Each one of us has a mission that perfectly fits who God created us to become. God created this desire within us and sent the Holy Spirit to nourish it. As an introverted convert to Catholicism, I never thought I could be a public speaker – much less an evangelist inspiring and equipping Catholics to evangelize through their faith stories. I was content to be an author collecting the conversion and renewal stories of other Catholics.
My own faith story is a simple tale of a shy young girl from Texas, raised in the Protestant church. I gave my life to Jesus while on a youth retreat when I was 15 but couldn’t tell anyone about it, even those in my loving church family. My relationship with Jesus held me together three years later, when my father died suddenly.
From then on, all I wanted was a devoted Christian man to love me and establish a Christian home. I met that man in college — trouble was, he was Catholic! We married in the Catholic Church, without Mass, and I converted almost three years later when I knew I belonged in the Catholic Church.
God-moments and miracles
It wasn’t until I had been a Catholic for many years that I realized the power of sharing my conversion story.
My response to the Holy Spirit evolved from him repeatedly putting before me one pivotal scripture:
Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope. (1 Peter 3:15)
The Holy Spirit gave me the desire to bring God’s love to others in the form of his presence within me. As I began to focus on loving my siblings in Christ, my natural shyness to share my faith slowly dissipated. My conversations with others before that desire overwhelmed me were superficial, shallow, and often self-serving.
Gradually, I discovered how to share my big God-moments and little miracles effectively one-on-one, then in a small circle of friends, and finally on stage in front of an audience of strangers.
Evangelization is all about love. When I realized how much God loves me and let that travel from my head to my heart and sink in deep, my approach to everyone changed. As Christians, we have tens of millions of brothers and sisters in Christ. And most of them are hurting for that love of God that we have. They are hungry for the peace and joy they see in our faces as they sense the presence of God. They need hope.
Always be ready
How did the Holy Spirit instill in me the courage and capability to share my faith? By reminding me of 1 Peter 3:15:
Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.
This verse is the perfect guide for me. It doesn’t say to stand on the street corner and shout, “Repent!” It doesn’t mean manufacture and give out T-shirts saying, “Always be ready!” It doesn’t even direct you to organize a new ministry. Or earn a degree in theology.
What it does say is to prepare for people to ask why you are hopeful. Why your smile shines with the love of God. Why you appear so available and approachable. Your demeanor reflects your relationship with the Lord, your confidence in the Holy Spirit and your hope in God.
The “Always be ready” is the ideal verse for my life mission. The Holy Spirit inspired me to record my God-moments of building a personal relationship with him. I keep a spiritual journal where I have hidden the story of my faith journey, step-by-wavering step, and decision-by-guarded decision. What makes these little stories valuable is that they are not about what I have done but about what God has done. His moments of touching my life in every possible scenario are those any person could experience. These shareable stories are vignettes, and they are uniquely personal yet somehow woven with a thread of universality. My journals provide enough resources for a lifetime of evangelization through my personal witness. My continuing conversion keeps me writing with even more blessings to share.
What to share?
How do we know what to share? By believing what Jesus promised us:
“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)
Jesus keeps His promises. His promise is personal to each of us. The Holy Spirit will remind us of everything the Lord has said and done in our lives. As we evangelize, He will remind us of a particular situation of ours that is the ideal love-message to share with those He has prepared to receive it at that unrepeatable moment when we converse with them.
When does this happen? Perhaps during a chance meeting with a stranger, an old friend or new acquaintance, a group that gathers spontaneously or meets regularly. We can be visiting or entertaining, working or vacationing, exercising or shopping, alone or in a crowd. The Holy Spirit is full of surprises that we often feel unprepared to handle. But when we open our mouths, we hear words spoken spontaneously that we did not plan to say – loving words of reassurance giving hope to everyone listening.
The Holy Spirit’s mission of evangelizing by sharing our Catholic faith story is perfect for me – and given to every Christian at their Baptism. Whatever other career, family commitments, or ministries God has meant for us to do, this one fills all the crooks and crannies. Being ready to bring God’s presence to others by sharing his wonders in our life embraces all our goings-on.
Let God love you
I encourage you to get alone with God and let Him love you until that love moves from your head to your heart, penetrating to the depths of your being. Begin recording what God has done in your life to draw you closer to Him. What has He taken you through? How has He loved and cared for you? When did His mercy rescue you? What lessons have you learned that would help someone in a similar situation?
Ponder 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” Allow the Holy Spirit to empower you to evangelize through little stories you’ve hidden in your heart and written in your journal. When you are available and approachable, opportunities to share your faith story will find you as the Holy Spirit surprises you with what he can do through you!
May you find that joy of bringing God’s presence into your corner of the world and restoring hope.
Copyright 2019 Nancy Ward