I sat in the trade show booth stunned as Ryan Conklin, whom I had just met, told his faith story to me, and out to thousands of North Texans listening to KATH 910. The presence of the Holy Spirit was indescribable.
Many of the 8,000 to 10,000 worker bees from the parishes and schools in the Diocese of Dallas and the North Texas area buzzed around us at the Dallas Ministry Conference at the Irving Convention Center.
Sponsored jointly by the University of Dallas and the Diocese of Dallas, the conference provides parallel sessions of talented presenters to inspire and inform those in the field hospital of Catholicism. Catechists, youth ministers, teachers, musicians, liturgists, parish administrators, volunteers, and clergy sit in on the sessions with the opportunity to mingle and network at the trade show. There they could peruse what publishers, speakers, ministries, and suppliers of anything Catholic had to offer.
Our North Texas Guadalupe Radio Network station, KATH 910 broadcast live from within the trade show booth where we were sitting. I’ve known Dave Palmer, executive director, since his childhood and of course, we scheduled an interview on evangelization in one of the 15-minute time slots. Dave and I have talked about evangelizing through our testimonies several times in the past three years, often with other guests who added their stories to mine.
With my book, Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story: Tools, Tips, and Testimonies, coming out in January, I came prepared to tell my story (again) and how the book developed. But Dave — and the Holy Spirit — had a better idea. Yes, I did get the opportunity to mention the upcoming book and the drawing to win a free autographed copy. Then Dave invited Ryan Conklin, cohost of GRN’s “Undivided Attention,” and production intern, Sissel Anderson, to tell a little of their stories. This challenge caught all of us by surprise. As Ryan sat down beside me, facing Dave and Sissel, Dave engaged us in a dialogue about how Ryan and Sissel could share their stories, then called on the young man beside me. Ryan hesitated only slightly before he began to reveal an engaging account of his life as a well-formed cradle Catholic and the many ministries of his parents. On the recording, you can sense his brief nervousness changing to joy as he witnesses how God brought him to seminary, ministry and marriage.
Sissel shared briefly the story of how her parents, who had left the Church early in their marriage, returned with all their children converting to Catholicism.
Both Ryan and Sissel’s witnesses were real-life proof of what I call “the Holy Spirit reminder Scripture.”
“The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name — he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (John 14:26)
The Holy Spirit reminded both Ryan and Sissel of the important things about their faith stories, and then helped them tell it.
I learned so much in this 15-minute interview. Not just to always be ready with my story and a couple of talking points about my ministry and the book, but to expect surprises. In not using this time to tell my conversion story, I learned the value of listening carefully to the story of two people I had just met.
Stunned, I focused intently on how God is working in Ryan’s life. Now I felt I knew him well. And I also wanted to know Sissel better by learning more of her conversion story.
As you can hear on the recording, both Ryan and Sissel share the key events in their spiritual growth as these experiences came to mind. The spontaneity was refreshing – a sure sign of the prompting of the Holy Spirit! Our divine guide and counselor shone through Ryan’s story. He was surprised by the Spirit and yielded to his vulnerability to speak from deep within his heart as the Spirit guided him. Sissel had shared her story previously and once was asked to give her testimony to a large crowd only ten minutes before the event began.
Whether we have a prepared witness or an unexpected opportunity, the Holy Spirit readies the listeners he chooses and works to evangelize them through His elaborate plan. That plan usually is unknown to us. The spontaneity often is what makes our story real and touches someone to the core.
The unpredictability of the Holy Spirit continues to amaze me! Thank goodness that he balances this element of surprise with his promise that he is always walking with us, especially when we are giving our witness! He is the evangelizer as we cooperate in the enormous privilege God has given us – to help bring others closer to Christ.
The presence of the Holy Spirit was indescribable as as Ryan Conklin told his faith story to me, and out to thousands of North Texans listening to KATH 910.
Thank goodness that the Holy Spirit balances His unpredictability with his promise that He is always walking with us, especially when we are giving our witness!
Copyright 2018 Nancy HC Ward