I had been “compelled” to share the gospel in the Square in my local town, Helensburgh, in the heart of the community where I have been known as a neighbour, friend, schoolteacher (now retired) and colleague for about thirty-seven years.
The gospel leaflets and invitations to our Family Service were merely props – my main purpose was to engage in meaningful conversation with the many people who frequent the attractive town square area, enjoying their carry out coffee while occupying the benches and otherwise “watching the world go by”. Predictably, a few were resistant to any notion of the gospel, but I found that most were at least open to polite and reasonable discussion. After all, especially during the lockdown period, other social interaction was limited, and the world norms were effectively turned upside down. At such a time of elevated concern, church buildings were closed and “how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14).
One of my early encounters was with a couple whom I had met as parents during my time as a teacher. They were affluent and seemed to have all material needs covered but now, although just in his fifties, he was suffering with a terminal condition. They engaged in conversation and respectfully made their atheistic views known. I said that we would pray for them. On the weeks following they were frequently at the square and I was able to converse with them with enhanced warmth and respect, telling them of our daily prayer for them. As far as I know, there was not a positive response to the gospel but I feel that I was faithful to my commission as far as they were concerned. I was given greater impetus to urgently share the message as each week was possibly the last time that he would hear of the opportunity to be saved. Time is short! Since then, I have also been diagnosed with a cancerous condition and, although I hope that the treatment will be successful and prolong my life, it has caused me to appreciate that, to quote the words of a hymn based on Jeremiah 8:20, “the harvest is passing and the summer [of opportunity] will end.”
Visiting the square I meet a diverse cross-section of people. Some are day-trippers to Helensburgh as there is a good train service from Glasgow; others are locals, a few of whom have responded to my invitation by attending our regular Sunday service. They have something in common, though; they all need salvation from sin and a relationship with the living God. Being there on a regular basis means that I have built up a rapport with some, and others, who were initially cautious about the “crazy woman” who was speaking to them, are now softening. Yet others give me a wide berth!
One particular Friday morning last August (2021), as I felt my inadequacy for the task, my husband Jim and I took time to pray. We specifically prayed that God would lead me to a person in the Square who would be looking for an answer to life. As I arrived, it was a beautiful day and the many benches were already occupied by locals and day-trippers. After being there for about one and a half hours, I met Sean (name changed for this article) from Glasgow. I explained my reason for being there and offered him an invitation and a gospel leaflet. He looked at me rather blankly. I asked if he ever thought about God and he answered “Not really, but I think I should – I am desperate”. Sean had “over celebrated” his thirtieth birthday on the previous weekend. He had come to Helensburgh to “escape” and was now facing some of the many serious consequences. He went on to share his life story, including the fact that he is an alcoholic and that, despite his acknowledgement of this and seeking lots of help, he was entirely at a loss as to where to turn. He was convinced that his situation was completely hopeless!
Sean had already lived through many tragic events including the premature loss of both his father and his brother but he is a clever lad and, in spite of his many difficulties, had studied to obtain a university degree.
I knew that God was answering my earlier prayer and here was a searching soul! God gave me a heart of compassion and I sat with him and shared the gospel. Sean has since told me that he has put his trust in the Lord Jesus and he is now in touch with us most days, regularly meeting a Christian worker and also attending a church in the east end of Glasgow. (There is also an interesting “back story” dating back to Sean’s contact with a Sunday School in Easterhouse, Glasgow, but that may / may not be the subject of another article!). The dynamics and overhang of Sean’s past life, health situation and environment continue to present him with challenges. I encourage prayer support for him – he humbly accepts his need of it . . . as do I!
Now it is more buzz and less apprehension. I count it a calling and privilege. Due to my imminent hospital treatment and need to shield against Covid, etc., I will suspend this activity for now. However, I would strongly encourage all my readers to adopt a similar personal way of communicating the gospel in a day when relatively few people are likely to attend a church service without previous contact. Remember that time is short and eternity is sure!