Door-to-door soul saving takes courage

asnow@newsobserver.comJune 21, 2014 

Door-to-door sales people aren’t as plentiful as they once were.

So I was a bit surprised when I answered my doorbell on a recent Saturday to find two women on the doorstep. The visitors identified themselves as Arlene Forte of Durham and Evelyn Green from Pennsylvania.

Ms. Green gets on a plane on Fridays after work, flies to Raleigh-Durham and hits the streets of Raleigh on Saturday mornings. She returns home early Monday mornings to be back at work at the bank.

I wanted to ask her why she was gleaning for sinners in Raleigh instead of closer to home. I’m sure she would have had a good answer.

I should think it would be more difficult to sell religion to strangers, most of whom already have one, than it would be to peddle meat from a suitcase door to door.

My cellphone rang. I answered, thinking the call might be from my wife, who was out running errands.

It was my niece who lives in the neighborhood.

“Ann, may I call you back? I have some people here trying to make me a better person,” I explained.

“You certainly can,” she replied enthusiastically. “And tell whoever is trying to make you a better person that I wish them luck.”

Ms. Green opened her Bible and asked if she could read to me from Daniel 2:44.

“Are you trying to convert me to another form of theology?” I asked. “I’ve been a Baptist, a Presbyterian and am now a Methodist. I don’t think I’m in the market for another faith, especially since I’m not such a great example of either.”

I didn’t tell them I had good reasons for each change, none of which had anything to do with the quality of the preaching.

Some years ago, a friend of ours from Pennsylvania, while visiting her mother at Duke Hospital, attended nearby Duke Chapel one Sunday.

When she returned, her mother asked, “What was the sermon about?” to which her daughter replied, “He didn’t say.”

Another friend once told me he couldn’t concentrate on his preacher’s sermon content because the minister so frequently misused the verbs “lie” and “lay.”

Each time the grammatical mishap occurred, his teen-age son, knowing his dad’s aversion to the language miscue, would punch him in the ribs and giggle.

I’ll admit that as Ms. Green read from Daniel, my mind wandered to the foothills and my late, beloved sister.

Zetta never turned away roving evangelists, much to the chagrin of some neighbors who had no time for them.

She made it a routine practice to invite them in and, before they left, she would probably have served them a piece of apple pie and a cup of coffee and patiently listened to their message.

She then would bring forth her own well-worn Bible, read to them her favorite passages and speak for the Baptist way of life.

I think word of her hospitality traveled the grapevine. It was as if some angel had marked her doorstep, because she seemed to have more callers pushing their religious beliefs than anyone else in the neighborhood.

It takes nerve, aside from dedication and faith, to knock on the doors of strangers and, in effect, say, “I want to save your soul because you may be following a second-class form of salvation.” Too many of us think that our church is THE church.

I’m reminded of the visiting Englishman who instructed a New York taxi driver to take him to Christ’s Church for the Sunday service.

When the driver pulled up in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the exasperated Anglican snapped, “This isn’t Christ’s Church!”

“Oh, yes it is!” retorted the Irish cabbie. “B’gorra if he’s in town, he’s there !”

My visitors thanked me for my audience. I wished them well as they trudged on up the street.

I started to call after them and tell them that they might face a tough sell a few doors up at the residence of the pastor of a prominent Raleigh Baptist Church.

But I didn’t, knowing they’d be graciously received, no matter the circumstances.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or

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