Updated: Nov 22, 2019
A lifeguard. A maid. An architect student. A real estate agent. A computer programmer. A young mom. The Arab restaurant waitress.
Available. What does that look like? I will be writing a series of posts on what that looks like in our lives here in Barranquilla, Colombia. The intention being to draw you into our day-to-day, and see what that looks like for us as followers of Christ in a new city and country.
The Architect Student.
Sitting as a couple on the front stoop of the house, the evening breeze beckons. The smell of burnt cardboard burning in the tin can next to us warding off the relentless mosquitoes that seem to crave our foreign blood. The girls already quietly nestled in their bunk beds.
We see him across the street, walking briskly in the direction of his home.
His golden retriever had befriended us weeks ago while we sat watching the girls on the playground. She would disappear digging around the base of the trees looking for fallen coconuts. Then she would bring them to us, tail wagging, and wait for us take the slobbery hollow shell from her mouth to play fetch. Her owner, dressed in work-out clothes and gloves doing pull-ups on the playground bars about 20 feet away.
After ten minutes or so, he walks over introducing himself with a thank-you-for-playing fetch-with-my-sloberry-dog smile. He impresses us with his English, and we do an all to familiar dance of deciding what language to settle into. English. We had been speaking primarily in Spanish to him, but he continually answers in English. So we make the crossover. He lives down the road. We know, we say. We walk by his dog at the gate and take in her smiling eyes while we pet her through the bars.
We probably ran into each other two or three times a week.
When we wave at him from across the street, he eagerly comes over to greet us. Our time in Latin America has repeatedly schooled us in the art of greeting. Eye contact. Warm smile. Genuinely asking "¿Cómo le va? and listening for clues to continue the conversation from there. We chit-chat, this time primarily in Spanish. Arms crossed he stands relaxed rocking back and forth on his heels, commenting here and there about life. We talk about the difficulties of learning the Spanish language. What he'd like to do when he becomes an architect.
Chavo Del Ocho. (A Mexican sitcom comedy that was made in the 70s that is still on TV and has been a staple in Spanich-speaking countries to this day). He shows us a video of Chavo that he remembers laughing at earlier in the week. We crowd around his iPhone screen and exchange a few laughs.
An hour and a half later he politely says "good-bye" and heads off down the road.
For us, this is what available looks like. Having grown up a Christian in the 80s and 90s, I tended to have a nasty timer pop into my head when thinking about evangelism and discipleship. QUICK! SOCK THEM WITH THE GOSPEL! YOU MAY NEVER GET A CHANCE AGAIN. It was so conflicting to me because I love people and enjoy knowing them. This mentality would throw me into a "Gospel"-spitting frenzy.
Ask me of the people I door-to-door "evangelized", how many I spoke to again after the event. That would be a big fat zero.
There was something missing from what I thought was evangelism..... Relationship.
1 Corinthians 13:1 tells us "If I speak in the tongues of men and angels yet I have not love, I am noisy gong, or a clanging cymbol..."
I can tell you story after story now of people I have met, purposefully became friends with, and just naturally shared my walk with Jesus in the day-to-day context.
Here are some thoughts on this type of evangelism and discipleship.
Before speaking, really listen. Listen and care about your soon-to-be friend. This is, after-all, a relationship. How often do you really feel listened to? It is wonderful. When someone stops and listens to you, you feel cared for. Yes, this is an amazing opportunity to love by just hearing what someone has to say. (James 1:19, Proverbs 18:13)
2. Be patient.
Chances are, you will not be sharing the full, life-giving Message the first time you meet or talk to someone. This is ok. It really is ok. In fact, this isn't a race. This is about knowing another person, sharing of yourself, and waiting. What are we waiting for? God's nudge. YES! He cares about this new relationship and has already been pursuing this person before you. He wants you listen for His nudge to know when to share and when not to share. (Romans 8:24-30)
3. Be humble.
There is something to be learned in this relationship. You are not their Savior. You are not better than them. You are not God's only means of communicating with them. In fact, God loves them, and their story started before they were born (Psalms 139). Humbly step into the story, realizing that you are not responsible for their eternity.
1 Peter 5:5b God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.
3. Be intentional.
Write the person's name down in your journal. Pray. Ask the Lord to give you a heart for them. Ask the Lord to rescue this person from darkness. Ask Him to guide you and give you opportunities. Ask God to give you listening skills, patience, and an availability to learn from this person. God has a plan that is perfect. Be intentional, but be flexible, listening and ready to let go of your intent if it isn't right.
This type of availability does one MAJOR MAJOR thing in my approach to evangelism. The situation is now built on the One who loves, pursues, forgives, rescues, and is Sovereign.
I had to come to a place where I realized I do not hold the keys to the Kingdom. The pressure is not on. I am not the linchpin in someone's tragedy or success story.
This love relationship takes time, love, patience, suffering perhaps, sacrifice, grace.
Our approach to evangelism and discipleship is to be a reflection of Jesus' pursuit of us. It isn't our words, our wisdom, our timing. It's His story, pointing all the glory heavenward.
Will we get to be a part of the architect students' journey? We certainly hope so. In the meantime, we will listen, be patient, be humble, be intentional, and most importantly be available for however God chooses to use us in His masterpiece.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2