Mission Pittsburgh: Spanning the Gospel gap in the 'City of Bridges'
First-person analysis by Stephany Sance
Three Truett-McConnell College vans passed through Liberty Tunnel, whose simple white tiles shone and sparkled like the city in view. The night sky served as the perfect backdrop for Pittsburgh. The well-lit City of Bridges was a beautiful scene to observe despite the 18-member team's exhaustion from a 650-mile road trip.
Each team member looked forward to seeing God work. Regardless of their enthusiasm, however, the students had to realize that Pittsburgh could not be saved in the week they would be there, Sept. 28 - Oct. 7. Everyone had to devote themselves to focusing on what God wanted them to do.
Michael Howard met God's divine appointments in the plentiful harvest and saw how God blessed the time and energy used. Kelly Folsom thoroughly enjoyed pouring herself into the lives of the children she met and saw their desire for attention and affection. Erin Camp and Ashlyn Williams experienced God's presence and faithfulness. I was reminded of brokenness that needed compassion.
I focused my energies on door-to-door evangelism. Throughout the week, my group invited whomever we met to attend the Upward Basketball activity at the end of the week, and to visit a local church. Most people were open and polite when we mentioned the basketball activity, but when we changed the topic to God they quickly became defensive and rude. I thought back to Scripture when I was rejected. My comfort and ability to stay positive came from my knowledge that the people were rejecting God and his offer, not me.
One man stands out more than the others in my mind. When he answered my knock, I asked him if he was interested in church.
"What are you selling?" he responded gruffly.
"Nothing, sir." I smiled at him, continuing my witness despite his obvious resolve to get rid of me.
He told me he was Catholic.
"So, what is it that you believe?" I asked.
I could tell that he didn't expect the question, and he gave a quickly patched-up answer about believing in Jesus and the traditions of the church.
"Is that all? Are we done?" he puffed.
"If you want it to be," I said.
I remember this encounter because the man I met was so hostile to everything I said; yet I did not feel discouraged or angry in response. I felt love for him. It was not I. It was God speaking and filling me with compassion. My flesh would have thought ill of him and argued with him.
If I gained anything from my experience in Pittsburgh, I gained heartache. I gained a painful burden. I was reminded of the lostness in their eyes. I was reminded of where I was before God's gift of salvation. I prayed and continued to pray that God would use the few mumbled words I spoke to the men, women, and children I met to bring them to the realization of their need for a perfect Savior, Christ Jesus.
Erin Camp went to Pittsburgh last year with Truett-McConnell and jumped at the chance to return. Early in the week, Erin went to a local university to promote a worship service for Tuesday night. She encountered people with a large variety of beliefs, from Christians to atheists.
At the worship service Tuesday night, however, Ashlyn and Michael shared their testimonies. Shortly after, a girl approached Ashlyn to ask how she could come to know Christ. The God we serve is wonderful beyond anything that we can imagine.
Kelly had a similar experience and prayed with a girl a prayer of salvation. "It was incredible to see God bring a soul from death to life," Kelly said.
People like Ashlyn, Kelly, and Michael were privileged to witness to the lost and dying of the world. God prepared the hearts of those we encountered. All we had to do was go.
Later in the week, Missions Professor, Dr. Van Sanders, led seven students onto the campus of a private university where God had prepared another soul for salvation. Michael and Dr. Sanders met with the university's intramural athletics manager. When they asked the man if he had any questions or spiritual concerns, he simply said, "All I've been doing is waiting for is someone to tell me how to be saved." And he was.
Erin was content helping out with the Upward Basketball Camp led by a church planter named Ken. But later in the week, she was reassigned to a group ministering at McKees Rock, an area of Pittsburgh called "the Bottoms" for its rampant poverty and families struggling with issues other than just finances.
Not altogether pleased with the new assignment, Erin accepted it when God spoke to her heart, saying, "I want to use you." Erin put aside her own desires and sought to be an instrument for her Savior.
The team arrived at the Bottoms to a run-down, abandoned basketball court. They waited about 30 minutes before the first person arrived, who immediately left to get some friends. Soon the group grew to 15 children. After playing basketball with them for a while, Michael led a Bible study. At the end of the lesson, Erin shared the Gospel with the kids. She asked them if anyone wanted to accept Jesus and seven children raised their hands. Erin was moved to tears as she recalled God's words: "I want to use you."
When in the presence of God and in the midst of His will, Erin was overwhelmed by God's power. Even when she was hesitant, God was not. He had a plan and she was willing.
God is faithful. This reality became evident to the 21 people who went to Pittsburgh as they saw 10 people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. May this be a reminder to us as we go—be willing to serve and ready to experience God.
Stephany Sance is an English major at Truett-McConnell College.