Bobby Welch, at a yard sale, finds a receptive heart

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)--Ruth sat serenely in her front yard surrounded by the castoffs of domestic life that were part of her yard sale: a few pairs of shoes, a couple of plastic-covered wingback chairs, an end table, a plant stand and a tattered Scrabble game. Hanging from a tree limb were some dresses that fit her better a few years ago.

“Let’s go back to that yard sale,” the white-haired man said. The SUV went around the block and stopped at Ruth’s house on Lexington Street in Greensboro, N.C.

The Saturday morning sun glinted off his hair as the man smiled broadly and said to Ruth, “Hello, my name is Bobby Welch. I’m a Baptist preacher and we’re out in the neighborhoods meeting people today.”

Ruth reached to shake hands and introduced herself as she invited Welch to sit down.

Welch, along with other Southern Baptists from across the United States, canvassed homes in the Greensboro area June 10, telling residents about Jesus Christ as part of the Crossover Triad evangelism outreach in the tri-city Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point area.

Welch tactfully began asking Ruth questions about what she thought would make churches more effective in her neighborhood. All of Ruth’s answers related to personal needs, her biggest one seeming to be loneliness. She said that church members hardly left their brick-walled sanctuaries to let people in the surrounding neighborhoods know that they care.

“They need to get out in the community. They need to come see us,” she said as her wrinkled hand stroked her wiry hair turning from black to gray.

Welch nodded knowingly as he continued his query, eventually discovering that Ruth was a U.S. Air Force retiree and also member of a local Methodist church.

Ruth and Welch continued exchanging ideas about life, church and Christianity.

When Welch asked Ruth what she thought it took to be a genuine Christian, she opined that one “should live according to the tenets of the Bible and try to do good to others.”

“In your personal opinion, Ruth, what do you think it takes to get to heaven?” Welch asked.

Ruth paused, looked at the ground and said, “To tell you the truth, I don’t know.”

“Well, for me, Ruth, it comes down to one word: F-A-I-T-H,” Welch said as he tapped all five fingertips, assigning each one a letter as he spelled out the word faith.

As coauthor of the FAITH evangelism strategy, Welch easily related to Ruth what each letter stood for in the acronym. She listened, nodding.

Skillfully and without pressure, Welch asked Ruth if he could lead her in a prayer of repentance and of expressing her commitment to Jesus Christ. She complied joyfully, praying aloud.

“Ruth, you impress me as a woman who has been shot at and missed, and shot at and hit. So, I don’t think you’d take such a prayer lightly. Did you mean it?” Welch asked.

Revealing what few teeth she had left, Ruth smiled and said, “I meant every word with all my heart.”

After exchanging a few more pleasantries, Welch stood and asked, “What do you want for that Scrabble game?”

“Fifty cents,” Ruth said.

Welch had already fished a $20 bill from his wallet and gave it to Ruth.

“Here, I want you to have this,” Welch said.

“I can’t take that,” Ruth objected.

“Why not?” Welch asked.

Ruth mumbled unintelligibly as Welch responded, “Well, if you just can’t live with that much, then you can give the rest to somebody else.”

Ruth smiled and said thanks.

Welch left.

Ruth sat back down in her chair -– a changed woman.

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