assie Bernall was in the library at her Littleton, Colorado,
school when a fellow student burst in holding a gun and asked her, "Do you
believe in God?" Cassie, known for carrying her Bible to school, lived up to
the words of her "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelet, and told the student that, yes, she
did believe in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.
"Why?" he replied, then shot her in the temple.
The Littleton tragedy joined a series of other school shootings that rocked
the continent. But somehow, in the midst of that tragedy and crisis, many
people found inspiration and hope in Cassie's strength of conviction. Among
those were her parents, Brad and Misty Bernall.
Out of their tragedy, they've found a way to demonstrate the love of Christ
in real ways to students in Littleton.
"We have scores of kids coming in and out of our home all the time," they
said in an emotional time of sharing during the Southern Baptist Convention in
Atlanta this past June. "We know the people in our neighborhood. I think that
through all of this they know we have something real and valuable."
In fact, while dining out during the Convention, they found that their
situation opened the door to share the gospel with their waiter--and be there
with him as he chose to follow Christ.
Sometimes being ready in season and out means being prepared for some of the
most difficult moments in which people need to hear the gospel--moments of
Crises can be times of great pressure and loss and pain, but they can also
be times of great soul-searching. When people you know have heart-breaking
news, such as a tragic accident, a life-threatening illness, a job loss or the
break-up of a relationship, you can be there to help them grieve, perhaps even
problem-solve. And when they're ready to explore issues deeper than the
immediate crisis you can be ready to talk to them about Christ.
While it's easy to think of a crisis in only negative terms (the destruction
of a home or the loss of a lifestyle or a job), when we do that we can miss
seeing the crisis as an opportunity to live out what God's plan is for times of
pain. God's plan is for us to always be ready to give a reason for what we
believe, and that includes times of suffering.
But what do you say in a crisis? How do you avoid trivializing someone's
pain? How do you keep the conversation on what God can do instead of what has
happened? People who regularly minister to those in crisis say tracts can help
you focus on content when emotion and confusion can make it difficult. That
little bit of focus can help you offer the greatest relief that God can
give--no matter what pain or hardship someone is experiencing.
The basics of evangelism still apply--earning the right to share your faith
by helping people meet immediate needs, listening, tailoring your comments to
fit their needs, being open about your own struggles to make Christ the center
of your life, exchanging pertinent information so you can follow up.
Tracts or any witnessing tool should not distract from this communication
process but supplement it.
The classic scenario that most people associate with crisis situations is a
natural disaster. Southern Baptists are second only to the American Red Cross
in providing disaster assistance in the United States. From cleanup crews to
mobile shower units to hot meals, Baptists have a long tradition of responding
quickly and compassionately when disasters disrupt lives.
The Red River floods of 1997 in the Dakotas were no exception.
Disaster Relief units from across the country responded to the need. Doug
Lee, then a church planter-pastor in Grand Forks, South Dakota, saw firsthand
the opportunities created to share the gospel with people in need. Doug and
others used "Hope in Crisis," a tract developed to assist disaster relief
workers in sharing their faith in Christ as they minister to physical
"I gave away literally hundreds of copies of the tract with my name and
number written on them. I know thousands were handed out during the work in
Grand Forks," Doug said.
"Corner Stone Baptist Church served as the command center in Grand Forks.
The feeding units were in our parking lot. I would walk the line and talk with
people and give them the tracts. People would stop me and ask me to pray with
them or for them. People were in such desperate need. There was a lot of
one-on-one sharing and follow-up."
Children and youth from the church accompanied Woman's Missionary Union
volunteers and taught children and youth groups to help break the long hours of
boredom, Doug said.
The youth also helped pass out water, clean up yards and do whatever else
they could along with sharing their faith.
"One 15-year-old girl was helping a 60-year-old woman clean her yard. The
woman paused and asked the girl about her motivation. She said it was because
of the love of Jesus.
"The woman said, 'I wish I had that kind of faith.' The girl told her she
could have it and shared the story of her own salvation. The woman prayed to
receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
"Another woman, who was 72, attended a Bible study in a small town where no
church services were held. The sponsoring group hoped to begin a cell church in
the town. Through the sharing of the gospel this woman placed her faith in
Jesus. A church eventually was planted there and all of this was the result of
disaster relief volunteers identifying a need," Doug said.
Sometimes a tract given to someone during a crisis will have an impact days
or weeks later.
"Using the tracts helped answer some basic questions for people and gave
them a sense of what the gospel is all about. It opened doors to bring people
to the point of examining their own spiritual condition. It also allowed the
follow-up to focus on the opportunity to accept Christ as Savior in light of
the disaster after time to reflect on the events," he said.
Grand Fork's baptism-per-member ratio bore out the effectiveness of the use
of the tracts and the follow-up. Before the floods the ratio was one to nine,
meaning there was a baptism for every nine members in the church. After the
disaster relief efforts the ratio dropped to one baptism for
every four members.
"We also had many professions of faith from people who did not follow in
baptism or who joined other churches. The point, of course, is not the numbers,
but being available with the love of God when people are in need," Doug
While it's easy to notice a large-scale crisis like a hurricane, flood or
tornado, there are many other crises that aren't as easily seen. Take, for
example, the shock of an unplanned pregnancy. What do you say to a woman who's
not ready to be a mother? How do you show the love of Christ in a way that
meets a real need and draws her to Christ?
Enter crisis pregnancy centers and the volunteers who serve in them. Through
the North American Mission Board's (NAMB) Alterna-tives for Life unit, 53 such
centers stand ready to reach out to people experiencing surprise (and often
unwelcome) pregnancies. In 1998, NAMB's centers helped 31,644 women. But their
work isn't finished until they make sure that women in pain have a chance to
meet Christ. Through the outreach of such centers, 1,270 people became
Christians-- because someone was prepared to give her testimony to someone in
need, even in a time of deep, personal crisis.
Using tracts is a tremendous help when dealing with people in pain,
according to Heather King, director of Woman's Missionary Union and women's
ministries with the Indiana Baptist Association.
"Tracts help women get past the feeling of awkwardness when discussing a
crisis pregnancy," she said. "Tracts give them something to look at and focus
on so they can break from threatening eye contact. This lengthens the time you
have the pregnant woman's attention."
A young woman entered a pregnancy care center where Heather was a volunteer.
Her test came back negative. Rather than just letting her walk away without
hearing about Christ, Heather took the initiative to lead her through the
gospel. Heather knew the woman had a pro-abortion mindset when she entered the
center. And even though it turned out that she wasn't forced with what she
would consider a "choice," Heather used that as a segue to share her most
significant life decision: to follow Christ.
But Heather wasn't always as quick to share the gospel. An earlier
experience taught her that she had to make an adjustment in her own heart,
because she had started to feel like a failure when people chose not to put
their faith in Christ.
"When I was new to volunteering in a center, I saw a 15-year-old girl come
in who was pregnant. She'd been hiding it from her grandparents. I shared my
faith with her, but she ultimately chose to reject Christ and have an abortion.
I felt like such a failure. But I learned that it's God Who makes divine
appointments, not me. Just as He had allowed that girl to make the decisions
that led to her pregnancy, He had allowed me to talk to her about Him. We just
have to be available," she said.
"HeartTalk" is a new, 12-page booklet created to help women
witness one-on-one to women. This tract was created out of a passion to help women bring Christ to other women they
meet by focusing on four key words, each relating to the HeartCall logo.
HOPE: The heart illustrates that God has some things from His heart He wants
women to know.
BELIEVE: The cross in the center of the heart illustrates that God loves us
so much that He sent Jesus to pay for our sins.
TURN: The arrow at the top of the cross illustrates that we need to turn
away from sin and toward God.
CALL: The word "HeartCall" across the logo illustrates that we need to call
on God and ask Him to lead us.
"I have used this tract to win women to Christ and found it to be an
effective tool," says Jean White, church and communities evangelism associate
for NAMB. White says she likes the easy-to-use format and practical application
of the "HeartTalk" tract.
To order gospel tracts from NAMB call 800-448-8032.
Like Heather, Geneva Harvey, who directs the Hope House in Connersville,
Indiana, finds reaching out to women in pain to be her way of being on
"One young woman," Geneva said, "came to the Hope House more than 15 times.
She was married when she started coming and was afraid that she was pregnant
with someone other than her husband's child. We talked with her about salvation
and her walk with God. Eventually she simply said to us, 'Just give me my
pregnancy test. I don't want to talk about church anymore.'"
Geneva honored her wishes, but continued to love her and care for her in any
way she could, all the while reminding her gently that God is the Blesser Who
gives us children. Eventually, love won out and the woman returned a few months
later, no longer married, and with a God-broken heart. "I know my lifestyle
isn't what it should be. I want to make things right," she told Geneva.
Geneva took the opportunity to tell her Who could change her heart and
Many times, crises come not because of natural disasters or emergencies, but
from misfortune and bad choices. City streets are filled with story after story
of job loss, substance addiction and homelessness. During the Arms Around
Atlanta initiative that coincided with this year's Southern Baptist Convention,
ICE (inner-city evangelism) teams helped change a few of those stories as they
took the gospel to everyone they met on the streets of Atlanta.
ICE team members take time--some from vacations--to hit the pavement in
major cities and let people in the inner city know that Christ's love is
available to all. During their time in Atlanta, at least 1,817 people made decisions to put their
faith in Christ.
As with any city, Atlanta's streets are filled with stories of bad decisions
and misfortunes that lead to times of crisis. According to ICE team member,
Hiram Acree, "It's down where the homeless people are. People sleep on the
street. We've found that most of them aren't saved. They're often involved in
drugs, alcohol, even prostitution. People on the street are looking for hope.
We have to tell them that hope is in Jesus Christ. Tracts just help us start
conversations with people."
Howard Ramsey, who participated in the ICE teams, says that tracts have a
place. "Although most members of the ICE team share them from memory, they are
great for providing the scriptures for people," he said.
Sometimes, a heart in pain can be seen through the questions a person asks,
as David Cobb, of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, found out.
"A young girl named Donna came up and asked me if homosexuals go to heaven.
Over the next 30 minutes, she asked me other questions. At the very end it was
raining really hard. Standing in the middle of a housing project she gave her
heart to Christ. You never know when somebody asks you a question what the end
result will be."
While visiting an inner-city church, David also had a chance to help two
drug users give their lives to Christ. "When people are without hope," he said,
"they're ready for anything that will give them a key to life. And Jesus does
that and meets all their needs."
Steve Erickson also participated alongside David in the outreach.
"We had one young man, Jimmy, who came in looking for clothes," he said. "He
didn't have any hope, nothing to believe in other than trying to do good. We
told him how to become a Christian, and his eyes opened up and he said, 'I've
never done that, and I need to do it.' We gave him an element of hope to build
The most important thing about sharing the gospel with people in need
--whether in the inner city or anywhere--is to use God's Word, whether from a
tract or from memory, said Hiram Acree, "because like scripture says, God's
Word will not return void."
The answer isn't about numbers or tracts or techniques--it is always the
person of Jesus Christ and His ability to meet people where they find
themselves and redeem them. A crisis of faith can come on a calm afternoon
during a stroll in the park. The responsibility of an on mission Christian is
to be prepared and willing to stand up and say, "Yes, I know Jesus. Can I help
Dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster brings ample opportunities
to share the love and concern of God with people who find themselves in
immediate need. It can also bring those same people to a point of spiritual
receptivity that they might not have come to otherwise. "Hope in Crisis," a
tract used in Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts, uses the wisdom of
God's Word in difficult circumstances to present the gospel with
Beginning with two questions, "Why did this happen to me?" and "Why do bad
things happen to good people?," the tract explores Job's response to his
difficult circumstances. "Hope in Crisis" then asks if this is how the person
presented with the tract feels. It follows with a classic presentation of the
hope of the gospel.
As we approach the new millennium, spiritual interest is at a peak. Even an
atheist would have to admit that something happened about 2,000 years ago that
pressed a reset button on human history. That event was when a person, Jesus
Christ, God incarnate, made His advent into our world.
The "Split Time" booklet is one tool Christians can use to bring the good
news to friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. It begins with the
question, "What Single Event in Human History Had the Power to Split Time?" As
the booklet is opened there is a visually arresting illustration of B.C. and
A.D. divided by the shadow of a Cross.
It can also be used to share Christ with the many people who are still
concerned about Y2K, which has been described as "the only planned catastrophe
in the history of the world." As people think of ways to plan practically for
the disaster that may come, they also need to make spiritual preparation.
"Split Time" gives them the message they need.
Both of these tracts--and many others relating to students, children and
some available in foreign languages--are available from NAMB. To order "Hope in
Crisis," "Split Time" and other gospel tracts from NAMB call 800-448-8032.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC