On Sunday, we went to church in the morning, a cookout for lunch, and had nothing else on the schedule. So, we then decided to take quick trip to the beach with our host family’s teenage daughter and son. In Rhode Island, nearly everything is close to the beach!
After catching some huge waves at high tide, we decided to drive down to some rocks that formed a jetty to climb around and collect shells. Our host’s son said he knew where the jetty was, so we ventured to find it, getting lost once or twice. We found ourselves in a small community that consisted mainly of private beach homes. We had a hard time finding a place to park. Then we had to walk down to the beach barefoot and hike across it to the rocks. After all that trouble, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be there anymore.
But God had different plans.
My team member noticed a man fishing and asked what kind of fish he caught “up here.” He answered, and noticing her use of the term “up here,” asked where we were from. We replied that we were from Texas and are working with various churches in the New England area.
We kept talking to him, mostly asking him about fishing and his life. He grew up in Rhode Island, just graduated from college and owned his own air conditioning and heating business. As a pleasant conversation continued, I began to think, “There is no way to turn this into a spiritual conversation without sounding awkward.” But I felt God prodding me and prayed for it anyway.
Suddenly, the man completely changed topics mid-conversation and began to talk about his spiritual beliefs and religious background, making way for a 30- to 40-minute conversation discussing what he believed and explaining what we believed. We also were able to talk to his father about his spiritual beliefs. We prompted each one of them with questions on their beliefs about God, Jesus, and the afterlife. Although both were nominally affiliated with the Catholic Church, each man’s beliefs were very different. The son had become an agnostic who trusted in science. His father, on the other hand, was very spiritual and so close to the truth of the gospel—just not quite there. Both were very disillusioned with the hypocrisy and greed they saw in the modern church.
While no commitments or radical conversions were made out there on the rocks at sunset, it felt amazing to be used by God to plant seeds of the gospel in such an unexpected way in the hard and rocky soil of New England.
Shelby Newman, a student at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, is serving with Go Now Missions in New England.