I have had an extraordinary summer as an intern for International Project. Throughout this evangelism internship, I have applied different evangelism techniques, practiced corporate prayer, and trained teams from visiting churches in Gospel sharing tools. I would like to share some lessons and struggles, my favorite moments, and a memorable story.
First, I would love to give a shout out to the fantastic International Project missionaries who put together this evangelism internship program. International Project exists to initiate church-planting movements through unreached people groups living outside their homelands. All the staff, from those who have been on the field for years to those who were new, were each kind and genuine with us. They exemplified servant leadership and humility through the training, house church experiences, and mealtimes.
Lessons and Struggles
One training that impacted my understanding of evangelism was Luke 10, where Jesus sends out seventy-two of his followers to minister in other towns. He instructs them to eat and drink whatever they were given. At first, it was difficult for me to learn to accept hospitality from strangers. Some people we met were so warmed by our conversations that they shared their meals with us. In my efforts to have spiritual conversations about Jesus, I ate raw shelled peanuts, chicken kabab and naan, macaroons, apricots, chai, and Nutella waffles. Since hospitality was a big part of the cultures we interacted with, I learned to accept what I was given so that people would be more comfortable to talk and listen to our message.
I struggled with how unpredictable evangelism can be. I would like to think that when a person shows spiritual interest and faithfully meets to study the Bible with a believer that they will soon become a Christian. But this summer we heard countless testimonies of spiritually thirsty people who were reading Scripture but had not yet made a decision for Christ and who could unexpectedly cut off contact with missionaries. This was discouraging, especially that they did not know the Good News they were missing.
I also learned the importance of teaching new believers how to share the Gospel right after they come to faith. I understood that every believer was called to share the Gospel. But the concept of teaching totally new believers to share the Gospel was wild and rare but wonderful! I had the opportunity to sit in on a Discovery Bible Study for Hindus. At the end, the leaders asked us who we would share the Bible story with during the week. There were unbelieving Hindus who were already sharing the Gospel with their friends and neighbors simply through Bible storytelling! It made me wonder how the American church could grow if everyone shared with their co-workers what they read in the Bible each day!
My perspective on what Gospel sharing should look like has changed. Previously, I had seen mainly the words, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ used to share the Gospel with unbelievers. For sure, I knew that all the passages in the Old Testament pointed to who Jesus is and why He had to come, but Old Testament passages were largely recommended for mature believers. This summer I learned that a number of the stories in the Old Testament were perfect to study with Hindus and Muslims because they teach principles about God’s character that their worldview did not already assume.
I so enjoyed street evangelism. To me, few activities were more exciting (and exhausting) than fishing for spiritually thirsty people. I never knew what type of conversations I would get into! In general, I enjoyed talking with strangers because there was no context, no expectations, and no need to stay, but even still, it scared me to share the message of our crucified Savior with those who could have found it offensive. I have had all types of reactions, from those who shoo me away from the time I say the name of Jesus, to others who were moved to tears by the Good News, to those who immediately launch into debates. This summer was a true reminder to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).
My favorite experience was house church. For years, I pondered what that might look like. This summer, house church really taught me about devotion to a body of believers. In my past, devotion was described as signing a paper for church membership, showing up every Sunday, and volunteering for church events when needed. However, I knew there was something more to “devotion” than this. Over the course of these weeks, we were able to experience what devotion to the brethren looked like by sharing how we were really doing, taking care of each other’s needs, and holding each other accountable to ensure we were living life on mission—which looked different for every one of us. I found this refreshing yet scary at times. It proved to be an intimate time for fellowship and growth in the Lord, often more messy than traditional American church, and I have savored every week of it.
One day, a group of us went out for lunch. I was a little hungry but strangely decided I did not want to eat. This was weird because I am definitely a social eater, but I really felt like I shouldn’t eat. Later, after pairing off to different sections of town, we happened upon a group of Bengali Muslim men. One gentleman was thrilled to tell us about that area of Jackson Heights. He was not interested in sharing much about his faith, and he was clearly disagreeing with ours, but then he did the unexpected: He invited us to dine with him and told us to meet him down the street in ten minutes. The two of us went to the restaurant, wondering if the invitation was a polite way to shoo us away or a generous reality.
After about twenty minutes, I gave up waiting and was about to suggest to my partner that we walk away. Just then, I looked down the street to see the man and his lovely five year old daughter skipping down the street to meet us at the restaurant. I couldn’t believe it, he actually came! He happily invited us into the restaurant, introduced us to his entire family, and offered to pay for our meal. For him, this was a familiar Bengali restaurant, and he knew all the workers. We got chai, chicken kabab, and naan. I could not stop thanking God for giving me a need to not eat earlier so that I would be able to accept his hospitality then.
Without his Muslim friends around, the doors opened for us to share testimonies of what Jesus has done in our lives and ultimately share the Gospel. He listened and asked questions, and my partner was even able to exchange phone numbers and follow up. At the end of the day, we had the peace and joy of knowing that we faithfully sowed the seeds of the Gospel and that this man had a positive encounter with followers of Jesus. This is just a short example of the many ways the Lord has given us divine appointments.
After these eight weeks in this evangelism internship, I have more tools in my bag to talk with people from a variety of backgrounds. I am learning the importance of relying on the Lord and daily abiding in Him to have spiritual discussions. No matter how strong my evangelism muscles get, I cannot draw anyone to Christ; I can only be God’s willing tool for His Kingdom. It has been a sweet comfort that we are not called to convert souls, but only to be obedient to God by sharing about the hope we have in Christ.