Difficult Case Witnessing

Q. How do you witness to friends whose unsaved parents have died? The thought of them suffering in hell turned them off so they won’t listen to the gospel.

A. The situation you described applies also to the surviving spouse whose husband or wife had passed away. They told me they would rather go to be with their spouse than to leave him/her to go to heaven. What would you say or do to help them?

First, I would console your friend. Witnessing is important, but so is timing. To give condolences and comfort your friend is important during his time of grief, or he won’t hear you.

Second, I would use the parable of the rich man and Lazarus:
Lk 16:27-28 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

Even though the rich man ignored Lazarus’ plight during his lifetime, after he died he was concerned about his five brothers and wanted to warn them to repent so that they won’t end up like him. The deceased parent or spouse may not be pitiless like the rich man, but if they are unsaved and in agony, they would NOT want the same thing to happen to their surviving children or spouse. They would want them to be comforted in heaven, instead of joining him in suffering.

Besides, if your friend won’t listen and reject the gospel, his own children may be influenced to follow in his footsteps. So several generations may be affected by his foolishness. The past is gone and can’t be reversed. But he can affect the future by making a wise choice himself. So between comforting his emotions and appealing to his heart and will I would try to persuade him to commit to Christ. Hope this helps.

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Kidnapped!

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When you are a missionary, you deal with a whole new set of challenges that the average pastor in N. American would never have to contend with. Sure there is the usual preaching, teaching, reaching, counseling and leading, that’s just part of the job description of a pastor anywhere in the world. But if you are serving in a foreign field, then you encounter issues, e.g. exorcism or persecution, which you would rarely face in Canada.

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In the Middle East or Central & South America, one particular problem is kidnapping. According to SCR Ltd., a company which specializes in dealing with kidnap and extortion, Panama is not listed among the top kidnap and ransom (K&R) countries in the world generally. But to the local Chinese, K&R is a very real issue because they are often the target. Partly this is attributed to the perception that the Chinese are rich, as they are hard-working and many own their own store. As well, few of them would testify against their abductors for fear of retaliation, making them easy prey.

We visited one lady whose husband was kidnapped, apparently by local gangs. A Spanish-speaking man called and asked for a large sum of money. She wanted assurance that her husband was still alive and well, so they passed the phone to him and allowed him to speak to her in Chinese. He told her to give them the money right away, and that they would release him after they receive the ransom. She raised the money and dropped it off the next day, and waited. But weeks passed without any sign of him, nor further communication from the abductors.

She was superstitious and started consulting idol-worshiping mediums to appease the spirits to find her husband, but to no avail. It was then that we were introduced to her, nearly two months after the kidnap. What can a short-term mission team do under the circumstances?

The Bible has only four verses on kidnaps:
• Joseph was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews (Gen 40:15);
• Kidnappers shall be put to death (Ex 21:16; Deut 24:7); and
• The Law is made for those who are lawless, including kidnappers (1 Tim 1:10).
The law will punish kidnappers if they are captured, but that is no comfort to her who is waiting anxiously with their three small children, running their store by herself and worrying about his safety.

We decided the best we could do in this situation is to lead her to Christ, so that she could lean on Him. One team member shared the gospel with her while the others prayed. Previously she would have rejected, as she had forbidden church members from taking her kids to Sunday school. But calamity could break down a person’s objections in a way no other means can, and she prayed quietly to receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior, entrusting everything, including her husband’s safety, into His hands. Since we will leave Panama in a few days, we asked her relative to follow her up.

Usually we would rather share more with her over a longer period of time, but these are not normal times. We just do what we can with the appointments the Lord gives us, and leave the results in God’s hands. Success in witnessing is sharing Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to the Father. All He asked of us is obedience. Nothing more, nothing less. Hope you will do the same.