Living With Meaning: The Five-Cent Life Changer

April 30, 2011

by Maria Fontaine

I was thinking about tracts the other day. To me, tracts are one of the most valuable things I can have with me when I go out. Without tracts in my purse or pocket, I feel that something vital is missing and as if I’m hindered in one of the most important reasons for my existence, which is the mission. Of course, I need to take care of whatever business or appointment I’m going out for, but at the same time, I know that taking advantage of every opportunity to witness should be on my mind.

You may be asking, “But are tracts the most effective way to share Jesus with those who don’t know Him? Isn’t it better to focus on building relationships to share the Gospel?”

That’s a good question. I do believe a more effective way to share the Gospel is to sit down with someone and talk at length with them. When possible, it’s even better to have an ongoing relationship with a person and have interesting, stimulating conversations from time to time about spiritual things, bringing them along at their own speed.

However, if we were to confine our witnessing to those scenarios, it would tremendously limit our ability to witness to the unsaved. “Relationship evangelism” is ideal—to share the good news of salvation in person with someone and take whatever time and effort is necessary to help that person to come to a personal relationship with Jesus. But if we restrict our witnessing to those whom we can build such relationships with, we may not be witnessing very much.

Giving someone a Gospel tract to read is an important method of sharing the Gospel. When you don’t have time to stop and share the Lord’s message in depth with someone, I believe a very effective way to share His love and truth is through a tract.

When we only have a brief encounter with someone, without time to talk, tracts can leave them with God’s words. Tracts can provide people with a way to reach us through our contact info on the tract. Tracts are inexpensive, making it possible to give them more freely with no strings attached. Giving a tract to someone shows that person that we are interested in them. It shows them that we care, and that God cares about them.

Tracts can go anywhere, speak in any language, and reach anyone. We can’t always do the talking ourselves, so a tract can do the talking for us. People who might not want to be witnessed to face-to-face may come to know Jesus through a tract. We can even use tracts to begin or close a conversation, or, as I mentioned, when a conversation isn’t possible.

I’ve heard many testimonies through the years of the amazing effect that a tract had on a person’s life. In addition, we’ve most likely all had someone say to us personally, “I really needed that,” or, “This helped me so much.” I’ve had people come back to me and ask for more tracts for their friends, and you probably have as well.

In working on this post, I read several tract testimonies that have been published over the years, and here are just a handful of reactions that people have had to our tracts:

This message has changed my perception of Jesus and the love He has for me.[1]

Oh, I recognize this tract. I received one last year. Every time I go through something difficult or I am sad for some reason, I read this tract and it cheers me up! This tract has helped me through many things.[2]

I read the tract yesterday and it was just what I needed to hear![3]

I gave [the tract] to my boyfriend, and it helped him quit drugs![4]

This is the best message I’ve ever heard![5]

When I read reactions or stories about the effect that tracts have on those who receive them, I feel motivated to continue to do my part, whenever possible, to give God’s message to whoever the Lord puts in my path.

This next testimony, published some years ago, depicts how God often works through a tract in ways that might otherwise be impossible. It is also an example of God’s perfect timing that goes far beyond our limited ability to understand why something that seems of little importance may be urgent in God’s eyes.

Several months ago, the house across the street from our own was sold. I met the new homeowner while on a walk with Bryan, our toddler. The man was mowing his lawn, which caught Bryan’s interest immediately. The man struck up a conversation with us, and I soon started witnessing to him. At first he was quite receptive, but when my witness went to a deeper level, he began to get fidgety and looked obviously uncomfortable at what I was saying. So we ended our conversation, but the Lord encouraged me to not give up on giving him His message of love.

The next day I decided to bring this man a tract, but to my disappointment he wasn’t home. I placed the tract in his mailbox and prayed that he would read it.

A few days later, this man called me over and asked if I had put the tract in his mailbox. After replying that I had, he told me that the tract had changed his life, because after praying the salvation prayer on the back, he had decided to change his life. He said that he was about to go through a divorce from his wife, but after reading the tract the Lord convicted him not to do so. He had since made up with his wife and they are happy together once again.

He expressed how thankful he was that I had taken the time to talk with him, as well as to give him the tract. I was inspired to see how far that short witness and tract had gone, and how much of a difference it had made in this man’s life![6]

Here’s another story about how a tract made a difference:

While in town with my five-year-old daughter, a man called after us. We recognized him as the man from a Dunkin' Donuts stall. For the past four years, we have faithfully given him tracts. However, today, he eagerly ran down the street after us, leaving his stall unattended.

He said, “You know, I’m not a religious man and normally when you gave me a tract, well, to be honest, I would just throw it in the bin. But on Saturday, your little daughter gave me a tract and, for the first time, my whole family read it. My wife’s mother had died, we’d just attended the funeral, and it was a difficult time for us all. The tract you gave us helped us through this difficult time, and I just wanted to thank you and your daughter.”[7]

There are many people whom we see on the street, or in a restaurant, or in a waiting room, who look composed and confident, but inside everyone needs love and answers and encouragement. Someone may not appear to be a likely candidate for opening their heart to the Lord, but who knows what they may become, or what questions or problems they may find answers to, when the Lord’s light shines on them?

Lord, help us to heed the nudge of Your Spirit when You direct us to give someone a witness. Help us to have the faith and courage to not be discouraged or intimidated by someone's outward appearance, “togetherness,” or cool indifference.

When we have Jesus, the answer to their needs and questions, the one who can make all the difference, we hold the key to greater peace in our hands. As the days get darker and the world sinks into more spiritual emptiness, we can shine brighter for the Lord by being an instant witness, by being always aware of those around us whom the Lord may want us to give His love to.

Most of us have probably seen a waitress having a rough day from time to time. Theirs is a tough job, having to interact with all types of people, many of whom are rude and demanding. Just imagine what could happen if we take it upon ourselves to be the nicest customers that waitress has ever served. Not just nice because we’re polite, but what if we did something for her that could lead to a new lease on life? Of course, you know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about giving her the one who can make life a lot more pleasant all around—Jesus.

This is just what happened in the life of one waitress.

A tired young girl came to clear our table as we were finishing. She smiled and asked if we’d enjoyed the meal. You could tell she was a hard worker and was trying to be kind. After she left, the Lord told me to give her a tract, along with a $5 tip. My funds are limited, but I know it always pays to obey. So I went looking for her. I gave her the money and wrapped it around the tract. I told her, “Jesus loves you. Thanks for doing a good job.”

About 10 minutes later, she came up to me at the table, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “I read your paper. I think you just changed my life. Thank you so much!”[8]

Some TFI members in Uganda, who stopped at a restaurant where they had eaten the previous day, wrote:

One of the waiters came up to us and said, “Thank you for the tip you left for me, but more than anything, thank you for the tract. I stayed up all night reading it over and over again, and I am a new man now because of it!”[9]

Not everyone you give a tract to will react so enthusiastically, but you never know when someone will really need that message. And when something like that happens, doesn’t it make your day?

Something that stands out to me is how far a tract can travel. At times we’re blessed to hear feedback and see the power of the message at work in people’s lives, but many times we have no idea how far the ripple effect of one little tract might go. Here are a few excerpts of testimonies from you that illustrate this point:

A lady came up to me and said she received the “Deal of a Lifetime” tract. She had given it to her son who is in prison, and through the tract he got saved and passed it around to his fellow prisoners, and now they want tracts for themselves.[10]

We received the following inspiring letter: Dear Friends, I am writing to communicate my sense of gratitude to you. On December 24, I was at the bus station in Waco. I found your tract entitled “Christmas Gifts for You!” I was feeling very disappointed that I would be alone at Christmas. My family and friends deserted me when I became homeless. I do have housing now, but I still have troubles. I don’t know how your tract got to that bench in Waco, but thank you for the message and the sense of comfort and love it sent. God bless you![11]

18-year-old Marcus found a crumpled piece of paper on the street. It turned out to be one of our tracts, which had somehow made its way to the town where Marcus lives, 800 km away, near the Angolan border. He wrote to the address on the tract, and asked to enroll in the free correspondence Bible study course that we had advertised.

Our correspondence began, and before long Marcus was asking for Family posters and tracts—“especially ones about the Endtime”—to pass out to his friends and acquaintances. “There are lots of youths in my city, and I want to do something for them,” he wrote.

Since then, Marcus has given out about 1,000 posters and over 1,200 tracts single-handedly. He has witnessed to his classmates and teachers, and as a result 15 others from his school are also taking our Bible study course.

Yesterday we were able to meet Marcus and two of our other correspondence-course students for the first time. It was wonderful for all of us! We gave them another big box of posters and tracts to distribute.

How many people do you suppose will be in heaven as a result of what Marcus and his friends are doing?—All because one little tract made it into the right hands![12]

There’s no telling what one tract can do or how far it will go. The Lord’s words are alive and can make a difference in a person’s life, no matter who they are or what their lifestyle or career.

Do any of you have testimonies of the power of a tract that you’d like to share? Send them in; I’d love to read them!

[1] Sent in by John, South Africa; originally published April 2007.

[2] Sent in by Catrina and Jonas, Sweden; originally published April 2007.

[3] Sent in by Spring Valentine, South Africa; originally published June 2003.

[4] Sent in by Jonathon, USA; originally published March 2004.

[5] Sent in by Julia, USA; originally published March 2002.

[6] Sent in by Joy, South Africa; originally published February 2007.

[7] Sent in by Simon Fisher, England; originally published October 2005.

[8] Sent in by Joy, USA; originally published July 2002.

[9] Sent in by Caleb and Kathleen, Uganda; originally published May 2004.

[10] Sent in by Lisa, South Africa; originally published May 2003.

[11] Sent in by Christina S., USA; originally published December 1998.

[12] Sent in by Philip and Meekness, Namibia; originally published in 12 Foundation Stones, Class 10b: Getting Results.

Photo: Owen. Photography by João Felipe Khury.