Training Camp took place about a month and a half before my squad launched from Atlanta, Georgia to the mission field. It was a chance for us to meet one another, to be challenged to ask God for big things, and to download vision for what He wanted for us in the year to come. It was my expectation that in becoming a missionary, I would have one opportunity after another to take cool selfies with African babies, thus establishing my reputation as a Good Christian. Needless to say, I had given little thought at this point to what it really meant to take the gospel to the nations. So as I sat and prayed for God to remove my expectations about the year to come, he graciously replaced them with a promise. “I will make you bold and unashamed of me.”
I was afraid. Part of me was honestly hoping this word wouldn’t be fulfilled. See, the thought of being a bold witness for Christ made me cringe. I had attached to the idea of boldness images of hateful men standing on street corners with bullhorns barking condemning words at passersby, thus further cementing the stereotype of Judgmental Soapbox Christian to the masses. Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, my experience in churches up until this point had been pretty heavily “seeker-sensitive.” The idea that we would worship God was delivered with the disclaimer, “Just don’t do anything that would freak someone out.” Acts of service and the meeting of physical needs in my community were rarely paired with an explicit sharing of the gospel. And this was comfortable for me; I didn’t want to offend anyone after all!
The first four months of the World Race passed me by without God’s delivery on this promise. The vast majority of ministry up until this point was to people who already knew the good news. We were sent to areas that were heavily churched, and I was pretty confident I had this missionary thing figured out.
That is, until God brought us to Malaysia. This was my first experience inside a “closed country,” where we could not explicitly share the gospel for the safety of our hosts and ourselves. If questioned, we were there as English teachers in a cultural immersion program. Our opportunities to worship were solely behind closed doors, and our assignment was simply this: to pray. Although we saw no fruit, we trusted as we prayed over children who came to learn English from us that God was at work.
And for the first time in my life, as I encountered this “untouchable” population, I had inside me a deep longing to share the gospel.
The following month found us in Vietnam, technically closed but not nearly as closely monitored as our previous home. Our host was one of the boldest men I have ever met. He encouraged us to share the gospel with everyone we came in contact with, whether at the cafe where we worked or out in public on the streets. And Ho Chi Minh City was ripe for the harvest. So as God led one person after another into my path, I fumbled over my words in articulating the story of Christ, but grew in confidence with each interaction. This was the most fertile ground for boldness; I had a host who led by example, a team around me to back me up, and the most spiritually hungry audience I’ve witnessed to this day. And to the glory of God, my team and I saw so many people come to know Jesus this month. We left Vietnam exhausted but so full of joy.
As the months went on, God continued to convince me that the most loving thing to do for someone is to tell them the truth about Jesus. This is a truth I had known in my head for years, but had yet to accept wholeheartedly. I heard a podcast a couple months later which told the story of a formerly muslim girl who converted to Christianity and was brutally killed by her brothers for doing so. When I heard this, God told me, “She is the lucky one. She counted the cost and was not following me to gain earthly reward. Envy her, for she gained me.” I had to listen to it several times for this truth to sink in, but as it took root in my heart, God’s promise to make me bold and unashamed was fulfilled.
The gospel is offensive, and many people will despise me for sharing it. But as I count the cost, I see that it is worth it because I am not more valuable than Christ who gave his life for me. Jesus bore all of my shame so that I no longer have to fear what reaction I will get when I share the gospel. By no means am I an expert; God still works in spite of my weak attempts at articulating his story verbally. But fear is no longer a stumbling block for me. It is my great joy to endure rejection for the sake of Christ, because it is my great joy to share the gospel.