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April-May 2016


Without Borders


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He shuffled slowly into the youth room, eyes fixed on the floor. Pale skin contrasted starkly with black, baggy clothes and straight, shoulder length black hair. A heavy metal keychain looped from waist to back pocket and clanked with each step of his too large, black combat boots. Black leather straps with metal spikes encircled his wrists and neck, and he wore multiple earrings in a variety of styles from skulls to pentagrams.

Although taken aback by his dark appearance, I quickly welcomed him to the meeting. And when his bashful eyes met mine, I was surprised to find no rebellion in them, no anger—just deep sadness and pain.

I didn’t have to introduce him to the group. Most knew him from school and were shocked to see him at church. His nickname was Hairball, and he was a popular figure in the local Goth subculture. His presence left the youth group buzzing. What was a notorious Goth doing at our little country church? Who invited him? Why had he come?

When the time came to speak, I shared a simple, straightforward presentation of the gospel. As I told the story of the God who loved us enough to send His Son to die for our sins, Hairball’s eyes were riveted on my face. At the close of the lesson, I was shocked to see his hand slip quickly into the air when I asked if anyone needed to know more about Jesus.

A few minutes later, with tears streaming down his face, Hairball accepted Christ.

I gave him a Bible inscribed with the date of his conversion and suggested passages to read during the coming week. I encouraged him to share with others what God had done for him, then I floated home on Cloud Nine.

Throughout the week, I wondered if the decision would stick. The following Wednesday, I watched the door anxiously as kids streamed into the room. Finally, moments before starting time, the door opened and Hairball slipped into the room. At first glance, my heart sank—same black clothes, same heavy leather bands, combat boots, and hair.

But then I noticed a difference. He didn’t shuffle in with eyes on the floor but walked over to me with head held high, a broad smile replacing the former sadness. He pulled his coat back to show me an enormous cross necklace. “Look, preacher!” he exclaimed. “I’m witnessing!”

That experience with Hairball taught me three crucial lessons about the gospel. First, God’s grace is sufficient for everyone, not just those who fit our ideals. Second, we never know whose heart the Spirit has been convicting, so we need to present the gospel clearly and faithfully when prompted. Finally, we need to be patient with new converts, allowing the Holy Spirit to change them from the inside out on His timetable. I am convinced their early attempts to share Christ are just as effective as the long-practiced techniques of “veteran” Christians.

Hairball only attended my Tennessee youth group for six months before his parents followed a job to Wisconsin. But during that time, he brought six other students to church…all Goths and all hungry for the hope of the gospel.


About the columnist: Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine. Contact him at




©2016 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists