By Judith Costello
It seems like there are people all around us who don’t have much time for church. Do they have time for God? I’ve been thinking about how to reach out. Here are a few of my thoughts on evangelization:
Making connections one on one. A friend who recently lost his wife shared that the funeral preparation brought him back to a passion for the church. His transformation was the result of the kind attention of his pastor. Then, a woman from the parish office called and asked if he would reach out to another man who had lost his wife. The second man was feeling unanchored by this death, even as the first man gained a faith anchor after his loss. These two men now meet weekly to support each other. The hero of this story is the woman in the office, an evangelist in my mind, who recognized two people who could guide each other to reconnect with Jesus. Every parish needs someone like that who can say, “Would you reach out to that person because you have shared similar struggles?”
Use visual messages. When my son attended a public high school, he created his own ministry. He wore T-shirts with a message. His first T-shirt was my drawing of Jesus with a small, handwritten message: “The Way, the Truth and the Life.” Other students would comment about the shirt, sometimes in an unfriendly way. Peter persevered. Recently, our former pastor, Father Rich Adam, was transferred to another parish, so I designed a shirt with his favorite message. It reads, “The Mission: Get to Heaven and take as many with us as we can.”
These shirts boldly declare “I am a Christian.” It is time for the laity to put the message out there —”I am not ashamed to say, I walk with Christ.” People respond. Some are irritated but many are comforted. Some feel called back to God.
Remember — people are watching. Every day we have opportunities to give witness to our faith through joy. I remember once when I was stuck in traffic. An accident up ahead meant that dozens of cars were stuck. My car was on a slight incline. I put my manual transmission in neutral. The AC was on and the car was still running. Suddenly, BANG. My car and the car behind me collided. I felt irritation. How could someone run into me? The woman in the other car got out. I got out. The other woman said, “You hit me!” I was confused. Who hit who? And why was she studying me? Of course. She saw the cross around my neck and was waiting to see how “Christian” I really was! I tried to take responsibility and be charitable.
This incident reminded me that wherever we go, others see us and we are called to give witness for our hope. In traffic. Waiting in line at the store. Walking past people on the street. Even in church. I have found, as I work as a part-time clerk at a fabric store, that simple smiles and caring questions often open the door for other people. They will share their stories and their hurts. It is an opportunity to say, “I will pray for you. God bless you.”
Our mission is to get to Heaven and take as many with us as we can!
(Judith Costello, OCDS, is a freelance writer who lives in Davenport.)