The last few months of evangelism in Toowoomba have been both challenging and encouraging.
On the encouraging front, we have never had so many Christians volunteer to labour with us for the first time. Sharing the Gospel with the people of our beautiful city is a wonderful privilege and seeing the passion in these newcomers is inspiring in so many ways.
On the challenging front, we experienced a number of difficult outreaches in this time, where the majority of people refuse tracts and don’t want to talk at all. On one particular outreach, I was able to give out 8 tracts in one hour. My teammate and I experienced a 90% refusal rate. Normally it’s around a 30% refusal rate.
The rest of our team had better numbers on that particular outreach, but each team member has experienced at least one tough outreach this semester. Whether it is in the indifference to the Gospel, stereotypical labelling or angry, rude refusals, we’re learning to crucify our pride and to trust in Him who loves us and loves our community. It’s very easy to idolise the acceptance of others but we’re progressively learning to lean on His unearned and never-failing acceptance of us through Christ.
On a related note, we had an interesting experience with an African street preacher this semester.
My team mate and I found a young African bloke preaching at the corner of Margaret and Ruthven, which has been a favourite spot for a number of street preachers over the years. We introduced ourselves and then asked him about his message.
S--- greeted us and said that he was preaching/reading from Romans 10. He then shared his testimony with us and how God had saved him in juvenile detention around the age of 15. It was a gripping story. He then told us how he demonstrates to people that Christianity is true. He said “I tell them that they can call out to the “gods/beings” of Islam, Hinduism, New Age etc, but because Jesus is the true Son of God, only He will actually save them from their situation. This is how we know God exists and that Christianity is true”.
In a remarkable display of humility, S--- then asked us “What do you think? Is there any way that I can improve on my approach?” I was surprised by his openness at first.
I gathered my thoughts and said to S--“I can see what you’re saying. But perhaps it’s better to tell people to come straight to Jesus first, rather than challenging them to try other religions? They will experience a lot of unnecessary pain as they find out the hard way that the religion is false. If we tell them to come to Jesus first and experience his saving/delivering power, then they can know him without all the brokenness that comes from road-testing false beliefs.”
S--- said that this approach made sense and that he would encourage people to come to Jesus first. We then chatted about a number of subjects, including church. He infrequently visits a church near his home and I urged him to relationally connect with this church family. I strongly advised that he get to know people there and to allow others to get to know him. I elaborated that the best way to do this is to join a small group and engage in the Church’s corporate worship.
S--- said that he would consider it and we parted on good terms.
One final interesting thing about this term is that one Saturday we came across a large group of protestors in the Toowoomba CBD. They were protesting the idea of mandatory vaccinations and were busy handing out leaflets to all who would take them. We exchanged literature with some members of the group, who appeared to be an intriguing mix of Christians and secular libertarians. As far as protestors go, they were quite friendly!
I’ve included some photos in this post.
This semester has been memorable for so many different reasons. Please pray for us as we welcome newcomers and seek to love and serve the people of our city.
Join us in praying for the Gospel to go forth, for people to be saved and for Jesus to receive all the glory.
Toowoomba Team (QLD)
Meets the 3rd Saturday of each month at 11am at the Margaret St McDonalds. The team also meets the 1st Thursday night of each month for prayer.
Contact Doug Espie for more information.