Every Tuesday afternoon, a group of us go into Queenstown to do evangelism.
Evangelism. Did I just lose you there? Did your stomach flip when you read it? Do you feel anxious when you think about it?
That’s exactly how I felt when I first came to YWAM Queenstown in 2017! The word “evangelism” was tainted in my mind. The connotations of evangelism were forceful, preachy, and ineffective to me. The idea of approaching strangers to somehow start up a conversation about God felt SO awkward, so intimidating to me. How the heck are you supposed to do that and not make people hate Christians?
For me, it took experience to really understand the love behind evangelism. I had to watch others do it, to hear my friends share stories of amazing conversations they had, and to just step out and do it myself. Sometimes it feels completely awkward and like you get nowhere with anybody; but then there are the times when you actually see God move in someone’s life right in front of your eyes. This is one of those times.
Before we went out into town for evangelism one afternoon, I asked God if He had a word for me for my time talking to people. Immediately I heard, “Shoulder,” and pictured a girl with blonde hair sitting on the beach in Queenstown. Most of the time when I get things like this, I can tell I probably made it up in my own head. Words of knowledge are not usually the spiritual gift I operate most easily or frequently in. But this time I knew immediately it was not from me. I don’t really know how I knew it was a word from God this time, but I did. I could tell it wasn’t something randomly contrived in my imagination or something I had seen recently in a Todd White video. It was very clear in my mind, and it came to me immediately—like without any hesitation or even time to really think.
I thought maybe the picture of the blonde girl was just imagined because I was going with my friend Sarah (who has blonde hair), but I definitely felt like I should go walk the beach and talk to people. I also felt stirred that morning by a statement I read in a Young Life leader training manual from way back in university:
“The problem is not that kids haven’t heard the Gospel; the problem is that they’ve never seen it work.”
I felt really, really challenged to live with more confidence that Jesus really dwells in me, that I can be an example of the living Gospel of Christ, not just a spokesperson for Him. I wanted to move beyond simply informing people about Jesus’ love to displaying it in person.
That was all on my heart going into town that day.
Sarah and I prayed for boldness, courage, and BIG LOVE to guide us through every conversation we had as we walked from the parking lot toward the beach. As we arrived at the waterfront, I was immediately drawn to two people, a guy and a girl, sitting at the water’s edge. The guy was skipping rocks, and the girl was sitting down—and she had light blonde hair.
“Maybe these guys?” I said to Sarah. The most awkward part of evangelism is always the first approach. I never want to be led forth by fear or insecurity, but I have found that thinking too much about what my motives for starting a conversation with someone can actually feed fear and insecurity. I was not sure what to say to these people or how to start a natural conversation, but I just took a moment to pray and listen to what God was saying.
“Let’s just go ask them where they’re from,” I said, shrugging. It’s always an easy way to start talking to people in Queenstown since nearly everyone is a traveller from somewhere else.
We walked up and were greeted with a smile and a friendly “hello” from each of them. I said, “I saw you skipping rocks, and I love skipping rocks.” Super smooth. The guy replied, “Oh yeah, I must’ve inspired you.” They were young, casual, and laid back.
Sarah and I started asking them where they were from and what they were up to. Their names were Libby and Will, and turns out they are cousins from England. Libby even lives in the suburb of London I lived in back in 2017. They both arrived in Queenstown less than 24 hours ago and were planning to road-trip the South Island for a couple weeks.
We had very lovely conversation about what they should do in Queenstown, what their plans were, and what we do for a living. Then, suddenly, I felt to ask Libby if she had shoulder pain, remembering my word from earlier.
“This is kind of random, but do you by chance have shoulder pain of some kind right now?” I asked.
Will kind of laughed, but Libby looked at me and said, “Actually yeah, I kind of do. How the heck did you know that?”
“For real??” I exclaimed, way too excited to hear that she was in pain. Ha! I then explained myself a bit more. “Well, like I said before, we’re Christians, and I talk to God and He talks to me. When I was walking over to you earlier I felt like He told me your shoulder hurt, and normally when He does that it’s because He wants to heal it. I don’t know what you believe about God, but would it be okay if I prayed for your shoulder right now?”
“Sure!” she said. Sarah and I sat down next to her on the beach. I asked her, “What do you believe about God?”
“I definitely believe there is a God, but I don’t really know. I grew up going to Catholic school and prayed like three times a day, and I go to church at Christmas and Easter and stuff… but I don’t really know if I believe in Him or not,” she said.
I then said, “Well, I really think God wants to heal your shoulder today, and I think that shows that He sees you and knows you and loves you a lot. Jesus wants you to know how much He loves you, and He is a really good healer. It’s pretty crazy that He told me your shoulder hurt, but it’s because He wants you to know He’s real and He cares about you.”
I asked her if she was feeling uncomfortable at all because I couldn’t really read her reaction to talking about Jesus, but she said she was fine and kind of laughed. I then put my hand on her shoulder and thanked God for the freedom He paid for on the cross, that He is a healer and wants us to live free from suffering and pain, and that He loves her. “And I take authority over the pain in this shoulder right now and pray for it to be completely healed right now, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
I asked her to test the pain, and she immediately said it was way better. She said it was maybe at a 4 out of 10 before I prayed, but now it was at a 1! She explained that it was more of a tension than a pain. She has really bad anxiety, and it gets especially bad when she travels, making her muscles get really tense and tight and sore from it.
As soon as she mentioned anxiety, Sarah and I lit up—again, way too excited about something bad—but it was because both of us had been healed and freed from anxiety very recently! We shared our experience about anxiety and told her that God can take that away, too, and that we’d like to pray for that if she’d like.
Will, who was also sitting down by us now, said with a smile, “Man, it would be huge if that happened right now.” Apparently, anxiety was a huge part of her life, and even her family could see it. We prayed again, telling fear and anxiety to let go of this girl, and declared in faith with Jesus that she would never struggle with anxiety again.
We asked how she felt once we finished, but she said since she wasn’t feeling particularly anxious at that moment that she didn’t really feel different. She did say, however, that her shoulder was totally better and didn’t feel tense at all anymore! WOO!
Sarah shared more about how sometimes when anxiety tries to come back, we have to realize that it doesn’t have any power over us. We can take its power away by believing the truth that we are healed and free from it. Libby really resonated with that and felt encouraged. We continued our chat for a few minutes, talking more about anxiety and fear and how we can be free from all that.
After about a 35-minute conversation, we parted ways. I was really bummed they weren’t sticking around longer because they were such lovely people—I think we would’ve been friends! Libby received healing from the God she wasn’t sure about that afternoon, though, and Will got to see the Gospel in action. I was so encouraged by Jesus’ love that day and am praying that Libby and Will won’t be able to shake that experience.
Jesus asked us to do this—to share our faith with others that they might know how much He loves them. He’s got way more at stake in this than I do, so of course He’s going to show up when I step out in faith! He loves to see us, His Beloved, succeed when it comes to the Great Commission, and He is always doing it with us. I’ve learned more and more that sharing Jesus with people is the most loving thing I could ever do, and it doesn’t have to be pushy or preachy; and when people encounter God, it’s anything but ineffective!