Two boys were having a sort of Tom Sawyer afternoon fishing down by the river near Kalama, Washington. The thought occurred to them that, since they were having no success where they were, perhaps the fish would be biting on the other side.

The easiest way to get there was obvious — the nearby railroad trestle that spanned over the water. So they climbed up the side of the trestle and started to gingerly walk across the rails to the other side. They were nearing the end of the crossing when the unthinkable happened. A suddenly growing vibration in the rails signaled an approaching Amtrak train traveling at full speed through this section of rural Southwest Washington.

The older boy leaped to safety. In vain he waited for the younger boy to follow. But the little lad was paralyzed by fear, frozen, unable to jump as the train rolled over him.

Local reports in the newspaper, on the radio and on television told and retold the tragic story.

As the reports were still circulating, I received a phone call from one of our church members who informed me the grandparents of the boys were former members of our church. They suggested I might want to make a pastoral call. When I arrived at the home, I discovered the mother of the boys was there visiting her parents. What do you do or say at a time like that? I listened. I cried. I shared promises from God's Word. I prayed. And through my imperfect efforts, the Holy Spirit somehow ministered to their urgent needs.

In fact, because they were not active in any other church, they requested I conduct the memorial service. I agreed.

And, because it takes time to heal after such a sudden and painful loss, I stayed in touch with the family. Often at the time of our greatest need, we are most open to understanding spiritual realities. Tragic circumstances can provide unique opportunities for new beginnings.

And so it was in this case. The entire family had an awakening, a renewal of spiritual commitment, a closer bonding with each other and with the Lord. Eventually 14 people were baptized and found comfort in the beautiful message of the Blessed Hope.

So, you see, it really was an evangelistic experience and another example of how God can bring good things from bad experiences. It's something from which we can all take courage, "while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed," (Titus 2:13, NLT).

"God can bring good things from bad experiences."

December 01, 2010 / Editorial
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Max Torkelsen II