The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV
Have you ever wondered if the person sitting next to you knows the basic Jesus story? Do they know that He was born to a virgin, died on a cross, and rose from the dead. Do they know that He is the promised Messiah from the book of Isaiah? Do they know that He loves them and will forgive and forget anything they did wrong? Do they know that no one could or needs to work their way into heaven – that heaven is a gift to those who ask? Never assume the answer is yes. Sometimes, we have to start at the beginning – even with the person sitting next to us at church.
“Oh, I’m not religious. I Buddhist but not much,” Jade said. Jade was from Viet Nam. She was standing on my right removing my nail polish. I was in a massage chair with a young man working on my feet. Women filled the chairs next to me. Everyone could hear every word.
“How long have you been in the U.S.?” I asked.
Were you Buddhist in Viet Nam?”
“She Buddhist,” the man working on my feet said as he frowned.
“You must be Catholic.” I said. The people I’ve met from Viet Nam are usually Buddhist or Catholic.
The young Vietnamese man working on the woman next to me said, “We both Catholic. She Buddhist.”
“Do you go to church?” I asked. They both nodded eagerly. “Have you prayed and asked Jesus to be your Savior and Lord?” Again, they both nodded.
“I nothing,” Jade said. “Not religious. What are you?”
“I follow Christ,” I said. “That makes me Christian. I love Jesus and asked Him to come into my life.”
“My husband Baptist,” she said. “What difference between Christian, Catholic, and Baptist?”
“Is your husband from Viet Nam?” I asked, surprised.
“No,” she said. “He American. He Baptist. His brother prays at everything – Christmas and Thanksgiving.”
“Does your husband go to church?” I asked.
“Some,” she said.
“Do you go with him?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“Do you like Baptist church?” I asked. “Do you like the preacher?”
She shrugged. “I no understand preacher.”
“You asked the difference between Christians, Baptist, and Catholics.” I said, struggling to find words for someone who had no background in religion or Christianity. “Christians believe that Jesus was born to a virgin, was murdered on a cross, and came back from the dead. A Christian has admitted mistakes and prayed to ask Jesus to come into their life. A Christian has a personal relationship with Jesus.”
“He born to virgin?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said. “God was His father. It is hard to understand because Jesus is God. God saw how bad we were living on earth so He came to earth to save us. God has several faces or roles. Just like you – you do nails, are a mother, and a wife. God the Father is our daddy. He made us. He made the flowers and trees. God the Son is Jesus. He came to earth as a man to teach us and to save us so we can go to heaven. When we pray to ask Jesus into our life, Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the part of God that lives inside of us."
“Do you know about Buddha?” she asked.
“I do,” I said. “Buddhism isn’t really a religion. It is a philosophy or a way to live. It is a peaceful way to live. Buddha was a teacher and he came up with 4 Noble Truths about how to live. The people that I know that follow Buddha are very good people. The difference between Buddha and Jesus is that I have a personal relationship with Jesus. He did not just teach truth – He is truth. He rose from the dead. He is alive. No one that is Buddhist tells me they have a personal relationship with Buddha.”
“He is alive?” she said, clearly surprised.
“Yes,” I said. “The world killed him but He rose from the dead. He is God. He is alive in us when we ask Him to come into our life. He teaches us. You said you did not understand the preacher. If you had the Holy Spirit inside of you, the Holy Spirit would help you understand him. Jesus is also the way to heaven. Do you believe in heaven?”
“Yes,” she said. "Buddha say if you live good you go to heaven. I try to live good.”
“That is another difference between Jesus and Buddha. Jesus doesn’t tell you that you have to live good to go to heaven. He says you have to believe in Him and follow His ways. Heaven is free – all you have to do is believe in Jesus and ask for heaven. If you tell Jesus what you did wrong and ask Him to forgive you, He does. He does not even remember your mistakes after He forgives you.”
“He does not remember?” she asked in awe.
“No,” I said. “It is as if it never happened. We call that grace. It is free. You cannot work your way into heaven.”
I pulled out a laminated card that had 4 simple steps to becoming a Christian. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my Vietnamese tract. “Do you read English?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
I walked her through each step and read her the words from the Bible scriptures.
“Jesus loves you,” I said gently. “He said so right here. The Bible is God talking to you.”
“It is?” she said.
“Yes,” I said. “I love the Bible. I can read God’s words any time.” I read her more words.
“I think I believe in God,” she said.
“I can tell you want to believe in Jesus. You do not have to understand everything to be Christian,” I said. I read her a sample prayer to ask Jesus into her life. “Do you want to pray this now?”
“No,” she said. “Can I have this card? I want to read it to my husband. I want to ask if he did this. I want to know what he think. What is difference between Baptist and Catholic?”
“They are both Christian religions. They worship in a different way and they believe a few things differently, but they both claim to follow Christ. Remember – a Christian in someone who has prayed to invite Jesus into their life. Not every Baptist or Catholic has done that. They are both Christian religions but a Christian is a person. You cannot become a Christian because your parents were Christians. You have to decide that for yourself.”
“How old were you when you did this?” she asked.
“8. My parents are Christians and took me to a Baptist church but I was not Christian until I prayed this. I do not care what church you go to as long as they teach you to follow Jesus but if your husband is Baptist, you should go to the Baptist church with him. It will be wonderful for your son for both parents to be Christian.”
My time with her was over. She clung to the card as I walked over to dry my nails.
Just before I left, she came over to me. “I want to say thank you. No one explain this to me before. I did not know what Christian was. You taught me about Buddha. I did not understand difference. You good person. Thank you.”
“Jade,” I begged. “Please, go home, talk to your husband, and pray that prayer. Go to church with him and tell the church your good news. Let them help you understand.”
As I walked out of that nail salon, I thought of all of the hands Jade had painted. Surely, some were Christian. Had none of them told her that Jesus loved her? She was married to a Baptist. Why hadn’t he started at the beginning and explained that Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead? She went to a Baptist church. Why did no one figure out that she needed them to start at the beginning? I’ve learned to never assume people know about Christ. I always ask, even in church. I visited a church and led a woman to Christ while sitting in the middle of an advanced Bible Study she’d attended for weeks. The Christian women around her had assumed she was already Christian and were trying to teach deep Biblical truths to someone who needed to know that Jesus died for her. They sat stunned as she prayed to invite Jesus into her life. They all apologized for not starting at the beginning. Please tell the story of Jesus everywhere. Start at the beginning.
Cheryle M. Touchton is the Director of Pocket Full of Change Ministries. For more information or to schedule a speaker for an event, go to www.pocketfullofchange.org or call Gail Golden at 904 316-5462.
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