To Honduras, with Love

Some years ago, while rummaging through old papers, I ran across one which brought back great memories. It was the pink sheet of a triplicate form dated May 1, 1975.

I was fifteen years old at the time, but I remembered the evening well. Along with two of my friends, I had just spent the evening at Ron’s place.

Ron was a new guy in our youth group. The three of us had shown up, uninvited, at his door. You wouldn’t advise it today, but these were different times. Back then, doors were intended to welcome people in, not shut people out.

Every Thursday night a few of us went to visit kids who were new to our youth group. As long as we were home by 9:00 p.m., no one seemed to mind.

We were the teenage expression of something our church called the “Fish Program.” It was the signature component of our church’s ministry in Lake Havasu City.

That’s right: we were teenagers doing door-to-door evangelism. I’d been taught how to share my faith the previous fall; this spring I was training Brett and Pam to do it with me. Ron was our assignment for the evening.

Brett and I knew Ron from school. Later, we would play varsity football together. After a few minutes of friendly conversation, I launched into the five-part gospel presentation which I had learned to share. Though I was new at this, I found that I felt comfortable and confident telling someone the story of Jesus and my faith in him.

Ron was quiet, attentive and responsive. As we talked, it became clear that Ron was eager to share our faith in Christ. I led him in a simple prayer as he committed his life to Jesus. Later that evening, I noted his decision on the report form, turned it in, and dutifully saved my pink copy of it for thirty years.

I suppose I should have thrown it away. After all, if my theology is correct, Ron’s name is written in a far more permanent place than my faded pink paper. But I didn't save it for Ron’s benefit; I saved it for my own. After all, this was first time that I experienced, first-hand, the power of the Jesus story to change someone’s life.

You see, as a child, I believed the gospel because it was taught to me. As a teenager, I’d believed it because it made sense to me. But after May 1, 1975, I believed it because I saw its power to transform another person’s life. 

I was hooked, and ever since then I’ve devoted my life to telling the Jesus story to anyone who would listen. In fact, I told the story to someone new to our church family just a few days ago. It never gets old! Maybe that's what reminded me of my conversation with Ron nearly fifty years ago. 

Some may scoff at my story. I respect that. Many abuses have been committed in the name of Jesus. Sometimes we who follow him are our own worst enemy. I deeply regret that fact.

But there’s no denying the transforming power of Jesus, once you’ve experienced it, or seen its effect in someone else's life. It’s a bit like watching the birth of your children. You’re there, you know you had a part in it, but it’s clear that something supernatural is taking place. No wonder Jesus called it being "born again."

It’s something you can’t walk away from, no matter how frustrating life becomes, nor how many times churches or church people might disappoint you. Trust me, I know about that, too.

So whenever I would get discouraged, I pulled out that pink report form --  a reminder of the life-changing power of the gospel in my friend's life -- and of the incredible blessing it has been for me to spend my life telling that story.

But I don't have that paper anymore.... 

Soon after we started Church at the Chip, Ron came to our house for dinner. We hadn't seen him in many years. Eventually, we talked about that May evening in 1975, and the difference it made in both our lives. I was pleased to learn that Ron remembered it as clearly and fondly as I did.

You can imagine Ron's surprise when I showed him the pink paper which had memorialized his decision to follow Christ. He was pleased to receive it, and took it home with him when he returned to Honduras. 

That's right. Ron was on furlough from his work as a missionary in Honduras. For many years he had served as the house parent for foster children. As someone who worked with teenagers, I figured he could use the encouragement that pink piece of paper provided. After all, he too had once been a fifteen year old kid whose life was transformed by the power of the gospel story.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).