How to Witness Badly

Today on the subway a young woman gets on juggling two bags and a purse and sits across the aisle from me. She turns and asks, “What church do you go to?”

I tell her.

“How nice to see people reading the bible on the subway. I do that, too.”

“How nice,” I say. I don’t want to talk. She’s interrupting my quiet time. I hate it when other passengers talk, so I want this to end.

“Where are you from?” she asks.

“Argentina,” I say, keeping my answers to one word, hoping she’d get the hint.

Her face goes blank. A few seconds later, she says, “That’s not in this country, is it?”

Holy cow.

“It’s in Latin America,” I say.

“Where do you work?”

“In San Francisco.” Okay, that’s a three-word answer.

“What do you do there?”

Hmm…do I really want to get into this?

I notice others around us have put down their books to listen to the exchange. The woman next to her has overflowed into the young woman’s seat. She’s a regular commuter. Every morning she gets on with a phone stuck to her ear talking at full throttle with her mother about her woes at work. I’ve written her notes reminding her of the no-phone rule. I’ve glared at her. Nothing’s worked. One time I gave her a gospel tract, thinking that would quiet her. She sneered at me, shoved it down into her purse, and kept talking.

“So what do you do in San Francisco?” the young woman asked again.

“I work for an organization,” I tell her. How lame is that.

“What do you do there?”

Now I’m ticked. This woman has no boundaries.

“I work for Jews for Jesus and we tell Jewish people that Jesus is the promised Messiah,” I say loudly.

Her seatmate smiles.

A man behind her sits bolt upright.

“Do you have conventions?”


“How do you find people to talk to?”

“On the streets.”

“Oh,” she says. “How does that work?”

“It’s tough.”

“What makes it so tough?”

“Most people, including Jews, resist the truth that Jesus is the Savior of the world and without him they don’t have a relationship with God.” I say in one breath. “Here’s my card.”

We screech into the station. She slips my card into her purse, grabs her bags, and gets up.

“Okay thanks,” she says and gets off.

The talker and the man behind also get off.

I slump in my seat. Shame on you! You could have engaged her. You could have asked her who she thought Jesus was and have everyone listen in.

Then I smile.

I remember.

When God wants to use you to speak the gospel, He’s gonna get the job done even if it’s done badly.

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