This summer, traveling to a foreign country was not as foreign an experience. It was wonderful being back in a place that just a year ago I was so afraid I might never see again. But while so much around me was familiar, so much about this year’s mission project was different. And it was not just the different people on our team or the different sites we worked at. It was me; I was different. The difference could be summed up in one word: confidence. As I wrote in my journal on day three: “We went canvassing in Charlieville and everybody had good stories to tell afterward. I have so much more confidence this year. Jon and I re-met our Hindu lady-friend from last year and she loved that we remembered her – you could see it in her whole demeanor.” Last year when we first met this woman she was determined that we would not try to convert her. But this year it was she who first said, “Well, I suppose you want to tell me something about the Bible.”
Last year the very thought of knocking on doors (or gates in this case) and asking complete strangers about their beliefs made me nervous. What if I did not have a good answer? What if I said the wrong thing? Why had I not studied my Bible more? How could I know so little about the one thing that validates my whole existence? But this year, my attitude was different. First of all, I tried to better prepare myself by praying and studying God’s word. But, as a good friend told me recently, no one is “qualified enough” to be a missionary in the sense that we are all fallible and do not represent Christ as we should. And yet, despite our weaknesses, God still ordained us to be His messengers of the gospel; that His Spirit would work through our witness. This is an intimidating thought until you realize that humbly acknowledging your complete dependence on God is the key to the confidence you need to boldly tell people about the truth of the Bible.
Our “theme” for this year’s project was Ephesians 2:8-10: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, lest anyone should boast.” Most of the people we talked to while canvassing (parents of the children who attended the VBS) believe that their only hope of salvation lies in their own good works. They pray to dozens of different gods or adhere to strict ritualistic rules in a vain hope that someone up there might be pleased with their efforts. So our goal during the VBS was to emphasize how the God of the Bible is sovereign over all the affairs of the world including salvation. We did this by showing in the Bible how God was in control and specifically planned the events in the lives of Noah, Moses, Jonah, Daniel, and Paul.
There is a serious lack of comfort among the people in Trinidad. If you were to ask them the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism: What is your only comfort in life and in death? They would say that they have no reliable comfort. They do not know with any confidence that they are saved from their sin. On our last Sunday in Trinidad we were blessed to hear a good sermon on comfort. Brad Lenzner, Rev McGee’s summer intern from Westminster Seminary, preached on John 14 where Jesus says, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me … I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” In his sermon, Brad talked about the “so what” of the gospel. So Jesus died to save people from their sins; what does that have to do with me right now? Well, as a sinner saved by grace through Christ, you no longer have to live in fear, but you can be comforted right now in knowing that you have the truth. This is a huge comfort to the unbeliever, because it frees them from a life of doubt. But it is also a comfort to the believer such as myself, because it gives me the confidence to testify to the truth of the gospel. I do not have to be afraid that someone else’s salvation depends on my ability to say just the right thing, because it is Jesus Christ who saves.
My first trip to Trinidad exposed me to the need for Biblical evangelism both around the world and right here in West Michigan. People are living lives of fear because they do not know the truth: that we are miserably helpless sinners, but that Jesus Christ died to save us. My second trip to Trinidad gave me the confidence to challenge someone’s worldview in order to give an explanation for the hope that I have in Christ. As our team continues the work of evangelism in our own neighborhoods, our goal is to have faith that is so natural that we cannot help but talk about it wherever we go. Bethel URC in Jenison, Michigan wants to recruit more Reformed Christians to answer the call to actively proclaim the gospel right here in West Michigan. If you have noticed that we seem to be either a little shy or a little lazy when it comes to evangelizing, then Bethel invites you to join THE GROUP. This Group is about preparing you to live out your calling to be a witness to the gospel of Christ – wherever you are, whoever you are with. It is about making your faith so natural that you can not help but talk about it. The method is simple: study the work of Jesus, the apostles and other Reformed Christians and then GO DO WHAT THEY DID. The study part happens every other Thursday at Bethany URC in Wyoming. The doing part is planned and scheduled at all different times. Contact Amanda Mulder at (616) 2404319 or www.xanga.com/ harvestersforchrist for details and dates.
Ms. Amanda Mulder is a member of the Bethel United Reformed Church in Jenison, Michigan.