2016 has been was a huge year for me. My faith didn’t mean much to me at the beginning of the year. I really wasn’t living for God at all back in January. Evangelism and learning what it means to share my faith have completely changed that.
After the holidays of 2015 rolled by, I began looking forward to Sweden and the short-term international mission I would undertake there in May. I was hoping to learn how to share my faith when I got to Sweden. I realized how little I knew about evangelism when I met a girl named Emily about a month before I’d board the plane for Sweden. I met Emily when she joined my friend, J.R. and me at the dining hall. Somehow it was mentioned that J.R. and I go to Cru. She asked what that was, so we told her that it was a campus ministry we’re a part of. She quickly realized that we were Christians and began asking us big questions about what we believe. “So you don’t get drunk?” “Ever?” “So are you actually abstinent?” She told us that she believed in God too, but that she felt God wanted us to have fun and enjoy life above everything else. I knew that this wasn’t the chief purpose of life on earth but I couldn’t articulate this very well. She wanted to know WHY we Christians do the things that we do. In hindsight, I knew that the main purpose of my life was and is to glorify God through my actions, words, thoughts, and feelings by showing how Jesus has changed my life, my desires, and my heart. However, that day, her questions really rattled me. I couldn’t answer why I do the things that I do and what fact was deeply disturbing to me.
I found within myself a desire to continue sharing the gospel no matter where life takes me.
I’ll try to be rather brief with my description of all that Sweden did for me! Sometimes I can get a little carried away when I reminisce on it. When I arrived in Sweden I felt grossly unprepared to share my faith. So many of the people around me had been serious Christians for years longer than I had, and I was also perhaps the youngest one there. I remember nervously telling one of the leaders on our first day of evangelism that I felt “somewhat fairly confident” about sharing my faith. By the end of the second week I was uber-ready to go out each day and talk to Swedes about what I believed. I’d met so many amazing people that all I wanted was to continue sharing my faith with my new friends. I found within myself a desire to continue sharing the gospel and remain “on fire for my faith” no matter where life takes me. Leaving Sweden was very emotional but I felt a strong tug to continue what I’d learned in Sweden as soon as I returned.
Several cool things began to happen when I got back later in the summer. I felt the usual sputter that so many people feel when they get back from a mission trip. I didn’t know where to start sharing my faith next. Also, my work environment felt so unconducive to ministry. Every day I’d spend 7-8 hours working alone while all I wanted was to go talk to people about all that I’d seen and learned. Needless to say, I became very frustrated. Someone from my old youth group reached out to me for help and I quickly did what I could to be his friend and witness to him. I’m really good friends with the guy now and I have faith discussions with him as often as I can. Later on, I was talking with an old friend at Chili’s about what Sweden meant to me and a waitress walked up to ask what we were doing. I had been right in the middle of explaining the “perspective cards” that I used in Sweden to start faith discussions with Swedes. So, I showed her the perspective cards. To my surprise and joy, she asked if she could try them. This kicked off a 20-minute faith discussion in the parking lot of a Chili’s with someone who was a complete stranger! Near the end of the summer I realized that I had never talked faith with any of my old Cross Country friends from high school. So I talked with two of them in my last week at home and was able to share my faith quite a bit with one over donuts.
As soon as school began I unknowingly began to meet so many of the people that I would begin witnessing to soon. From move-in day, to physics class, to cross country meets, I kept meeting people that I knew I needed to share my faith with. The coolest thing about meeting all these people and sharing my faith was that I became great friends with so many of them in the process. So many great discussions arose just because I was in the right place at the right time. This was a really cool realization to come to and it quelled so many of my concerns about sharing my faith.
I definitely experienced some ups and downs along the semester. I sometimes felt intimidated by the intelligence of those I was witnessing to, I felt judged by so many people, and I was overly concerned about coming across as weird to guys or flirtatious to girls if I’d want to talk about faith. Those were the downs, obviously.
My coolest “up” was realizing that evangelism is my spiritual gift. I had a really cool talk with some friends about the gifts and callings in Ephesians 4 and what the different spiritual gifts that Paul describes are. I quickly saw that evangelism is what I’m best at and that God has been watering this gift in me for the past year. I saw how faithful God had been in showing me this gift and in encouraging me to pursue evangelism more and more during the past year!
No matter where you are in life right now, you have the ability to share the Gospel with those around you and make an impact on your friends and acquaintances. One thing I’ve learned this year is that no one on this Earth has the same group of friends and social position that you do. We’ve all been given specific friends and talents for a reason! I feel that the cross country team, especially some of the freshman guys, is my ministry field. I’d like to challenge you all to think and pray a bit on this: Who has God placed you on this earth to witness to?
I’m happy to talk with any of you about this if y’all have questions!