“More than I think I’m giving, I definitely feel like I’m receiving. The people I’ve met and the members of Living Water – they’ve been such a huge encouragement.” This is what I journaled my second day at Over-The-Rhine, and it came as a bit of a surprise to me. Initially, I thought that I was going to Cincinnati to “do missions work.” I’d be working alongside Living Water Church and nine other churches across the U.S. to carry out a Vacation Bible School program for the children in the community. I was there to serve and be “poured out.” What I didn’t expect, though, was that I’d be so filled – that even as God used me, he’d teach me and fill me with such joy.
My favorite part of the trip was street evangelism. In the past, I had on several occasions imagined how great it would be to share the Gospel with random strangers, but my own fears always managed to convince me out of doing it. But through OTR, I would finally have my chance! Although I was excited, I was again hit with fear. Even as we prayed before heading out into the streets, my stomach turned with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety. How would I introduce myself? Would I be able to explain the Gospel clearly? What if they asked me questions I didn’t know the answers to? Despite all these unknowns, however, my team and I simply jumped into it and I was able to share the Gospel with a few people that day. As we ran back to the church (it started pouring rain), I was elated. It didn’t matter that my delivery was imperfect and inexperienced; I got to share the Gospel with someone! I realized how thrilling and joy-filling it was to go beyond my fears to obey God and share such Good News with others. He wanted to use fearful and insecure me, for reasons I cannot understand. I felt thankful and incredibly privileged to witness what God was doing in OTR, and to get to be a part of building the kingdom there.
Throughout the trip, I also had the opportunity to meet many brothers and sisters from churches all over the country that also came to serve the OTR community. I evangelized alongside college students who’d already been evangelizing on their campuses for years, talked with mothers and fathers who left their own young children at home to serve the children of OTR, and heard the prayers of the Living Water staff who lived missions day-in and day-out in faith that God loved the people in OTR. Being with each of them was both humbling and rebuking. Especially through the Living Water staff, I learned that I have such a long way to go in having God’s heart for the world and living out the missional life that he calls me to live. Although I thought that I had been living a missional life before, they raised the bar of what that meant. More than anything they did for their church and community, it was who they were that made them missionaries; their lives and prayers simply permeated a desire for God to be glorified above all else. Being around them, I couldn’t help but be challenged and desire to share in that lifestyle.
My devotional from the morning of Street Evangelism is one that has continued to linger on my mind even as I’m now home in Chicagoland. In the passage, Acts 8, the Spirit commands Philip to go to a chariot and stay near it. He immediately runs to the chariot to find that the man inside is reading Isaiah 53, a beautiful passage about Jesus—except he cannot understand it. Here is where Philip sees the God-ordained opportunity to share the Gospel. Verse 35 says, “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” Philip’s obedience in this passage continues to challenge me; I also want to have this heart that runs to obey God. When he sends me, I want to run to the opportunities to share the Gospel, not cower or be fearful. I know this is possible because of the victory we already have and can claim in Christ. As it says in Romans 10:15b “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”