atie, Adileen, and I just got back to Arequipa after a whirlwind two and a half months in the US. We had an incredible time with family as well as with Cedar Lane and Central churches, and some friends here, there, and everywhere. Adileen got used to a car seat for the first time, learned what a church nursery was like, and got to meet all of her aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sorry everyone (especially grandparents), but I think her favorite part of the US was the dogs. Adileen. Loves. Dogs.
Being back in the US gave me the opportunity to reflect on what had changed in me in two years of being a full-time missionary. In particular, I wondered, how had I become more evangelistic? What made me more open to sharing faith? Was it just the job title? Suddenly becoming a full-time “missionary” was the kick in the seat of my pants that I needed to talk about Jesus to strangers? Maybe. But I don’t think so. I think it has to do with these two things:
Moving to Arequipa, for the first time in my life I was meeting and interacting with a lot of people who didn’t believe the same thing I did. I actually started to have friends who weren’t followers of Jesus. I spent time with people (neighbors, soccer friends, taxi drivers and shop owners) who weren’t from my church group. Couple that with the second point (coming soon), and I became an evangelism machine! Ok, not really, but I did go from very rarely in my entire life sharing faith, to doing so with someone new usually once a day. It’s amazing how the need to make friends and connections in a new place led me to have friends and connections with not-yet-Christians, with whom I could naturally share what I believe. So one piece is having relationships with people who are different than you are. The second?
Being ready to give an answer for the hope you have about life and faith (sound familiar? Hint: 1 Peter). With time and practice, you learn what questions are going to be asked. And with the help of friends—both Christians and not—you can work on your answer, actually try to make it better, more simple, more hopeful. It’s not about finding a magic formula, or about having something rote and memorized to spout off. It’s about knowing what you hope for that will then be on the tip of your tongue when an opportunity presents itself.
The reason I’m sharing this is that I don’t think this is just for full-time missionaries. I think this is something that all Christians can do.
Now, I’ll give it to you that we have it easy here in Peru. We stick out. We look different from our Peruvian neighbors. And so we get asked pretty frequently: “Why are you here?” (Could you tee it up any more nicely?) But it doesn’t have to be that question. Remember the first part: Making friends with someone you don’t know, or that you wouldn’t normally have a relationship with. Just try that out, without any agenda. And listen. What questions are you asked? What parts of your life are questionable?
And then, you work on it. Maybe you need to change something so that your life is more questionable. But chances are, there’s already something there that will raise eyebrows (try telling someone you worship with a group of Christians every Sunday morning, or that you follow a dead guy from two thousand years ago who some say is alive…that’s pretty radical!). And when you find that question, practice your answer to it. Do so with your spouse or best friend or Waffle House waitress. Actually tell them you’re practicing as your intro to it. You’ll be surprised by how it’s actually not that awkward. And you’ll be ready to share the reason for your hope when you’re given the opportunity for real.
Thanks for sharing this mission with us. Your love, support, and prayers mean so much. I look forward to hearing more of your stories of sharing hope and faith the next time we’re stateside.
PS - I get the “living a questionable life” language from Michael Frost, Surprise the World. It’s a small little book with a lot of practical advice and worth checking out.