Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. -Matthew 28:19-20 NASB
Our first afternoon in New York City, we took the subway to Bryant Park. (Without looking it up, I could not tell you at all what part of NYC that is; we took the subway all over, so I have no idea what is where or how to get there.) It was our first day, but already we were supposed to go talk to strangers about the Gospel. Incidentally, this was a first for many of us, whether it be this type of trip or even going to New York. I don’t know what is it about talking to other people that can be so nerve-wracking, more specifically when it comes to matters of faith, and even more so when you know what you believe is truth others need to hear. But anyway, in order to accomplish our objective, we had been split into teams of four: three of us Texans plus a student/intern from Word of Life, the organization we were working with that week; my team leader was Jeff. So there we were in Bryant Park with the intent of talking to people we had never met before, and after a brief team huddle and prayer, we were off to spread the message.
Honestly, I’ve never really been good at walking up to people and starting small talk. I’m an introvert, and it’s taken me years to get to a point in my life in which talking to people is somewhat enjoyable, but starting a conversation can still be a challenge for me, especially with people I don’t know. Being thrown into this the first day of my arrival did not really make it easier on me. I’d rather have just handed out tracts than talked to people; that would’ve been a lot easier (maybe more cowardly). The first guy I remember talking with had a somewhat thick Spanish accent; he was from Mexico and had recently lost a loved one. I think he was a believer, but I can’t be sure because I had trouble understanding him during our conversation. I do know he had needed someone to talk to about what was going on with him, so I was able to minister to him in that way, even if I couldn’t always figure out what he was saying. Another conversation I had was with a young woman who was respectful of what I had to say, even if she didn’t agree with me. I talked with a guy until he got distracted by a phone call; he had told me that if humans can figure out how to get along, then we can figure out what’s out there (or something to that effect). I also met a man who was a believer; he seemed so negative with how some Christians go about sharing their faith, but we had a nice short theological discussion before it was time to leave for the day. Needless to say, I still wasn’t sure what I was doing, and I felt a bit discouraged with the whole experience that day.
I didn’t think things had really gone that great, but if all we were going to do was walk up to people sitting there and start talking to them, maybe things wouldn’t be so bad. Ha, I was still getting my feet proverbially wet, but was I in for a rude awakening the following day.