As a ‘younger man’ I was under conviction. No, I hadn’t done anything really bad or cringeworthy, yet I just had that unsettled feeling in my gut. You see, I had fully embraced the fact of who Jesus is and all that He had done for me and for the “whosoever will come” – those still needing to make a decision to follow Christ. I knew the unrest I was wrestling with was God leading me to a different audience. He was putting a mission field before me. I told a friend about my internal struggle of how Jesus was a man who hung out with the least likely: the immoral, the down and out, the forgotten and the forgettable, the sinners. I shared how I felt the Holy Spirit was drawing me to that audience. My very astute friend looked at me and said, “Seriously, look at you, where will you go to meet these folks?” I quickly replied, “I guess I am going to start going to the bars and clubs”. I shocked even myself as those words came out of my mouth! You see, I was brought up to believe that movie theatres, clubs and bars were clearly the devil’s playground and a Christian must never darken the door to those kind of places.
Well, since I had boldly declared my intention, I figured I needed to ‘armour up’. Perhaps to serve as a deterrent, parents and church leaders would frequently remind us as young people that should Jesus return and we were in one of those ‘shady’ places, we wouldn’t make the rapture! Now, a little older, wiser and educated, I wanted to ensure that Jesus would recognize me in such a place should He return and find me ministering to those in my mission field. I made my way to the Lutheran-run bookstore in my town in search of something that could set me apart. The clerk pointed me in the direction of the jewelry section of the store where I regarded the case filled with dainty silver and gold crosses commonly used as gifts for baptisms and dedications. These were nice, but I needed to be sure people I encountered (and Jesus) would make no mistake about my desire and mission. I asked the sales clerk if they had any other options, and the clerk pulled open a drawer of various other types of knickknacks. After a few moments of rummaging through the drawer on my quest to find something more iconic, I laid my hands on a large cross and chain. Very tarnished, quite large, and clearly forsaken, I purchased this emblem of my Saviour for $25.
Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above,
To bear it to dark Calvary.
As I ventured into a bar that first night to pray, that newly polished, shiny cross was a clear identifier to those in the establishment that there was something unique about this new guy on the scene. A little while later, one of the ‘regulars’ from the bar saw me on the street. “Hey man, where’s the cross?” Dumbfounded, I was lost for words. The man quickly responded to his own question. “Oh, it’s just part of a costume?!” In that moment I was profoundly reminded that the cross is more than something on a wall, or an item to discard in a drawer, and it was definitely NOT part of a costume!
The cross is the central symbol of the Christian faith. It was on the cross where our dear Saviour died. It was upon the cross where my Jesus took upon Himself my sin, and the sins of the entire human race. And still today, that same cross that is clearly visible to all as it hangs around my neck, serves as a reminder of the hope that is available to every man, woman, boy and girl … because of Christ. It is this message that I humbly and passionate proclaim to whosoever will listen. Why? Because the “whosoevers” need someone to tell them the good news of Jesus. For many, they still have not heard, or were not ready to hear. Some people carry a business card. For me, I have chosen to wear a cross of silver around my neck to remind people what business I am in. It’s His business that I have been called to.
In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see;
For ‘twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.
Bob Gal is the man behind that silver, well-worn cross. If you know Bob, you would know that he is a man who unabashedly, passionately proclaims the message of hope that is found in Jesus Christ. Maybe you have seen him in the storefront chapel at the West Edmonton Mall, where he and his wife have prayed for hundreds of people. Bob can be found at a fair, market or public gathering where he will openly engage people and offer to pray for their needs, sharing the hope and healing power of Jesus to transform lives. This time of global pandemic has not slowed Bob down at all – in fact, just the opposite! Bob has moved his ministry onto the online Zoom platform where he is spending several hours each day leading individuals into a deeper relationship with Jesus. Counselling is taking place, marriages are being strengthen, hope is being restored. God is at work even in this time of physical distancing.
Whether in the mall, on the streets, running a 24-7 prayer phone line, or now on the road in his portable trailer this summer, you will find a man dressed in black sharing faith and hope found in Christ. You will recognize him right away when you see that same $25 silver cross around his neck. At a season in life when you would think Bob would be retiring and slowing down, he is more “ramped up” about sharing the message of Jesus to a world that desperately needs to be transformed by the power of Jesus. There’s a message of forgiveness and eternal life found in the cross, and Bob is not going to stop sharing it … or wearing it!
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.