There's a man I met a few months ago who we'll call Ricardo. (Not his real name, but, you knew that.) We first met in a home with about 20 other people that had showed up for a home bible study. This wasn't your typical Sunday or mid-week crowd, that may be why I was so excited to be there. Ricardo & his girl friend, "Cindy", showed up late. We had already ate some food and L.R. was teaching the study already. People sat around the small, dimly lit living room on couches and wooden folding chairs from the 50's. A few stood in the small kitchen looking through the doorway to see and to listen. Since Ricardo was late he and his girl friend sat in the narrow, dark hallway off to the side of the kitchen in front of the bathroom. Both he and she are in their late 30's, early 40's, which made them part of us older people that were there. Three or four of the late teen, early 20-something guys that were there were obligatorily attending so that they could receive MMA training after the study. This was a MIXED group to say the least.
The BEST part: Sinners outnumbered Saints. Ideally, our churches should be representative of the cultures, peoples, & ethnicity of the cities we are in. In the cities we work in, sinners outnumber saints. It was reflected in this night's crowd, but, I digress. Back to Ricardo and Cindy.
They sat through the study. He interrupted with a question from time to time. He was definitely not shy. He may have been slightly intoxicated. Not real sure. There's some things I know that he and Cindy both were. They were hungry, broken, empty and searching. It was undeniable.
L.R. finished the bible study. At his request, I made a few comments from the couch and then L.R. asked if anyone wanted to be prayed for. Ricardo got up, walked from the hallway into the living room area, stepped between legs and stood in front of L.R. and S.G. He talked about not getting it right but needing to. He was as open and honest about his condition as anyone could be. We began to pray, he began to weep. Many in the room bowed their heads respectfully, unsure of this process they had never witnessed before. Jesus Christ was ministering.
Ricardo & Cindy showed from time to time but never really stuck. She was desperate for him to change for fear of death. He was known to get involved in altercations and gang violence is rampant in the communities he walks in. Cindy's desperation turned to frustration at times. He would get prayed for when he made periodic appearances. She was seeing more and more in the word. Four weeks ago, we baptized Cindy, along with three others, in Jesus name in the front yard of that same house. Ricardo wasn't there to witness it.
Friday night, while in a church service, I received a text from S.G. It read "Pray for 'Ricardo' shot himself." My mind raced. I wanted to race out of the service. (Don't judge me now. You've checked your phone in service before.) What did the message mean? How was he? What happened? Where is he? Questions of concern flooded my mind for fear of a soul that could slip through the grasp of grace.
It turns out that Ricardo had shot himself in the leg and foot with a sawed off shotgun. I'll spare you the details, but he did just finish his 4th surgery yesterday with more to come. I stood in the hospital with Cindy on Saturday. Ricardo was in and out of it. I talked to him, prayed to God for his healing, pleaded for his soul.
My phone rang last night on the way home from a bible study. It was Ricardo on the line from his hospital room. He wasn't even aware I had been there a few days before. He spoke. I wept. He wept. I spoke. Above all, God ministered. It's a turning point. I believe that, by faith, with all that is in me by the power of Jesus Christ.
I've realized something through this road with Ricardo. I'm not a big believer in PERSONAL soul winning. I believe in it - sure, BUT, I'm a HUGE believer in CORPORATE SOUL WINNING.
Paul said, "Apollos planted, I watered, but God gives the increase." In Acts 8, Philip preached, healed, baptized. Peter & John came and prayed and people received the Holy Ghost. People that came to Priscilla and Aquilla's house were touched by more than just those two people in the church. I believe in GROUP soul winning.
You see, I didn't teach Ricardo his first bible study. S.G. did. I'm not the only one who visited Ricardo in the hospital. More than five others have. His life has been specifically touched with the word and prayer by at least eight or nine people with the same compassion and cause. Why? Because we all believe IT TAKES A CHURCH TO WIN A LIFE to Christ. Not a building, but a group of people with a clear focus on reaching people and leading them to Christ. No one is concerned with who gets the credit. Ricardo's not my recruit or his recruit or her recruit. Let's just get people to Jesus.
In S.G.'s home where I first met Ricardo, we've baptized nine people in the last month. This past Tuesday night, after my wife and I left S.G.'s home, I received a text from him. It read "Travis & John received the Holy Ghost." I'll update you when Ricardo receives the Holy Ghost. You know it's just a matter of time when a whole group of people are reaching, teaching, giving and praying for him.