By By Marissa Wiese
The summer after my freshmen year at Northwestern was to be a time of making bank and hiking mountains in Colorado. It turned into working as a part time sandwich artist at a Subway near Denver. One day towards the end of a shift, my manager casually asked, “Are you super religious or something?” Caught off guard, I mentioned that I loved Jesus. That’s all I said. In that moment, I panicked.
Why is it that though I was raised in the church and at the time going to a Christian college, I still froze and couldn’t share about who this guy Jesus was to me? I began to wrestle with where I was in my own faith journey. Was my faith real if I couldn’t share about it?
As long as I could remember, Jesus was in my heart. I accepted Him as my savior as a child. But coming back to Northwestern for my sophomore year after the summer I spent in Denver, I knew something needed to change – but I wasn’t quite sure what. Through several events that only God could have orchestrated, I ended up signing up to do a summer of service (SOS) through the Northwestern campus ministry office. I wanted to do work for the kingdom, but honestly I didn’t really know what that was supposed to look like for me.
Living in eastern Europe for most of the summer, I spent my time with children and adults who were not familiar with the Gospel. Though we felt opposition and had to work through much religious and relational strife, we kept sharing. It was physically and spiritually draining. But we had to remember time and again that we’re called to be and share the good news of Christ; for many people in this region where we were, they realistically may never hear the good news of Jesus proclaimed again. Mindful of this, we expectantly and continually prayed that our words and actions would remain clothed in the love of Jesus Christ. Only his Holy Spirit can open the eyes of the heart to see him for who he is.
I left this past summer heartbroken, yet absolutely filled with hope. God clearly revealed to me that He is the one who calls people to Him; we simply join Him in His work. Story after story began to surface throughout the summer of God at work.
For example, there was a family we created a friendship with that had been believers in Jesus for about three months. Before this they were Muslim. When the wife’s brother became a Christian, they all began to study the Bible and ask questions about Jesus. Because of the brother meeting Christians and becoming a believer, the family of five soon followed. This family came from nothing; at one point they even made a living by digging through people’s trash and then reselling it. Yet they constantly told us that since believing in Jesus everything has changed. They often would talk of the hope that they now have knowing they are sons and daughters of the King of Kings; and they’ve witnessed God’s provision for them physically and spiritually time and time again. This family, along with about seven others, ended up getting baptized as Christians a couple of weeks after we left. This is one story of many that I witnessed God at work.
What I’ve begun to realize about my own faith journey with Jesus Christ, is how my belief in Him has grown solidified and sealed by love-fueled obedience. We are not called to be comfortable, and our faith is not meant to be kept a secret. What is the point of being kind and servant-hearted if no one knows it is because of Jesus? What I came to realize during my SOS, is just how rare of a blessing it is to grow up in the church. The number of people who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ is alarming.
For now, I am still praying about what the Great Commission may mean for the direction and leading of God in my life. Never again do I want to feel that moment of panic, like that day in Subway when I was given an open-door question to share about the good news of Jesus in my life. By God’s grace, I vow to boldly proclaim who this cool Jesus guy is!
Marissa, your zeal reflects that of the Apostle Paul’s. He states early on in his letter to the Roman church, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16)
Paul goes on to admonish us, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15)
May we be unashamed of this good news found in Jesus Christ; and may we be faithful to proclaim it as the sent ones of God.