Where is Your Corner?

A street corner in San Francisco with victorian-style-buildings.

Starting any new venture can be gut-wrenching at best. As a new believer in Jesus, I was introduced to the Jews for Jesus ministry when Moishe Rosen, the founder, came to the Lutheran Bible Institute in Seattle and showed slides of what they were doing...

 ...I saw them take to the streets with gospel tracks, face paint, and a zeal to want to raise the question of who Jesus is. My initial reaction was, “I have a college degree and I am well educated. I am not a radical street preacher who faces the scorn and ire of others.”

In 1974, I was invited to come to San Francisco to see first-hand what the ministry was doing. My week with that group at that time changed my life. While there, I was invited to join a team of four other people to go to downtown San Francisco and distribute gospel tracks. I chose to tag along even though there was an uneasiness. I felt totally unprepared.

My training took place in the car as we drove the thirty minutes from San Rafael to San Francisco. I was told: 1) hold the gospel tracks so that people who are coming towards you can see the title; 2) offer the flyers to all who pass by with a smile and an invitation to have a conversation about Jesus; 3) stay on the corner that we assign you and do not leave! We want to be sure to find you when we're done. That was it!

We got to the North Beach area of San Francisco where there were five corners, one for each of us. I knew that the team leader could keep an eye on me as I could see the others doing the same things. The corner they put me on was in front of a club that was called the Garden of Eden. Inside was the stage which presented live sex acts. To my surprise, as I offered the flyers to passersby, they took them and a few even stopped to have conversations.

Not long into the outreach, one of the barkers (read bouncer) left his post at the doorway and came up and asked me, no he directed me, to leave the corner and go up halfway to the next corner up the block. He said I was interfering with his attempts to get people into their establishment. He seemed like he was twice my size, and I couldn't believe that the next words out of my mouth were, “I was told to stand on this corner. I don't want to lose my job by leaving.”

Needless to say, he wasn't happy. So, he went to the other door and got his co-worker who was bigger and the two of them approached me. I felt like I was a Steve Cohen sandwich in between these two very large individuals. They not very subtly urged me to leave. Not knowing exactly what to do, I went across the street and told the team leader. He corralled the rest of the team and the five of us stood on that one corner. Of course, tensions increased, and I was sent to get the police to have the harassment stop. But the police were not going to interfere or help. Our two hours ended, and we returned to the office and informed the leadership of what happened.

The next night, 14 of us went back to that corner and had an attestation of the gospel and God's love. The owner was not thrilled, but when it was explained to him that we were standing on public property and had a constitutional right to be present without being harassed, he yielded, and we were able to continue our witness at that location. We stood on that corner!

On reflection, I wondered what came from our time there and what difference was made when we stood on that corner and did not yield.

About 20 years later, I was in Pasadena working on my master's degree in missiology. We took some time to go to the Santa Monica pier to hand out gospel tracks. A couple came up to us, saw our shirts and the literature, and told us the following:

Back in the early 1970s we used to work on the stage at the Garden of Eden in San Francisco. I remember one evening seeing some of your literature float throughout the auditorium. I picked it up and read the gospel tract. I didn't fully understand it, so I contacted one of my Christian friends. They patiently help us understand Jesus the Messiah and our urgent need for his gift of salvation. We both confessed Jesus as our Messiah, settled into a local Christian Church for discipleship, and quit the sex industry following our marriage. Now we have a ministry to people who are oppressed in that industry and seek to help others find freedom in Jesus.

We don't often hear how the gospel seeds that are planted, take root, flourish and multiply. But when we do, it is a blessing to be sure and an encouragement to know that the promises of God are still fully applicable: that is faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, and the word of the Lord will not return void.

It is not up to us to make converts; that is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.

It is simply up to us to be faithful to stand on the corner speak truth in love and invite others to find out for themselves the good news of Jesus the Messiah.

Where is your corner? Where are you standing?

We want to encourage you to be faithful in telling the good news.

The words of 1 Corinthians 15: 58 hold out great promise: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (ESV).

Steve Cohen

Steve Cohen is the founder of Apple of His Eye

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