I have always regretted the impact that gambling and the lottery have had on poor communities. It seems, in my experience, that suffering, disappointment and hopelessness breed a susceptibility to “get rich quick” dreams and schemes, and I want to slash the tires on the big casino buses that park in front of the Food For Less on Jefferson at the beginning of every month. But this week I confess that I am glad that someone out there chose to play the lottery in my neighborhood. Our good friend, David, who is homeless was rummaging through the trash and found a lottery ticket worth $1,000. He saw it as a sign from God that he was being given a second chance, and he told Doug that he was going to get back in touch with the Christian ministers he used to work with at a local shelter.
I remember sitting in an evangelism class at Fuller when the professor asked us all to share examples of evangelism done badly. Hands shot up as we mocked the uninformed, unenlightened, absurd strategies and schemes we have all witnessed. We were laughing until one student threw out: “those John 3:16 signs in the end zones at football games” and another student across the room raised his hand: “that’s how I was saved.”
Doug and I have invited David to our worship services for close to three years. He has never once set foot inside any of our meeting spaces. We have ministered to him regularly on the streets: we share our faith with him; we offer him food, money and encouragement; we sit and talk with him and listen to how he is doing. But the seed grows in secret and a landfill-bound lottery ticket can be the means God chooses to speak and reveal and redeem. It is humbling, really.