T WAS THE BEST OF TIMES; IT WAS THE worst of times; and I did it three times.
In 2003 a friend at Southwestern Adventist University asked me to do it. Selling books door-to-door? Stupid! I thought. But I humbled myself enough to ask God what He thought about it.
The next day, five random students approached me, talking about literature evangelism. I took the hint and caught a ride to Jacksonville, Florida, that summer.
I was nervous my first day and wondered what I had gotten into. But it wasn’t long until I realized that though literature evangelism is an intense mission field, it is maintained by God Himself.
One bright summer afternoon a man came to his door holding his daughter in his arms. I started talking to him about Ellen G. White’s book, The Great Controversy. Compared to many of his neighbors, the man seemed unusually respectful and interested in my canvass. Without much questioning, he bought the book and gave me one in return.
I usually volunteered to offer prayer with people who were open to it, but before I mentioned it, this man offered to pray for me. He, his daughter, and I held hands on his doorstep as he prayed for my work, specifically for my protection. I left feeling joyful.
About a half hour later, as I was leaving an unanswered door, I stopped in the driveway to look at the book the man had given me earlier. “Can I help you?” a voice came from behind me. Swinging around, I quickly slipped the book back into my bag. While my hand was slowly coming out of the bag, I faced a shirtless man with an ugly smirk, who was pointing a 9-millimeter pistol at my head.
Strangely, he couldn’t seem to look at my face and continued to move his head from side to side. He pulled and pushed the gun clip out and in as I eased into a conversation with him. While he held the gun in one hand and the loaded ammunition clip in the other, we talked about God. He said he used to read the Bible, but became uninterested when it started disagreeing with his own beliefs, whatever those were.
After a few minutes of intense conversation, he started to relax, so I transitioned into my memorized canvass. Within seconds he slammed the clip back into the weapon and cocked the gun. I quickly changed the subject. I didn’t pay much attention to the gun, though, because I honestly felt no fear.
Talking about Jesus is a cure for fear. After I had made the man laugh a few times, he asked, “Would you like me to put the gun away?”
H’mmmm! I don’t know! I thought sarcastically. He put the gun in the house, and we talked a little more. And like every good literature evangelist, I canvassed him again. He looked at a couple of books, but he didn’t buy anything or even take anything for free. However, I know God’s words did find him that day, because God used me to communicate with him. I saw the man’s expressions change from looks of stress and indifference to looks of peace and curiosity. When I said goodbye I saw friendship in his eyes.
Questions for Reflection
1. What life experience hs taught you the most about totally relying on Christ? Recall it briefly.
2. How do our daily routines often make it hard to discern the real conflict between good and evil?
3. In your own life, what could you do to demonstrate total reliance on Christ? What keeps you from doing it?
4. Think of someone you know--a friend or family member--who's truly living the life of discipleship. What do they have that you don't?
When I walked away from that house, I couldn’t help remembering the man who had prayed for my protection earlier. I felt good; I felt powerful; I had just stood up for Jesus.
A Laboratory of Faith
I have never felt so close to God as when I served Him as a literature evangelist. In fact, as I lay in my sleeping bag one summer night speaking with God, I was actually afraid to open my eyes because I knew God was there in the room, right in front of me.
Literature evangelists have saved lives and seen angels. When we work, we witness miracles as we talk to and about Jesus all day. We see strangers cry when we show them hope.
I’m just one missionary with many stories. I have worked in three summer literature evangelism programs from Jacksonville to Boston. All Adventists should try it at least once during their temporal lifetime. The benefits of working directly for God are so numerous they can’t all be counted, or even known.
Our church is a movement managed by God. This year, leave boring entertainment behind and spend a few weeks living for God as a literature evangelist. Move out and be an eyewitness of the great controversy between good and evil.
Since writing this, A. J. Church has graduated from Southwestern Adventist University. He continues to see God’s activity in his life, and in the lives of those around him.