Sometimes, the biggest things are the smallest.
I think that’s true in life, but I know it’s true in ministry. Especially in a context like Germany where the average person may not have ever met a single Christian or been to a church service. My ministry hosts a variety of events with the simple purpose of building relationships that will lead to Gospel conversations. Some of these events are completely arts focused, like our regular Open Stage nights. Others are primarily Jesus focused, like our weekly Soul Space, an artistic meditation/Bible study. As one might expect, it’s been hard to blend those two audiences, as those who enjoy Open Stage often don’t feel comfortable or want to come to an event that’s more obviously “Christian”.
“I feel uncomfortable because I don’t know what I can and can’t say or do in religious-y situations.”
That’s the text I got from a friend a few weeks ago after inviting her to an event we were hosting. This friend, Abby (name changed to protect privacy), had been coming to Open Stage for months and I’d only recently gotten to know her better. She’d had some really difficult things happen in her life, despite the fact that she was only just finishing her last year of high school.
My ministry held a Passover/Seder-inspired meal experience on the Thursday before Easter and even though I knew Abby had never been to one of the more Jesus focused events that we held and didn’t have an interest in Christianity, I wanted to invite her anyway.
She felt uncomfortable, so I invited her to help us do the cooking and prep with us before the event, which she readily agreed too. I said she could leave whenever she wanted, but I was praying for more. All week I’d felt nudged by the Lord to pray very intentionally for Abby, in particular that she would feel comfortable enough to stay for the whole event, not just leave after we had set everything up.
We had a good time cooking and setting up the room, and in the afternoon we talked briefly about how Abby felt in terms of staying.
“I just don’t know”, she kept repeating. She still felt awkward, but wasn’t even sure why. I tried explaining to her what was going to happen and encouraged her that it was okay just to hang out and be there, even if she wasn’t really interested in the religious parts of it.
It was down to an hour before and she was still talking about leaving…but then she didn’t. She decided she was already there and wanted to help us clean up at the end…so she might as well stay.
I felt like fireworks were going off in my mind and I suppressed the urge to get up and shout with joy. Thank you Jesus!
For the first part of the evening we had set up stations with Seder-inspired elements to taste and a short explanation for people to go through individually. Abby stuck close by my side and went to each of the stations with me, reading, watching, and tasting. I used each of the stations to keep praying for her. After that, we read the Scripture about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and explained that we were going to do a hand washing. In pairs, people went to gather the supplies we’d left out and washed one another’s hands. Towards the end, I turned to Abby. “Would it be okay if I washed your hands?”
I’ve participated in foot washings a few times, but always with people I knew very well and who I knew were fellow believers. Somehow, this little handwashing felt far more profound and special than anything I’d participated in before.
After we were done, I took a steadying breath. “Would you feel okay with it if I prayed for you? You can say no if you’re uncomfortable.”
And so I got to pray, out loud, for Abby. Obviously I’d been praying for her all week, but it was different to have her right there while I thanked God for our friendship and for Abby and prayed for relief from stress in her final exams coming up and a few other things I knew were happening in her life. When I looked up, she had tears in her eyes.
She hugged me, “Thank you.”
The rest of the night was spent eating the meal we’d made and hanging out, and then cleaning up. We talked and laughed and it was really fun. It was just a few short moments, but I still felt like something had shifted. Abby isn’t a Christian. She’ll still tell me she’s not interested in religion. I don’t expect her to suddenly start going to church. But she stayed. She went through the experience we’d prepared. She heard Scripture. And she let me pray for her. And that’s a huge deal.