It is difficult to believe it’s been nearly a month since I was in Canada, but it’s true. This past Sunday our group talked about the trip at our church’s missions lunch. Everyone shared, so it was interesting to hear what each person’s perspective has developed into in the past month. I remembered how much I missed the team. It truly was a wonderful trip.
To continue with my recap of the trip, day four was our last day doing missions work. I woke up rested and tired; ready and hesitant. I was feeling the dread of returning home. (I love my friends in my hometown, but I have no interest staying here permanently.)
That morning we met with Jeremy and Seth for some missions training. We were going to hit the streets and have spiritual conversations with people.
The most helpful part of the training was how to share the Gospel using your 15-second testimony. You begin saying “there was a time in my life when…” and then follow with two ways you felt before you became a Christian or before you really met God. After that, you say, “Then I met Jesus; he forgave my sins and I made him the one in charge of my life,” and follow with two ways you felt after knowing Christ. You finish by asking the question, “do you have a story like that?”.
For me, there was a time in my life when I felt like God was angry at me for not being good enough and I felt afraid. Then I met Jesus; he was perfect for me and now he’s the one in charge of my life. Now, I feel God’s love and grace even on bad days. Do you have a story like that?
That was our introduction or transition into a spiritual conversation. We shared the Gospel story using what’s called the three circles method:
Our world is broken and messed-up. We have wars, poverty, divorce, abuse, sickness, and selfishness. We chase after things that we think will alleviate our pain: relationships, money, drugs, religion. Not all of these things are inherently bad things, but we are tied to this broken, messed-up world. Every time we chase something that seems good, we only get so far away from the world until our tether yanks us down to the ground. Every time we try, we are yanked deeper and deeper into the world until we can’t try anymore. When we chase things that are bad for us, such as drugs, we also sink further into the world.
When God created the world, it was originally good. Pain and suffering didn’t exist. Everything was perfect until Adam and Eve disobeyed God. They thought they could do his job; they thought they could live without his help. When they disobeyed, they brought pain and suffering into the world. Every one of their descendants is tethered to this dark and broken world.
We need something to untie the tether and take us away.
Because God is good and he loves humans, he sent his son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our disobedience. We couldn’t keep the rules, so Jesus kept the rules for us. He died with our sin, and rose again with our new life. All we have to do is accept Jesus’ perfection as our own and let him call the shots in our life. Jesus’ blood untethers us from our sin and restores our relationship with God. We can now have a new life where we have satisfaction, joy, and peace. All because of Jesus.
So… which one of these circles sounds most like your life? Are you where you want to be?
That was how we were taught to share the Gospel. It was less shaming and more appealing to people who are hurting and know they are broken. It seemed really effective. Our job was to seek “people of peace”, men and women who the Holy Spirit had prepared to accept salvation. We weren’t trying to convince or convict anyone, we were trying to find people who were on the brink and ready to receive.
We walked around a park and down some nearby streets, approaching anyone we found along the way and asking if we could pray for them. The Canadian culture is pretty introverted, with a “mind your own business and don’t bother anyone” mentality. If you were to do what we were doing in Canada in the South, people would probably be more receptive. The difference is that people here are culturally Christian, thinking they know the Bible is a book of rules and Jesus is the great example. Many believe they can be good enough for God. Many believe they can earn heaven.
That’s not Christianity.
That’s all the other religions we encountered.
It was pretty discouraging to approach people and have them turn us down or say they weren’t interested. I certainly didn’t take it personally, but rejection of any kind is still difficult.
By the time we met for lunch, I was feeling anxious.
There were a few factors that probably played into this: it was cold and rainy, I hadn’t slept well the night before, I was questioning the efficacy of street witnessing, I was dreading going home, and I was hungry.
Of course, there’s the obvious spiritual side. We were sharing the Gospel; I’m pretty sure there are spiritual forces who hated that.
For me, my anxiety takes two forms: my heart pounds; my palms sweat; my mind revs up, spinning faster and faster, accusatory thoughts whirling around like blades on a ceiling fan; I can’t breathe well; and I feel jittery. The second form is where I feel spacey.
When I’m feeling spacey or dazed, I can’t reconnect with what is literally happening around me. I cannot easily carry on conversations. Words don’t register with their meanings and I can’t speak well. What I say makes sense, but it’s hard to really engage in the moment and communicate effectively. I don’t have anything to say back to a person when they’re speaking to me. I’ll just nod and keep listening because I’m waiting to come back online. I stare off into space. I can’t focus easily, so making decisions is difficult.
Feeling spacey is my brain’s way of keeping itself safe from danger. If I can’t pay attention to potential anxiety triggers, then they aren’t happening or don’t exist.
I tried a number of things to snap out of it. I used essential oils. I tried some breathing exercises in the bathroom. I checked my anxiety board on Pinterest at lunch. I prayed. I ate a few bites of the shawarma I ordered for lunch. I honestly tried everything.
Nothing was working.
I was praying no one would notice I wasn’t talking.
After a few minutes, I tried my last resort option: I texted some friends for prayer. It was a Hail Mary move because I don’t talk about my anxiety with friends nearby while I’m feeling anxious.
This time was no different; I did not tell anyone at the table I was feeling anxious. Looking back, I probably should have told somebody. At the time, I thought any attention from people physically near me would make the anxiety worse. Whenever I have asked for help with my anxiety, people get nervous and don’t know what to do; I feel guilty for bothering them. I also didn’t want to take attention away from witnessing. I didn’t want my personal stuff to get in the way. Even if someone said I wasn’t getting in the way, I would not have believed them then and I would struggle to believe them now. Anxiety always gets in the way.
I texted back and forth with some of my prayer warriors during lunch and, I kid you not, I was feeling better within half an hour.
I believe God heard my friends’ prayers and took away my anxiety. I’m thankful I did feel better. We were going to be witnessing for another hour.
We drove to a nearby mall and split up into pairs. I went with Seth and we tried to start conversations with various people. Our main introduction was asking if people needed any prayers and what they would want if God worked a miracle in their life. I realized I became more hesitant each time I approached someone. It wasn’t that I was afraid of being rejected, I just felt a lot of internal friction. I don’t know what it was, but I felt badly about it. I’ve had a month to think about it and I’m still confused and a bit frustrated with myself. It was like eating the food at the Sikh gurdwara: I began eagerly and enjoyed the first few bites, but each bite became more difficult to swallow until I couldn’t eat any more.
We all met up again and discussed our experiences. One man wanted to pray for the end of all religions. That was the most interesting encounter, by far.
Afterwards, we went to a Pakistani church. It was a breath of fresh air. We were finally in a room of other believers. Most of the service was in Punjabi, but we all recognized one word in each of the songs: aleluja. We sang it loudly. In the middle of the service, the children and young adults each split off for their own Bible study. There was only one girl in the young adult group, and she looked about twelve or thirteen. The topic was spiritual maturity, so Jeremy asked Seth, Blake, and Mr. Glenn to share some wisdom from their lives about how to grow closer to God.
The thing that stood out most to me came from Mr. Glenn. He mentioned the need to have a group of Christians you are completely honest with who can encourage you. It reminded me of our conversation the night before at Tim Hortons. It resonated with me.
After the service, there was a celebration for one of the boys in the church. Not only was it his ninth birthday, but it also was the first birthday he would celebrate with his entire family. His mother visited Canada a few months after he was born. After her trip was over, she was unable to return to Pakistan and her husband and son were unable to join her in Canada. Their only way of communication was via telephone or Skype until the boy and his father were finally able to leave Pakistan and enter Canada. The family had been reunited for three weeks.
The food at the celebration was spicier than the food at the Gurdwara, which I didn’t think was possible. I really enjoyed the church’s food. It had flavor and variety and seemed more familiar. Their hospitality with us and with each other was really encouraging after a long day of witnessing.
After we all had eaten, our group met with Jeremy and Seth to discuss the day and the whole trip. The purpose of the trip was mainly for us to see what they are up against and what their jobs are really like.
Their jobs are hard.
They witness to anyone interested. They begin Bible studies to share more about the life of Jesus and connect new converts with other Christians.
They question. They doubt. They get discouraged.
One mentioned he thought he would be out of ministry entirely in two years. He was exhausted. And yet, God is helping him find ways to recharge and keep going. Unreached people groups don’t always live in natural jungles, but concrete jungles also.
They are on the frontline doing unglamorous work.
They are sharing the Gospel with immigrants to Canada. They are facing down other religions and other gods to free captives and give them new life.
They have a noble and holy job, but not a clean or easy one.
And yet, sharing our faith is something all Christians are called and equipped by the Holy Spirit to do. We are all called back into the mess God saved us from and help carry out the broken and weary. Our southern cities need the Gospel, too. Not the “do better; try harder” gospel of death that is culturally accepted here as Christianity, but the “Jesus paid it all” Gospel of Life. That is the only Gospel that saves.
I had a lot to think about that night as we rode back to the hotel. I didn’t want to go back home, but I didn’t believe I was supposed to stay in Canada, either. I was back in the familiar “not now, but soon” phase.
While I was reflecting, the darkness was growing darker. It was like in one of those fairytales, legends, or myths where the mist rolls in and unites the natural with the supernatural. As we rode through the mist and fog, I kept trying to enjoy the moment. I wanted to remember how it felt to be with friends and doing things for God together. I wanted to capture it, frame it, and return to it on bad days.
That just isn’t how life works, but this is the closest I could get:
Stay tuned for next week’s post: our final day in Canada.