When evangelism is hard - even for missionaries
A few years ago, when I was serving with OM Ships, I and a team of four others were assigned to visit every house in a village in Sri Lanka and share with them about what Jesus did at the cross for us.
Usually, we would just walk up to a house and ask whether we were welcomed in, because we would like to talk to them about Jesus. As a team, we decided who would talk before we went to the house to simplify things.
We met some Catholics and some that didn’t want to hear. We were at houses where nobody was home, and in many places, we were welcomed in. If people had them, they brought chairs for us, or they'd lay out thin mats and we would sit on the floor. Most of the times, we were given a cup of their famous tea; sometimes, we got something to eat with it, as well. And after a few questions about our hosts, the person talking would start sharing the Gospel.
I never spoke.
My English wasn't that great. I'd never really shared the Gospel in such a systematic way with people I didn’t know before and definitely not in a language that wasn’t my mother tongue.
But mostly, I was afraid. Afraid I wouldn’t have the right words. Afraid I would messed up. Afraid my display of the Gospel wasn’t adequate.
After the first few houses, I remembered my home church that supported me and had sent me out; they called me their missionary. And that missionary refused to share the Gospel. So I agreed with my team leader that, if there were only women in the house, I would share.
As we walked up to the houses, I prayed that God would use me, and that even if my words wouldn’t be enough and I would make a fool out of myself, God would do something with it. But every house we went up to, people either weren’t there or they didn’t want to hear. After the last house, we started walking back, and I was relieved I didn’t’ have to share.
Then we saw another house back in the woods, hardly visible from the street. It looked like it would be empty from afar, but we decided to walk there anyway, as we had some time left.
It wasn’t empty.
And there were only women.
I tensed up as I realized it would be my turn to share now. Stumbling, I started talking about God’s love for us and how He sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for us so we can be with God again.
My mind didn't even have one clear thought, and my words seemed similarly unclear. I asked the woman who listened most intently whether she understood what I am saying and whether she wanted to accept God’s love for her.
And then my mind switched off, relieved it was all over, happy I made it to the end.
But then our translator said, “She said yes. She said she would like to accept Jesus as her Savior.”
My mind went back to what I'd last said, and I was pretty sure she probably misunderstood. So I asked Him to make sure that she really understood what I was asking her. After an exchange in the Tamil language, however, the translator assured me she understood and wanted to accept Jesus. So I looked at my team, asking who would pray with her.
For everyone except me, it seemed clear I would do it.
So I folded my hands, bowed my head, and spoke what was probably the worst prayer I've ever spoken in my life – if such a thing exists.
And Heaven rejoiced.
This was my first ever experience with evangelism in missions. Over the years, I have done different forms of it: done surveys door-to-door, acted in evangelistic kids plays, distributed flyers, and shared one-on-one in encounters where it simply just came up.
I call myself a missionary.
And I still find some forms of evangelism hard.
My shy nature doesn’t like going up to people and striking up a conversation about Christ, or about anything, really. I prefer helping in an artistic way of sharing or just waiting if it comes up naturally.
But Christ is in us.
And no matter what form of evangelism we do, whether we intentionally go up to strangers, preach on the street, or share Jesus by living our lives and talking about God when it comes naturally, we have Jesus Christ in us.
And because of that, no matter who or when or where, no matter whether you are a missionary or not, we can all be good messengers of the Good News.