There was a young seventeen-year-old teenage recently converted to Christ who fell in love with his new found reality of a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. No one else in his family was a believer; in fact, except for the person who witnessed to him he did not know another Christian!
Then this young man met the first Christian adult man in his life, a recent college graduate. Because of his interest in Bible study, he was invited to attend a teacher training session in how to teach the Bible designed for teachers in a new Christian Elementary School. The only man in the group was eager to meet this young teenager and they quickly became friends.
A few weeks later his friend asked him to get two or three other teenagers and he would teach them how to witness and lead someone to faith in Christ. That Saturday afternoon they met in an empty room at the YMCA. They began to memorize Bible verses and practice how to witness to each other. After a couple of hours of practice, they headed down to the main street in downtown Pensacola to find someone to whom they could witness.
The streets were active on the weekends especially with sailors from the Naval Air Station seeking an adventure from their routine on base. It was not hard to engage any of them in a conversation, but the agony of moving the conversation to a spiritual topic was eventually overcome. As the clumsy first attempt at presenting the gospel began, the young man was amazed to find the sailor actually listening and interested in the story of Jesus!
Once through the four points of the gospel he had memorized, the final questions were asked, “Would you like to accept Christ as your personal Savior right now?” To his utter amazement and fright, the sailor responded, “Yes, I would.” The young man panicked, he shouted over to his older friend, “What do I do now?”
He was told to lead the sailor in a prayer to tell Jesus he was sorry for his sins and to ask Jesus to forgive him and to come into his life to be his personal Lord and Savior forever. The sailor, fortunately, heard this instruction so that when it was repeated by the young man he was ready. The young man put his hand on the sailor’s shoulder who began to sob in his recognition of his personal sins and guilt before God, then he prayed to ask Christ into his life.
Soon the sailor stopped sobbing and looked up like he had seen an angel and said, “Wow!” The young man asked him, “If you were to die today do you know if you would go to heaven?” To which he replied, “Yes because I took Jesus at his promise. I know He is in my life.” The young man could hardly stand it. This was better than making a hole-in-one, running a touchdown or catching a marlin. That thrill would mark this teenager’s life from then on.
The young man asked the sailor if he wanted to meet other Christians, to which he replied in the affirmative, so together they walked two blocks to the Servicemen’s Center, a Christian activity Center for military Christians who want some healthy activity instead of the typical behavior of sailors on leave. About six other sailors were in the Center and were excited to meet a fellow believer and now brother. The young man left his first convert in good hands, then returned to the streets to find someone else who might need to hear the gospel.
The young man in this true story is Dr. Don Fanning, the author of this blog, now after thirty-years of missionary service in Latin America, he has come to Liberty University and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary as the Director for the Center for Global Engagement and Chairman of the Global Studies Department. The mature Christian man in the story is Dr. Ron Godwin, Provost of Liberty University. After forty years on different paths, God has allowed these two life-long friends to serve together in a training and evangelistic task of global proportions that neither of them could have ever imagined.