Written by Les Caldwell (from Belair Baptist Church)
Backtrack almost 70 years: visiting American evangelist Neil Macaulay was on a flight to Sydney to conduct crusades with his wife, Patricia, musician Jo Ann Rysdyk and a young soloist, Martha Chastain. Neil commented to Martha that they would soon be meeting the best street evangelists in the world. He was referring to the Open Air Campaigners (the OAC). They were indeed so good that one of them (Les Nixon), tracked Martha back to America and eventually married her and brought her back to Australia, along with Jo Ann. These OAC evangelists preached from trucks and vans on busy street corners, outside factories, in parks, on beaches, etc. with a challenging gospel message and clever retorts to the inevitable hecklers.
Fast-forward to 2019: some modern-day street evangelists from Belair Baptist Church, with the same message, pound the streets of Newcastle. These evangelists date their methodology back to the days of Jesus, as He tramped the dusty tracks and roads of Palestine declaring the Father’s will and purpose to those whom He met, and attending to their spiritual and physical needs. The garb has changed, the cities are definitely more modern, but they spread the same message on a one-to-one basis, often armed with the latest technology.
They’re Danny Collins, Dennis Malone and Keith Wilson. These three men have vastly different backgrounds and skills – but they are strongly united in a common purpose, and are of one spirit. The approach is common: they sidle up to individuals at bus stops, train stations, shopping centres, etc. and share the gospel on a one-to-one basis in a quiet and non-threatening manner. This can be in association with a mobile phone or tablet app which can be made personal by inserting the name of the listener and/or with a personal testimony to their own faith path. The name of the app is G7 and it can be shown as a video (Gospel in 7 minutes) or interactively.
These street evangelists set out usually twice a week and sometimes individually on other days and are always alert to sharing the Gospel at any time. When Danny is street evangelizing he is armed with copies of “Steps to Peace with God” by Billy Graham, which he goes through with his contacts as well as sharing his personal testimony. Dennis always carries Bibles with him to give to those who are willing to receive them, and shares his personal testimony. Keith is always armed with the G7 App on his Tablet using the video presentation or interactively, which he prefers. A useful approach which Keith says works is to ask a contact “Can you help me?”. Only he can explain what happens next!
When asked to reflect on some of their encounters each of the team provided some heartwarming stories from their life on the streets:
Keith tells of a time when he and Dennis were visiting household to household in a public housing area in Wallsend, a suburb of Newcastle. One lady was in tears when they prayed for her at her front door. The following week they were sitting in the car praying while Danny and another person knocked on her door again (not realizing that she had been visited the week before). After a long period Keith went to the door to see how they were going, and Danny answered, saying that the woman has “given her life to the Lord”. As she was struggling because of addictions, the local Baptist church helped with groceries while the team helped in various ways around the property. A significant change occurred when the lady said that she wanted to go to a drug rehab centre in Sydney. The result was that she was delivered from her addictions and was able to look after her family.
On another occasion recently, Keith approached a woman at a bus stop in Wallsend. Although she did not wish to go through the gospel presentation she did respond to his offer to pray for her when he asked “If God could do a miracle in your life right now, what would it be?” There were two requests related to health and the need for employment, so he prayed for her. It was only when he arrived home that he realized that he recognized her as having been imprisoned overseas for a number of years. The very next day he was with Dennis at another bus stop and there she was again. He was already talking to someone else so he asked Dennis to talk with her. He shared his testimony with her and she went off in the bus. Certainly both meetings were divine appointments and resulted in the sowing of seed.
Dennis reports: “I love interacting with people on the street, and over the years I’ve spoken to many people seeking God – some looking to Jesus but some looking in other directions. I’ve had many “divine appointments” both in door to door and in the marketplace. One that comes to mind is at an outdoor cafe. When I shared my testimony, I was surprised the guy told me he’d only just started reading the bible a month ago, starting in the Old Testament. I directed him to the gospels about Jesus. As I was ending the conversation about surrendering his life to Jesus, we were both taken aback when a woman walked past, looked directly at him and said “just do it!”
During our street evangelism at Tanilba Bay where I live, we came across a middle aged indigenous woman who shared a dramatic conversion after a troubled childhood, broken family etc. I’ve since directed her to help with the local Baptist youth group. She’s loved by the kids, because of her openness about her past. Many of the kids identify with how Jesus transformed her life.”
Danny relays a time when separate events came together in a startling way. He was talking to a guy recently at a bus stop and struck up a friendship. When they met subsequently Dennis asked him how he was feeling. He replied that he was feeling flat because his twin brother had died. Danny asked him where he was from and he replied “West Wallsend”. Danny then told him that he used to play golf with a hearing impaired lady named Marie (also at that time from Belair Baptist Church) who was also from West Wallsend. Marie had told Danny that she had twin brothers who were nicknamed “rough” and “tough”. The guy replied that he was one of those brothers. Dennis offered to pray for him and the guy was completely overcome with emotion and gratitude.
Keith has a short course on “How to love another person with the Good News” which he is willing to share with small groups over 4 to 6 evenings. He also has a shortened version which runs around 3 hours on a Saturday morning. If any Church or individual is interested, please ring him on 0418680042 or email firstname.lastname@example.org