An Agnostic, An Opportunity, and The Story of Hope

Categories: Stories

By Randy Southwell

September2020 Randy Story 01

I was in Brazil teaching The Roots of Faith – New Testament to dozens of church leaders when I received the Facebook message - Hey Randy! Hope you are doing well and enjoying your time helping others abroad right now. I was wondering if there would be a day when you get back I could talk to you about faith, death and a few other things?

Andy is a friend of my daughter’s fiancée, Drew. He is in his mid-twenties, served in the army, is studying to be a history teacher at a local university, and has studied abroad in both England and Zimbabwe. I had met him through a fantasy football league that Drew invited me to be a part of, and he had been to my house once for a meal and some board games. The next week when I got back stateside, I met him at IHOP for what turned out to be a three-hour conversation. His grandfather, with whom he had been very close, had passed away recently and he was looking for some answers about death, making a difference in the world, and being a better person. I asked lots of questions and let him do most of the talking as I “peeled his worldview onion.” He had been raised Christian Reformed but described himself as an agnostic. He was searching for spiritual answers but very confused and disillusioned by many of the “Christians” that he knew. I shared with him the joy and hope I had through a restored relationship with God and offered to be available to talk and answer any questions he had at any time.

I didn’t hear from him for a couple of weeks, and then, he showed up for our Wednesday night, home Bible study. I could tell he was listening and evaluating carefully, and at the end of the evening he thanked us profusely for allowing him to participate and for the great meal my wife had prepared. He said, “I will definitely be back.” And then the next week while I was away teaching in California, Covid hit, and our group could no longer meet. This provided a unique opportunity with Andy though, that I quickly pursued. I told him that while the home Bible study was shut down it would be a great opportunity for us to do a study of the Bible’s big story using The Story of Hope. I told him it would give him an overall understanding of the Bible and its key teachings. I shared that the rest of the study group had begun with that and it would help him understand better what the group was studying (we were going through the book of Acts together).

Andy called me later that week and seemed a bit hesitant. I was afraid maybe he wasn’t interested anymore, but instead he asked, “Do you think it would be okay for my girlfriend, AJ, to join us in studying The Story of Hope?” “Of course,” I replied. He swung by one day to grab the books from me in the driveway and we had our first session via Facebook Messenger video the next day. It went well, but they had so many questions that we decided to meet face to face on our back deck each week, keeping our social distancing, but allowing for more in-depth conversation. We have completed our study of the 40 events and are working our way through the Eight Essential Gospel Truths – GOD, MAN, SIN, DEATH, CHRIST, CROSS, FAITH, and LIFE. They are not ready to make a faith response to the gospel yet, but their understanding has really increased, and their interest and receptivity remains high. This week he sent me a link to a miniseries called The Bible that the History Channel had originally put out. He said they are watching it because they are more visual than oral learners, but he wants me to watch it as well to help with any inaccuracies that he knows will be there.

Andy has shared that they are impressed that we would take the time out of our schedules to meet with them each week, that I am so patient with all of their questions, and that I answer them honestly, but with kindness, about difficult subjects. Pray that God’s redemptive story would become a part of their story. There are young adults like Andy and AJ all across our nation that are searching for an answer, and just need someone to initiate conversations with them that might become redemptive relationships. Pray that God would use you to be that person in their lives.

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