Our town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa is undergoing major flooding at this moment—exceeding the records set in 1993,1929, and 1851! A mandatory evacuation has been issued in many neighborhoods. Some streets and railroad tracks are covered with water, and so many roads and bridges are blocked off it’s hard to drive through downtown. The Cedar River has now crested to a height that no one has ever seen before. The city is alerting residents by using the Code Red reverse 911 system, media announcements and going door-to-door. (Since we live in a suburb, our house is fine.)
Hundreds of volunteers have been filling sandbags around the clock in a warehouse downtown. Last night, my dad, myself, and some friends (Nickie, Brian, Michael and Steven Biegler) went and filled sandbags from midnight to 5am. It was neat to see people pull together to help, and there was a special sense of camaraderie–even among strangers.
Team work. One shovels sand down the cone, another holds the bag under the cone, a third person ties it up with wire and the last one stacks them on palates. And our friend in the truck faithfully delivers more and more and more sand…
We laughed at how often the truck came around to deliver more sand. They did a great job keeping us busy.
Thousands and thousands of sandbags are being used not only in our town, but in all the other towns that are flooding near us.
While we were working, I began chatting with the guy next to me, Troy, who had an interest in Cuba. I made a comment about a missionary friend I knew who had spent some time in Cuba. He mentioned how Cuba has a lot of Catholics.
There was a moment pause.
I wanted to get a spiritual conversation rolling, and I knew I needed to ask something to get it started.
“So…” I said to him, “Did you grow up in a Christian family, Catholic family, non-religious family—?”
“I grew up Lutheran, but my family wasn’t very devout. Now I go to church about 3 times a year,” he replied.
“I see. Well let me ask you the question I love to ask people: ‘Do you think Heaven is a free gift or something we have to earn?’”
He said he was kind of “in between.” Troy was a debater, and the conversation took off right away.
Soon Jenny, another girl who I had just met, came back from a break and wanted to know what we were talking about. I asked her the same question.
“I don’t think I believe in Heaven,” she answered, and then explained criticisms she had of the church she grew up in.
About that time a guy named Nick came over to help us load more sandbags unto the palate and wanted to know what our conversation was all about.
“Well, I’ll ask you the question, too, then,” I said. “Do you think going to Heaven is a free gift or is it something we have to earn?”
“It’s free because Jesus died for my sins and I don’t have to take the punishment I deserve!” Nick replied confidently.
Troy let out a little whistle so as to say, “woe—here’s another radical religious person…”
“And do you think the Bible is 100% accurate?” I asked Nick.
“Well I better believe that,” he stated, “otherwise how would I know what was true and what wasn’t?!”
(I was thinking, Amen!! )
As you can see, I was sandbagging with a unique combination of people. We also had an audience—all the other volunteers who didn’t have a choice but to listen to us.
Troy and I talked for 2-3 hours. I think he must have recently taken some religion course, because he knew so many of the common arguments against Christianity.
You know, it’s not that hard to learn the answers to the basic arguments people make, and once you learn them you can use them over and over. This is something I;m trying to work on.
As we shoveled sand into bag after bag, Troy and I covered a lot of ground. We talked about the accuracy of the Bible, the deity of Christ, hell, the cure for sin, hypocrisy in the church, crusades, absolute truth vs. relativity, “intolerance” of Christians, creation science, the age of the earth, the dead sea scrolls, etc. He had so many arguments and doubts, but he was also seeking. I didn’t try to win every argument, but I prayed that the Lord would give me the right words and I tried to speak the truth in love.
I’m praying that the Lord will not allow him to forget the answers I gave him. When we left, I gave him the book One Heartbeat Away by Mark Cahill. It clearly explains the gospel and confronts the world’s false thinking with the truth. Troy promised that he would read it. “Or even if I can’t get through the whole thing, I’ll at least read half of it” he promised. Please pray with me that Troy would find the Truth!