At The Food Lion...

At The Food Lion...

Mike Bako recounts an unexpected encounter at a local grocery store that took him on a journey of faith, compassion, and spiritual connection. After a refreshing swim and a sudden downpour, Mike found himself offering his umbrella to assist shoppers through the rain. What started as a simple act of kindness evolved into a profound opportunity to share the gospel. He introduced himself to Cathy, a local nurse, and engaged in a heartfelt conversation about faith, salvation, and God's love. As they navigated deep spiritual discussions, Cathy's misconceptions gradually gave way to a clearer understanding of the gospel message. Mike's patient explanations, analogies, and personal stories illuminated the truth of salvation through Christ's sacrifice. Cathy's initial uncertainty transformed into a confident declaration of faith, and her generous donation symbolized her newfound understanding of grace. The post highlights how unexpected moments can become divine appointments for sharing hope and changing lives.


Mike Barko

8/4/202012 min read

After returning from Ocean City on Friday, I have been gearing up to send another report. However, after what just happened yesterday afternoon at a local Food Lion, I feel prompted to share that story first. Enjoy.

I had just finished swimming at the local fitness center and was eating a snack in my car. My plan was to go to a local Food Lion and send some funds electronically to a friend in Uganda. However, it really began to pour and I was considering just going home.

Figuring the rain might let up by the time I arrived at the store, I headed out, praying all the way and singing for God's perfect will to be done. I had no idea what He had 'in store'. (Actually it was 'outside the store'. LOL)

When I pulled into the parking space the rain was still descending torrentially. In fact, I had driven through several places on the road where streams of water were flowing, probably 4 to 6 inches deep. I figured I would hang out in my car and wait a bit.

To make my time productive, I used my phone to first register for our worship gathering this Thursday in the church building. My second task was going to Amazon to order something. However, as I began to do that, I noticed a significant decrease in the intensity of the rain. Time to move.

Moving quickly from the car to the trunk, I grabbed and opened my umbrella. now. I looked up and saw two younger Hispanics inside the store, looking out. Two older ladies were outside underneath the overhang with their grocery carts filled. Everyone was waiting for a further abatement in the rain.

I originally had this thought at the gym, but now it came back to me again. "Why don't you offer to walk people to their cars using your umbrella?" The thought sounded really good to my heart, but in today's society, would anybody trust me?

Well, I decided to give it a shot, since it is what my heart really wanted to do. I also had a strong peace and joy as I pondered the idea. I did need to settle one issue in my heart before I proceeded.

My plan was to walk anyone to their car who wanted to, with no other expectations. Yes, I did want to share the gospel with them, but I did not want to have that as an expectation. The goal was to love them unconditionally just with the free service and receive the joy and love of that act alone. Then, as an extra blessing and I would make that clear, I would offer them a bracelet. I settled that in my heart. Here goes...

The two young Hispanic men could handle the rain better than the ladies. Plus, it was more 'chivalrous' to help the ladies. (LOL) I approached the one lady and offered. Someone was coming to pick her up so she declined, but was very open and thankful. The second lady was talking on the phone. She heard the offer and got very excited about it.

She was talking on the phone to her husband. I lifted both my hands in the air and said, "Your choice. No pressure, all pleasure. Whatever you want and whatever your husband says." I turned to the other lady and smiled and muttered something like, 'I wonder what he is going to say!'.

She got off the phone and started rolling up her jeans. She had flip flops on. She commented, "You're going to get all wet!" I had shoes on, and there was a stream of water probably 3-4 inches that we had to wade through. I had actually navigated around it on the way in, but that was a way bit down, and that way was now blocked by a car.

I felt good about getting my feet wet rescuing the damsel in distress. She grabbed her cart and I held the umbrella out over her and the cart. She commented, "I really just did not want the magazines to get wet." They were in the middle of the cart, safe under the center of the umbrella.

Then she commented again, food for my weary soul, "You're so nice sir! You are acting so chivalrous to me. Thank you so much! This is wonderful! Wait till I tell my husband all about this!"

Her car was actually parked just two spots away from mine. She opened the trunk and I proceeded to hand her the groceries, probably 6 or 7 bags. She continued to express her thanks and gratitude. After the groceries were unloaded, I told her I would take her cart back to the store.

She made a comment about having cleaned the cart before me, and then I made a comment that if she had it (covid), then I probably already got it. (She did not have a mask on, but I did since I was going in the store, and she was exiting it. This really wasn't an issue for either of us, just friendly conversation) She then told me she was a local nurse at a doctor's office. Her name was Cathy.

I then made the offer, "Cathy, I would love to give you this bracelet. If you don't want it, it is okay. Either way is okay. Your choice."

Cathy accepted the bracelet and then I asked if I could tell her the colors. She agreed to that and then I decided to try something...

"Have you ever seen a guy who holds a cross out on route 33?"

You should have seen her face. It lit up like a Christmas tree! "Oh! That's you! My husband and I love seeing you! We honk and wave at you all the time!" All of this was so much life and encouragement to my hungry soul. Sharing the message would be much easier now.

She actually got so excited that she started opening her pocketbook...

"CAN I GIVE YOU A DONATION?" (Cathy was super excited to bless me with a donation, but I told her that all I really wanted was for her to listen to what the colors meant.)

Cathy was 80% sure of Heaven because she 'didn't lie, cheat, or steal.' Cathy was very expressive and joyful as she shared this with a big smile. I laughed with my own smile (although it was covered with a mask), "Are you SURE about that?"

We went to the ten commandments and she admitted that she had lied, making her and me a liar. Cathy then told me she had never copied an answer on a test as a child, or copied a CD without permission, or left work a few minutes early. I wanted her to see that she indeed had 'cheated and stolen', but she was not seeing it. She was very genuine, so we moved on to the next one.

"I have lusted, how about you." Cathy said, "Sure, who hasn't!" I explained what Christ said, "You have heard it said, Do not commit adultery, but I say unto you, that if you look with lust, you have already committed adultery in your heart." She wanted to know where that was in the bible, since she had never heard that.

We went on to hatred. She told me that she had gotten angry, but that her mom had told her never to hate, so she had not done that. I explained that I knew it was wrong to, but I had to be honest and admit that I had indeed hated.

Cathy did admit to having cussed quite a bit. She wanted to know where in the bible that was called a sin. I told her that in the book of James it said that fresh water and bad water should not both be coming out of our heart. She saw that what made the cussing wrong was the condition of her heart.

The last one we looked at was using God's name in vain...OMG. She told me, "No, I say Oh my gosh!"

I was hoping for a little deeper revelation of sin, but decided to just move forward with what she had admitted to...liar, adulterer, cussing from the heart. I explained that Christ had said, "No one is good, but God alone."

I then explained that I really loved her and I wanted her to go to Heaven. If she stuck her chest out (I stuck my chest out) and said to God, "Let me into Heaven because I'm good!" (I haven't lied, cheated or stolen)...then God would be forced to say 'no', for if she wanted to go to Heaven by her 'good' she would have to be just as good as God. Good luck.

I explained that God wanted to save her and that He would indeed save her if she stopped trusting in her good and placed her trust in God. I then said, "Let me show you how to do that."

She then let me know that she was raised Catholic and had seen nuns slap kids with paddles just because they were left handed. She then told me she doesn't agree with the priest at the local church and that I made more sense than he did and that I should be the preacher instead of him. (This definitely increases your confidence as you're sharing)

We went into God's courtroom and I asked if she would be innocent or guilty with her record...liar, adulterer, cussing from the heart. Cathy smiled and said, "Guilty."

I explained that there was an electric chair with her name on it. If God gave her justice, she would be in the chair and He would punish her in Hell. I assured her that I was no better and that I deserved the same thing.

"What is going to keep you from the chair Cathy? What is going to justify you with God?"

"I need to change."

Changing is good, but that doesn't justify us with God. Let me explain. Cathy had never gotten a speeding ticket or parking ticket so I used myself as an example.

Speeding ticket illustration...

"Cathy, if got a $160 ticket and promised the judge that I would 'change, a.k.a not speed again', but I didn't pay the fine, would he let me go?" Cathy got the point. Changing doesn't justify us with any judge.

What would justify Cathy with God?

Time for the 'Who ya trusting illustration'...

"Cathy, who's the person mentioned in your answer...'I'M good, I don't lie cheat and steal and I"LL change.'

Cathy saw that it was herself.

"So, who ya trusting?" Cathy said, 'Myself.'

"Are YOU the Savior?" Actually, at first she didn't know how to answer this but then realized she wasn't.

"Cathy, God wants to save you but you need to stop trusting yourself as savior. Only trust Him."

"What did He do for you so He could save you?" Cathy knew that He had died on the cross for her. Did she know the person of Christ? Did she know that He is God? We were about to find out.

She told me that it was Jesus who had died for her. Was He God? Cathy said 'no.' I told Cathy that for her to be saved, she needed to understand that Jesus is God. As a bridge, I asked, "Have you heard of the Trinity?"

She had of course and said, "Father, Son, Holy Spirit." I told her that I would clarify that, and then the understanding would come...

"God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit." I had her repeat that a few times and then I asked...

"So, the Father is...(God), the Son is...(God), the Spirit is (God)"

"So, who died for you Cathy?" She exclaimed, "GOD!" I then shared John 1:1 and John 1:14 for emphasis. She understood.

"Who sat in your chair!...(God!) Who was executed for you!...Who took your judgment!...(God!)"

The light came on for Cathy, her expression changed, and she smiled..."I get it now."

Then she said, "As Catholics, why do we go to confession?"

I explained, "Confess your sins to God. That is good. Then trust in what God did for you at the cross to pay for those sins. Don't trust in the 'prayers that you pray' after confession to atone for those sins. Trust in His atonement, not yours."

Cathy understood, and then made another comment about how I made more sense to her than what she had already been taught. I told her that I was just preaching to her the simple gospel. She told me, "They don't preach the gospel at my church!"

The priest had told her she needed to come to the building to experience God. She said she could go anywhere to experience God. She also said that God was in everyone's hearts. I had to clarify that point: He would come into those hearts who trusted in Him.

I explained that the red color on the bracelet represented the blood of Jesus. His blood had already paid for her sin on the cross. He had paid her 'spiritual death' fine. The white stood for the receipt. After God the Son had completely paid our fine, God the Father raised Him from the grave...PAID-IN-FULL.

If someone paid my $160 speeding ticket and gave me a receipt, that receipt would provide me with strong confidence that I was free to go.

For emphasis, I then used the dessert illustration...

Cathy's favorite dessert was chocolate ice cream. "If I bought you that at this Food Lion, receipt said paid-in-full, would you try to pay for it again?"...(No) And if you did, what would you be saying about my payment?...(Did not appreciate) How would that make me feel?...(Not good)

Cathy got the point. She needed to trust in God alone. If she did, she said she would be 100% sure of going to Heaven. She acknowledged that she had been trusting in herself, but then she spoke up...

"I have always trusted in God. I pray and talk to Him all the time."

More clarity needed.

Use the temporal faith vs. saving faith illustration...

"Cathy, you have trusted in God. You have trusted him for things like protection, provision. and answering your prayers. All of these things are TEMPORAL. They are things of this life. God wants you to express SAVING faith in Him. That is the next life. He wants you to trust in what He did for you at the cross to save you eternally in the next life."

Cathy got the point.

"So, when would you like to trust in Him as your Savior?"...(Starting now)

So we prayed. After we prayed, she still didn't seem too solid in what she believed. She wasn't "a confident 100% now".

What to do now?

Remember, the prayer doesn't save people. The prayer is just an expression of their faith. Sometimes we pray prematurely.

"With the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

, the person believes unto HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, and then they express that faith unto salvation. We do that in a prayer. Sometimes we pray before they really "believe on His righteousness."

What was the problem here? Let them talk and it usually comes to the surface.

She commented, "Well, I believe that now." In other words, I believe it now, but what about tomorrow?

So I said, "How sure are you that He died on the cross?"...(Oh, 100%) "He paid your 'spiritual death' fine."

"And how sure are you that He rose?"...(100%) "What does that receipt say?"...(Paid-in-full)

"So, if you keep trusting Him, then how sure would you be?"...(100%)

She smiled some and the light came on a little more. The she said...

"What about baptism? Our church teaches that a person is saved when they are baptized."

I replied emphatically, "Cathy, it comes back to works. We are incessantly coming up with all sorts of things that we are trying to do to be saved. We offer God this work and that work. Then we think, "I will offer Him this really special religious work...baptism."

She interjected, "It's back to OUR ACTIONS."

"Cathy, yes, yes, yes. We trust only in the work of Christ. Then, having trusted only in Him, we submit to baptism as a picture of what He did for us." We trust in the reality of Christ, not the representation of baptism.

I sensed that it was making more sense to her. I had already shared John 6:47 and she wasn't really solid on it. So, I asked again...

"So, when do you have eternal life?"

"Right now."

"How sure?"



"I STARTED TRUSTING HIM TODAY." (There was a new confidence here, spoken with authority. Her face also expressed a deep peace and calm assurance.)

Let's pray...

So I prayed for Cathy, and then I asked her to pray. I was blessed by her prayer...



(You can see on my shirt a skeleton dancing. I was wearing a shirt of a dear friend who had recently passed away, Don Kuhns. The scripture on my shirt was, "THESE BONES ARE GONNA LIVE AGAIN" Ezekiel 37.)

She immediately went to her pocketbook again...

"Can I give you that donation?"

"Absolutely! I will take whatever you want to give!"

Cathy gave me a $20 bill. I then explained the significance of that amount...

"Cathy, seven years ago I went on a mission trip to Uganda. I met two bellboys at the hotel and I shared the gospel with them. They both got saved. I have stayed in touch with both of them. One of them has a grandmother who is really sick, and he needs some money to travel to see her. I came to Food Lion today to send him some money. Guess how much I was going to send him?"


"Yes, thanks for blessing this young man in Uganda."

Before leaving I said, "Can I come over for dinner sometime? I wouldn't want to invite myself. I really like steak." LOL

Cathy smiled, "I think I can make that work. I will check with my husband and get back to you."

I gave her some follow up materials and my card. When I went into the store to send the money to Uganda, I decided to add my $20 to hers and send my friend Erius $40.

I just notified Erius on Messenger of the money I just sent to him. Listen to his response:

"Brother am so so happy that you are the only person who have help me. I wish you come back to Uganda. I take you to my family. Though it is hard to reach place but I believe with God nothing is impossible."

I was blessed to lead Erius to Christ seven years ago in Uganda. Here is a two minute video right after he received with his friend Jonathan.