The following article is the first in a series called “Casting Nets” that will run over the coming weeks. They are written by “John,” a student in one of Ralph Martin’s New Evangelization classes, and document several evangelization opportunities he has performed in his various ministries. He writes, “Each ministry is unique with various situations, circumstances, and needs; but the one constant is broken and injured people. It is my experience that there is no greater potential for miracles to occur than when desperate people meet Jesus. I have been blessed to have seen many people come to Jesus—often in surprising or unexpected ways—and quite often, it is I who is the most surprised.”
The names of the individuals involved have been changed to protect privacy, and the author has been kept anonymous because he would like Jesus to have the credit for this work.
I was looking for a new idea for a presentation at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center I volunteer for ministry. I decided to do a talk on self-esteem because if there is anything these people need more of, it is self-esteem. Society has labeled these people as losers, deadbeats, scum, useless (or worse) and they need to know that it is what God thinks about them that matters, not what society thinks. I had recently watched a video from Fr. Dave Pivonka and in the video, he compared pennies to souls. I decided to integrate the teaching into my talk.
The talk involved giving out a “lucky penny” to all attendees as they entered the place where I gave the talk. (After all, who doesn’t want a lucky penny?) I began with how God’s love is universal and available for all. I then talked about the parable of the lost sheep (Mt 18:12–14) and drew a comparison between their scatted lives and disordered priorities to lost sheep. Next, I broke open the parable of the lost coin (Lk 15:8-10). I compared the woman in the parable to the Lord, who will not leave a corner unswept or a room unchecked in order to find every lost soul. Finally, I asked them to take out their pennies. I pointed out how different they were, yet all were of the same essence. I pointed out that some are old and worn while other are bright and shiny—just like each of us. I then reflected on the fact that some are scraped, nicked, or even bent, indicating a hard life (just like us). Some are foreign (because many of the residents are not from the immediate area), and some are not, but the most important thing is that all have worth. Just as the US Mint purposefully makes every single penny and then sends them out to every corner of the world, so too God with our souls. Just as no penny is unplanned or worthless and all are accounted for—so too are we. Finally, after circulating all around the world, and their job is done, the mint collects every single penny and takes them back in (no matter what shape or condition they are they are in), and just as when they were made, every penny is again accounted for. Most importantly, none are worthless—there is no such thing as a worthless penny. I then related this to our souls and how, upon our death, God carefully gathers every soul back and accounts for it. The talk lasted for forty-five minutes and (I thought) went well. Afterwards, I asked if anyone wanted prayer. A tall, thin, man with an addiction problem approached. He asked if he could tell me a story before I prayed over him. I said “absolutely.”
His said, “I’ve never been religious and haven’t been to church in a long time. I didn’t think that God even knew who I was, but your talk really spoke to me today.” I said, “That’s great! I’m glad to hear it.”
He then looked downcast and began tearing up. He said, “I’m so tired of the drugs. They have ruined my life and every relationship I’ve ever had. I’ve lost cars, money, friends, and family. All I have left in the world is my two boys.” He continued, “My wife called me earlier today and we argued. She said that she wanted to leave and take the kids. I can’t really blame her, but they are all I have left to live for.”
He continued, “After we talked for an hour, she said that for some reason, she wouldn’t leave me just now and was going to give me one more chance. I thanked her for that and promised that it would be different. I know now for sure that it will be different, because God gave me a sign during your talk.”
I said, “That is awesome brother!” I encouraged him and added, “Now remember, you need to hold God to His promise. Just tell Him, ‘Lord, I can’t do this without You, and You gave me a sign—whatever that sign was—so I’m counting on You to help me pull through this.” I then reminded him that the best place to do this was in church.
He said, “Yeah, I’m going to do that. Thanks.” Then he looked at me and asked, “Do you know what my wife’s name is?” Well, I’d never met this man before, so quizzically, I said, “No, I have no idea.”
“Penny,” he replied.
NOTE: As a follow-up, my wife and I met Penny by chance eight months later. She was in rehab herself and said that her husband had been clean and sober since I had last seen him, and that he still carried the penny in his wallet. Praise God!