“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
1 Peter 3:15
While riding on a bus in the middle of Russia, the leader for our missions’ trip approached me. He was a pastor with years of international missions work on his vitae and so I looked forward to today’s adventure. Each day of our three-week trip provided new and amazing ways to serve God in the remote parts of Russia: a camp for medically fragile orphans, an orphanage that could only be arrived at by foot, Orthodox churches, an unreached village, and today, a prison. Yes, we were headed to a prison where hundreds of young men under 18 were serving sentences for murder, rape, and the like. I felt no fear – even though the guards were unarmed – because the whole trip was one big act of faith.
As the pastor sat down in the seat across the aisle from me, he said these words: “Michelle, I would like you to give your testimony at the prison.” He must have seen my reaction and so he added, “Oh, don’t worry, you will have a translator on stage with you.” Honestly, that was the least of my worries. Actually, having no translator would have been better – how could they understand me then?
As he walked away, I could not figure out why he asked me of all the seasoned missionaries on the bus, but I could only assume he had prayed about it first. I was not sure how much time remained before we arrived at the prison, but I quickly ran through ideas in my head. I remembered sitting in my living room before we left for the trip filling out a preparation sheet. The one-page sheet had three questions on it: what was your life like before you met Christ, what are the details surrounding your choice to follow Him, and what is your life like now with Jesus as your Savior and Lord. I was instantly grateful I had taken the time to write out my answers to those three questions that evening in my living room.
My life was a mess before I met Christ; I was in my twenties and felt no peace or purpose. The details of my encounters with Christ over a six-month period were vivid. He orchestrated many conversations and situations that I simply could not credit to coincidence, and I knew I needed to make a decision. Giving my life to Him has since been the absolute best decision of my entire life.
Arriving at the prison, giving the testimony of my childhood, and spending the day with the inmates turned out just fine. In fact, they all treated us with respect and kindness. They had questions about America and had received erroneous information in which our country was made to be the “bad guys” in world events. I listened as our pastor gently explained the truth of current events and then we spent hours playing volleyball outside.
Obviously, giving your testimony does not have to be so dramatic. A conversation with a cashier or a friend at work is just as important. However, I believe we need to take the time to prepare what it is we are trying to communicate. The above scripture states that we are to give the “reason” we have for believing. Our reasons may vary, but our Jesus remains the same. What are your reasons for following God?
Before I left for that missions’ trip, I had prayed “God, show me what breaks your heart.” for a long time. God was faithful to answer, but as His conduit on earth, He had expectations of me. I needed to be prepared and living by faith. If we want God to use us, then we have to be usable and surrender our resources to Him: our time, energy, and money. It is a combination of work and faith, work and faith, work and faith. Finding the right balance is a daily journey for me and I am sure for you too. Blessings in that journey!!!