When it comes to sharing my faith I have always taken the reserved approach, hey I’m British I have an excuse. My moto has always been the quote from Francis of Assisi “preach the gospel at all times and only when necessary use words”.
It wasn’t until I met Mitch and Jen however, that this belief was challenged. Mitch and Jen were a couple that lived and worked in the inner city streets of Coventry in the UK. They were both heavily addicted to heroin and were living as squatters in an old derelict building.
Every time we saw them on our weekly outreach, they were always wearing the same clothes as if they’d never been home. All they had to their name was a packet of cigarettes and each other. Everywhere Jen went, Mitch would always be somewhere close by.
Jen was out every night selling her body on the streets to feed both their drug habits. She knew well how to survive on the streets and had written every trick in the book.
Mitch on the other hand would be hiding in the bushes or sitting at the bus stops just protectively watching his girl as she got into strangers cars.
It seemed like an average Monday evening outreach when our team stopped to the couple at their usual hangout. They were happy to engage in a chat while demolishing their eggs sandwiches and hot chocolate, having gradually built a rapport with us over the past few months.
This night was the same as any other when the offer came for a prayer for their protection. It was rare for Mitch to ever agree and as was usual they declined. They said their goodbyes and disappeared off and around the corner.
As the team began to make their final rounds something seemed off. There were twice as many police cars on the streets and they seemed to be going somewhere in a hurry.
On approaching the same street where Mitch and Jen had just been 10 mins before there were now Police cars everywhere and tape securing off the area.
It wasn’t known what had happened until the next day when a Police officer knocked on our office door.
“Excuse me Maam, we would like to ask you a few questions in reference to the Murder of Mitch O Donnell”.
My heart sank, did I hear that right? Mitch has been murdered!
“Your team were the last people to see Mitch alive and we would like some information on your conversation”.
We discovered that the moment they had left our car they walked around the corner and his attackers were there waiting for him with a 12 inch blade. Jen saw them and ran while Mitch stood and defended.
As the news began to sink in I got this overwhelming sense of responsibility. We had been given Mich’s last opportunity to ever hear the gospel before he left this world.
What were the last words that Mitch ever heard?
Could it be that our offer for prayer was his last chance to be saved?
If it was known these were the last words he’d ever hear the conversation would have gone so differently.
We would have insisted he heard that Jesus Loves Him. We would have told him that he can receive eternal life right there and then. We would have said that all his sins can be washed away in a moment, and his life can be restored through the power of the cross.
There were so many thoughts, questions and regrets that arose from this.
Did he even think of the God he had just heard about as he was lying lifeless on the pavement bleeding to death from his multiple stab wounds?
Did he have a moment of regret wishing he’d said yes to a prayer for protection?
Did he call out for help to the team whose voices were likely still heard just around the corner?
I guess we will never know but what I do know is God positioned our team right there that night at his last stop at his last chance for salvation.
Every member of the team that night said:
“I regret that I didn’t say more about Jesus and how much He loves him”.
We were entrusted with the mission to offer the last chance at eternal life in heaven.
We could forever question whether enough was said or what Mitch really thought in his last moments. However, another seed was sown, the last of so many planted along the road.
So what is more important than our last words were his last words “No thanks”. He had refused to accept the last opportunity to ever be offered him.
This experience really challenged my approach to evangelism. I no longer only wait for the right moment to arise but now look for opportunities in everything where I can leave a seed. We never know if it is the last one.