Just north of the town of Fort Independence, CA, along US-395, in Inyo County (where the Sheriff’s Department recently announced its deputies would only be available from Noon to Midnight each day), sits the Fort Independence Travel Plaza. The plaza consists of a gas station, convenience store, a small diner, and an equally-small casino. The stop provided an unexpected yet providential opportunity to put a gospel tract into the hand of a seemingly hopeless lady.
After a weekend of wonderful fellowship and trout fishing, we stopped at the plaza to gas up and to eat lunch. We didn’t patronize the diner. Instead, we enjoyed lunch the way we had for the last several days–sandwiches (and cold pizza) from a cooler, in the bed of the truck.
Jatinder Sehmi–a man of Indian descent, born in Kenya, who matriculated to the United States a number of years ago after living most of his life in England, and the newest member of our annual fishing brotherhood–had walked through the casino area of the plaza, on his way out of the building. When he came outside, he remarked about one particular woman who appeared so very hopeless as she sat in front of a slot machine almost mindlessly pushing the button and waiting for the next moment of disappointment.
Jatinder said, “Maybe you should go inside and give her a gospel tract.”
Of course, I thought that was a great idea. I was really blessed by Jatinder’s encouragement to give the lady a gospel tract.
A Gospel Tract–A Message of Hope
I entered the casino and found two women and a man, all three older than me, in front of slot machines. Another older woman sat behind steel bars. On the wall above her was a sign that simply read “CASHIER.”
I walked through the casino and into the area of the convenience store. I bought a bottle of Coca-Cola. I wanted to be able to show that I had a legitimate reason for being in the establishment, just in case any employees took issue with me distributing tracts.
I paid for my soda, gave the convenient store clerk a “Thank You” gospel tract, and wished him a good day.
I walked back into the casino area with several of my “Who Do You Say I Am” gospel tracts in hand. I approached each person in the same way. “Hello. God Bless you. The message on this card changed my life. I hope it is an encouragement to you.”
I gave one to a lady, and then to the cashier, and then to a gentleman. The countenance of all three people changed when I handed each person a gospel tract. Their expressions went from sullen and lifeless to a smile and a brightness in their eyes.
The last person to receive a tract was the person to whom I am sure Jatinder referred. She was a woman probably ten years my senior, putting her in her early to mid-sixties. She sat on a stool in front of a digital slot machine. Her face was close to the screen either because she was anticipating a win that would not likely come, or because she had difficulty seeing the screen in front of her.
On the slot machine console near her left hand was a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Next to her right hand was an ash tray filled with several cigarette butts, all her preferred brand. It was apparent that she had been sitting there in that attitude for some time.
A frown was prominent on her face. The outside corners of her eyes sagged as a result of her age, her present demeanor, or both.
“Hello.” I said.
Whether as a result of her fixation on the game or because she did not her me, she did not respond.
“Hello.” I said, again.
Slowly she turned her head to the right and faced me. Her expression was the same as it was as she stared at the screen, just a moment ago.
“God Bless you,” I said. “The message on this card changed my life. I hope it will be an encouragement to you.”
She took the gospel tract from my hand. As I told her what the message meant to me, she made eye contact with me and smiled.
“Thank you.” She said.
“You’re welcome. Goodbye.”
I walked out of the casino and toward the truck where my three friends were finishing their lunch.
“Did you give it to her?” Jatinder asked. There was excitement in his voice.
“I gave a tract to everyone in the casino, including the cashier.” I replied.
Before making our way home, which led to our stop at the Fort Independence Travel Plaza, we had spent a couple hours fishing on a section of the Lower Owens River. The only thing any of us caught was our flies in the shoreline brush. As the four of us continued our fellowship at the back of the truck in the parking lot, I thought about the gospel opportunity the Lord had just given me, through the encouragement of a new friend.
Referring to the people inside the casino, I said to my friends, “Maybe these were the fish we were supposed to catch today.” Everyone smiled and agreed.
It turned out to be a really good day of fishing after all.
Here’s a short video of a fish (a scaly one) I caught during my five-day trip to the Mammoth Mountain area.