College Lunch – just before finals week and Christmas break, we had 12 students over for lunch after church. Some are brand new Christians; others have followed Christ longer. They appreciated so much the warmth of our home (fire in the fireplace) and the love we sought to share. They helped decorate our Christmas tree while the food prep was being completed. This smaller group (12) was easier to talk with in more in-depth ways; something we desired to accomplish. What a lovely group! Jesus was magnified in our time of praise. Some have gone home now for the next 6 weeks.
Neighborhood – We do have new neighbors right across the street from us, so we took them a plate of cookies and are quite hopeful for future ministry with them. And two young men (25 yrs & 22) from down the street just dropped by to talk. We met them in the street one day and struck up a friendship. And they came to our Bible study this week. PTL!
One of our dear friends just down the street was shot by another one of our neighbors, both of whom we have been working with. As the shooter was drunk and erratically shooting his firearm in his own house, the other man, in an effort to get him to stop, held up his phone to warn of taking a picture of the scene. The shooter shot the phone out of the other’s hand, hitting the hand behind the phone. He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. As the bullet had sped right past his head, this opened up into a sober Gospel conversation with the injured friend as I asked, “What would have happened to your soul if you were killed?“ What an opportunity to speak of sin and eternity!
We are very encouraged to have begun a weekly Bible Study at our house on Tuesday nights. We provide a dinner followed by a verse-by-verse reading through the Gospel of Mark, explaining each major thought and context. Because some folks do move in and out of our neighborhood, we are constantly seeking others to come. We just keep meeting new eternal souls all around us. Below is a photo of this week’s group of eager studiers… besides me there are 2 in their 50s and 2 in their 20s. Missing are the mother and daughter described below whom we thought for sure would be in attendance. Something must have come up.
Christmas Eve afternoon was spent working with the police, as some other neighbors, who have been attending the Bible study, had issues of domestic violence (the woman was being beaten up). Though arrested on Friday (23rd), her boyfriend was out of jail on Saturday (24th). He returned to the home, destroyed the back door, kicked down another door, and began beating the woman again. By the time the police arrived and the kids ran to tell us, the man had gone, leaving the woman and family in terror and helplessness, especially on such a holiday weekend. We put her family of seven in a hotel for 3 nights and had two doors repaired the day after Christmas in a much more secure way (Her landlord refused to have the doors fixed, since he viewed the trouble as her problem). The two handymen used were guys from our neighborhood with whom we have also had quite a bit of ministry. Though the man is gone and no longer in Bible study with us, the woman and her high school daughter are both coming and very interested in learning God’s Word, with many questions. This pregnant high school senior is now eager to invite her friends to come. These difficult providences seem to be opening up some valuable opportunities to bring the light and love of Jesus into a number of new lives. Thank you to you supporters who provide ministry funds with which we can work and do such things. Your hands are right in the middle of these very labors with which we are engaged.
Through our Halloween activity, we met a family of “Trick or Treaters” whom we were able to take to church on Christmas Day on our van. They live quite close to us in a run-down apartment, 15 of them …11 of which are little children. That’s right, two young women with 11 children between them. On our first visit to them, we found them heating their apartment by two gas stovetop burners going full blast! The needs for total life renovation are overwhelming.
City of Refuge – Cathi and I continue to go each Friday evening to the dinner time where each of us usually share the Gospel in some form with about 6-10 ladies. I taught the Saturday Bible study on the 17th to about 30 ladies, an overview of Mary, the mother of our Lord. We read and discussed a whole bunch of Scripture! They love seeing how they can understand God’s Word; and they can … at least on a human level. On Christmas Day, though many were away from the shelter, we had two families ride the van … some from the City of Refuge and a group from across the street from there; the photo below shows the two families.
Gym – Art, a bartender for an upscale Delta club in the city, a friend whom I lift weights with, had a few funerals lately. I was able to share with him how those important times are to “sober” us to the great issues of life and death. I was able to press him with the day of his own death, which is certain to happen … and, what then? Also in the weight room I was able to have excellent initial conversations with Durante, Leland (a professional pianist), Richard, and Shermaine. It is amazing how those guys are so open and ready to have friendly connections with an old white guy who is genuinely interested in them. Please pray for these and other such opportunities as we go there several times a week.
Cornerstone Church – We love our four pastors; they all have godly qualities I need more of for my own life. What a provision they are to us. We are excited to invite people to come to Cornerstone to meet them. We’ve had more folks express an interest in being personally discipled, and some to help us in the work of evangelism. It is crazy how many young singles and couples keep showing up at our church. The harvest here seems to be unbelievably white. On a human level, it is just a matter of time and energy.
Good News Clubs – on December 13th we received training at both places where a group from a couple of churches plan to start Good News Clubs in January … one on Mondays and the other on Tuesdays. In one location we’ll probably have 50 children (2nd-5th grades) and in the other, 12-15. On December 19th, we helped stage a Christmas party at the Atlanta Mission sharing the Gospel of Jesus’ birth for 2 hours with 9 homeless children. We put together full goodie gift bags to share with these poor children. How sweet they are!
NightLight – I went out with a group on December 23rd with special gift bags and shared Christ and His love till 3:30 AM. The greater part of our time was spent at an interstate junction here in Atlanta where there is a cluster of strip clubs and hotel used as brothels. In conversation after conversation, we held out Christ as the only satisfying hope that human beings can have. More and more employees of these establishments are recognizing us. In fact, a waitress at the nearby Waffle House with whom we have spoken through the months came right up to me, expressing interest in a Bible study … a male dancer spoken to in prior visits came right up to me in the “dressing” room asking for prayer … a Somali Muslim parking attendant was stunned by the news that one of our team members had suddenly died in recent days, which opened doors to press eternity … a strip club security guard asked us to come back and speak with him more of God and His Word … and at a hotel used as a brothel, 3 people (2 employees) were engaged with loving conversations related to truth and grace. For those of you who prayed for my friend, Victor, an update … he married a man (a doctor) and is no longer dancing at the club at which I met him. Disappointing (his marriage and our loss of contact).
We are over-the-top thankful to get to serve Jesus in all these ways. Please continue to pray for us … for more open doors for the Gospel and for lots of fruit that would remain. We continue to feel our weakness and ineptness in the work. But we love it. Please continue to pray for the Spirit of the Lord to come to us in His mighty and mysterious ways.
Yours in Jesus,
Bob and Cathi Selph
from Atlanta’s west side