This summer, I came to New York City to work with International Project as a Multi-Media Intern. I helped with social media and website content and learned a lot about how to market an organization online, skills that will be important for my future career. In order to promote International Project’s ministry, I had to understand how we take the Gospel to unreached people groups in the city. Through lots of training and firsthand experience, I learned about the importance of evangelism and missions and how the Great Commission extends past the time of the early disciples.
When I joined the internship program, I was excited for the opportunity to live on my own in the city, and I couldn’t wait to practice my journalism skills in a professional environment. At the time, I didn’t realize how much I would be doing outside of the journalism world – or how important these experiences would be.
My first week, I learned how desperately New York City needs the Gospel. In Queens, 96% of people are considered lost. This means if nothing changes, 96% of people will be eternally separated from God, never knowing the love of Jesus. I look at the faces I see every day, people who are no less worthy of God’s love than I am, and hope they will fall into the open arms of Jesus. But hoping isn’t always enough.
Before this summer, the term “the Great Commission” did not mean much to me, but now I see how important it is. Jesus sent his disciples to go out and spread His word, and those orders apply to believers today.
Who Can Be an Evangelist?
When I learned I was going to participate in the first Seed Week of the summer, I was hesitant. In my mind, I was a writer, not a missionary, and I saw my timidity as proof that I could never be an evangelist.
The closer I got, the more anxious I felt at the idea of sharing the Gospel with strangers. My first day, I let my partner do the work while I kept quiet, and the only two conversations I initiated ended quickly due to a language barrier. I left with what I believed to be confirmation that I wasn’t cut out for evangelism.
The next day with a different partner, I prayer walked in Queens. We stopped to pray in front of mosques and spoke with a woman in a Greek Orthodox church about her beliefs. I realized the power prayer has, and I was more comfortable praying for the community than talking to people. I wished I could do that every day of seed week.
But God had other plans. The third day of seed week, I could feel God nudging me outside my comfort zone. My partner for that day had been on a seed week before, and I gratefully learned from her, studying how naturally she brought up the Gospel and the joy with which she talked about Jesus. With her encouragement and the constant nudge of God, I initiated my first conversation. And then another. And then another.
With God’s help, I talked to several women about Jesus, sharing stories of His time on Earth and giving them the hope of the Father. One woman, a midwife, asked that we pray for a safe delivery for an upcoming birth. I told her the story of Jesus calming the storm, assuring her she could take her anxiety to Jesus. Another woman was nearly moved to tears when we prayed with her for her home country, Ukraine.
I was proud of my willingness to step out in faith to share and pray with these women, but even more so, I was thankful for God’s guidance and His gentle push. I couldn’t have done it without the boldness He gave me.
I loved my experience of prayer walking on the second day, and I know it’s something I can do in the future, but God reminded me that praying for someone to spread the Gospel and actually spreading the Gospel are two different things. My fear was getting in the way of the importance of evangelism.
What Is the Focus?
Jesus continued to point out how strong of a hold anxiety held on my life. Shame over past mistakes, fear of what others would think, and worries about the future tormented me. And when all of my “solutions” failed, I came crawling back to God for comfort. I never deserved it, but He always took me back into His loving arms.
One day, I was anxious about a decision and soon became tired of little things like this ruining my day. Desperate to discern God’s voice, I turned to the Bible. I learned about how when people experience anxiety, it’s often because they put themselves at the center. I don’t want others to judge me. I want to be in control. As I considered how quickly my anxiety stole my joy, I wondered what would happen if I focused on Jesus instead of on my own desires.
That morning, I worshiped the Lord and truly felt the Holy Spirit’s presence. I believe the Holy Spirit is always there, but this time, I didn’t just believe it in my heart, I felt it in my whole body. I saw a glimpse of what could happen if I truly made Jesus the center of my life. He used something as small as an unknown decision to show me His grace, and I began to appreciate how this summer in NYC forced me to put God first.
Where Can Ministry Happen?
Before the summer, I hadn’t heard of house churches, so when I discovered I was going to be part of one, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The only picture I had was the small group my mom went to: 15 adults sitting around and talking about the Bible. While this picture was on the right track, it was missing a lot of the key components that make a house church unique.
Each week, about 20 people gathered together for church. We crowded together in apartments or enjoyed the fresh air at parks. No matter where we were, both kids and adults worshiped together, discussed Bible passages, and supported each other in our struggles. As an introvert, I appreciated how intimate a small group was, and I valued the openness to share my thoughts.
On the same day I experienced the presence of God, I went to our house church. The structure that day was a little different. During our worship time, we were encouraged to listen to what God put on our hearts, but instead of listening for messages for ourselves, we were listening for what He wanted us to tell others.
The things God spoke through us left me in awe. One man was told he had a stamp of approval over his life. Another described a dream that had touched her in hope that it would touch others. A third shared an image she had of another woman’s heart being strongly protected.
I felt a message, too, but I couldn’t find the courage to share it. The anxiety crept in, that familiar fear of speaking in front of groups. But then I thought about how I would feel if someone revealed a message God had for me.
So I shared the thought with a woman in the group: She was doing a great job as a mother. After a moment, she started to cry. She explained how God had been pointing out sin in her life and how thankful she was that He was also encouraging her in other areas. I then prayed over her, and the group’s conversation continued.
Although it only lasted a few minutes, the moment was important. I saw how much good God could do if I turned from my anxiety and replaced it with Jesus. I was humbled God would use me to reach other people in such a way, and for a moment, I knew what it was like to feel just a fraction of the power of God. With this confidence, I was able to share with a few others in the group.
What Is the Importance of Evangelism?
I’ve been so thankful for support throughout the summer. Whether it be from my supervisor, who never hesitated in recommending new places to visit, or the couple who made us part of their family, or the other interns who I have loved doing life with (even when life is us getting excited about seeing rats in the subway). Jesus is the only support I would ever need, but in His kindness, He sent people to come alongside me.
Beyond my personal growth, I have seen the importance of evangelism. It’s amazing how one seed week can bring people to Christ, let alone a two month internship. I have also learned evangelism is not just important for those studying ministry. We all interact with non-believers on a daily basis. That’s why the Great Commission is important, not just for missionaries but for all followers of Jesus.
When I packed my bags for New York, I didn’t realize how far my internship would take me. I still have a long way to go in truly making Jesus the center of my life, and I know He will continue to guide me. In the meantime, I can find others who are as desperate for Him as I am.