by Laurie Nichols
It’s been just three days and my mind keeps going back to our visit. Her slow movements. Her downcast eyes. The sickness and declining health that seems to be a regular enemy in our visits. We have been visiting Ms. A in the massage parlor for five years. Yup. Five years. We’ve had many good conversations and have learned a lot about her. In broken English, she has told us about her family, her church, her hobbies, her health. Well, as much as can be expected from someone who is part of the trafficking problem in this area.
As I watched Ms. A. slowly move towards us when we entered, I could almost see the noose around her neck. Yes, I did say she is part of the problem of trafficking. But she is also a victim. Bound by culture, bound by obligation, bound by sin, bound by the enormity of who-knows-what that keeps her from running into freedom and into the arms of Jesus.
And so on this day, after months of watching her health slowing decline, I was determined it was time to clearly present Jesus and to give her a choice—choose this day between life and death—now choose life (Deut. 30:19)! With a Korean tract in hand and prayers offered up to a God who desires all to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), my friend and I opened the door to the always-open Korean spa.
My heart sank as I saw our beloved Ms. A ever-so-slowly walk towards us. Yes, she was okay, she said. And, sorry, she couldn’t talk as she had a customer. And, no, she didn’t need any prayer. Goodbye.
I quickly pushed the tract into the gift bag and gave it to her as we said goodbye. “This is for you,” I said, as I had done dozens and dozens of times before. My eyes welled with tears at the lost opportunity to pointedly ask her if she has accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She had made it clear that she did not have time for conversation on that day.
People often ask me what evangelism looks like in anti-trafficking outreach. Well, sometimes it’s just plain ugly and painful like it was three days ago. Always it’s slow and deliberate. Always it must be full of grace and seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6).
For three days, I have mulled over our visit with Ms. A. Time and again I have gone over the question “Should we have forced the conversation?” After all, I had deeply sensed that it was time to clearly present Jesus Christ to her. But it was a closed door on that day.
For three days, I have second-guessed myself. And then, like a phoenix rising from the depths of despair, God’s word spoke to me: “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland” (Isa. 43.19). And then this: “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (Isa. 55:11).
God & His Word.
That’s what Ms. A has right now. Even though broken and bruised—victim and perpetrator—Ms. A is made in the image of God and deeply loved by Him. His Spirit is with her in that dark, lifeless place. And His word through that tract is with her. God’s Spirit & Word infused together can do miles more than my own human attempt to push an agenda on her. God’s Spirit is a loving guide that woos and smiles and ushers in a life beyond comprehension.
So what does evangelism in anti-trafficking outreach (or any other outreach for that matter) look like? Here is a very simple outline:
- God stirs. God warms our hearts. He gives us a desire and a passion for others to know Him. We begin to fully believe that we are “Christians”—little Christs who seek to love and care for those in need (the downcast, the unlovable, the outcast, the wretch) and who desire that all shall come to repentance in order to experience the full and complete love of Jesus.
- Our prayer-filled response. We come to God in prayer, asking Him to make our hearts like His heart. We pray to see others as He does and to respond as He would. We ask for His leading and guiding in the Who, What, How, Why, and When to speak of Him to our new friends.
- God cracks. God opens a tiny door as we develop relationships. He stirs the hearts of potential friends even before we enter. He walks through the door before we do and stays even after we’ve left.
- Our God-initiated response. As we begin to form bonds and care for others because they are made in God’s image, we love for love’s sake and care simply because God cares.
- God opens. As we get to know people, we earn the right to tell them about a God who loves them. He continues to make us likeable to them.
- Our God-guided response. We prayerfully engage in gospel opportunities as they are given to us. We follow the prompting of the Spirit and accept when we’ve pushed too far or too fast and we step back when needed.
- God continues. God desires all to come to repentance. He wants none to perish. God continues to woo people to Himself. He stays perpetually and faithfully (Psalm 139:7).
- Our God-filled response. We continue to love and care for others, regardless of their response to the gospel. We accept that we are in it for the long haul, and we are glad about that.
Some may say that evangelism takes place in step #6. In reality, all eight steps are part of the evangelism process. For many of us in anti-trafficking ministry (and even for many of us not!), evangelism needs to be redefined. It is too important of a process to contain and condense it into one step. Evangelism is the fully-embodied process of being a good news bearer.
Three days ago, my eyes brimmed over with tears over the lost opportunity to share Jesus with my friend. Today, I am reminded that God is a God of second chances. He has not left Ms. A. He has not forsaken her. He is working to draw her to Himself. May it be so. And may all of us be faithful, dependable, and trustworthy as we live as little Christs in this world.
Laurie Fortunak Nichols is editor of the EvangelVision blog. She is also director of communications at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College and managing editor for Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ). Not given the gift of evangelism, Laurie is continually seeking ways to encourage like-gifted Christians to share the wonder of Jesus to those in darkness.