by Candi Young
From 30 April 2014 to 13 April, 12 Dunedin churches hosted members of Mamlaka Hill Chapel, Nairobi, Kenya. Their visit, coordinated by the Church Missionary Society, was designed to mark the 200th anniversary of the gospel first being preached in New Zealand and to a) encourage the church on evangelism, and b) extend the Kingdom through their evangelism. Mornington Presbyterian hosted Mary Muchuku and loved the experience. The following is a reflection on one aspect of that visit.
On the last Wednesday that Mary Muchuku was here in Dunedin, Sylvia and I met up with her with the aim of learning how to go about doing mission work in town. We were originally going to walk around in the Octagon area, but as the day was (surprise, surprise) rather wet and chilly, and there were very few people sitting around outside, we opted for the Meridian-Wall Street instead.
Before we started we sat down together at a table near LOL and Mary explained how she went about approaching and talking to people. First, she starts with a prayer asking for the Spirit’s guidance and wisdom in order to get a feel for who to approach and also what to say. She said that she is usually drawn to people who look reasonably relaxed rather than folk who appear to be agitated or stressed. A relaxed person is more likely to want to converse, and Mary’s approach is highly relational. Knowing when to introduce Jesus into the conversation and how far to go with it is where the Spiritual wisdom is required. Sometimes the person might be receptive and interested, and the possibility of meeting again may arise. Other times it might be a case of showing friendship and love and “planting a seed”.
So we sat there at the table in LOL and prayed, and then set off. We’d decided that I would walk with Mary while Sylvia walked behind and watched. We walked slowly through Wall Street while Mary studied the folk sitting on the various seats and benches available. She led us over to an old man sitting alone who appeared to be casually checking the contents of his bag. We sat down and after a moment Mary leaned over and said hello to him. He just carried on doing what he was doing and didn’t appear to have heard, so she tried again, but then we both realised that he had a hearing aid which appeared to be switched off! We had a bit of a chuckle at ourselves over that and set off again, eventually sitting down beside an elderly lady in the Meridian. She was waiting for her husband to pick her up, but proved to be quite talkative and friendly and was interested in Mary and where she came from. This allowed Mary to talk about her reason for being here, which in turn gave her the opportunity to ask if the lady was a church-goer. It turned out that her daughter was a Christian and had been encouraging her to go to church, and her husband had once been a regular attender, so we had quite a good conversation about this. The lady said she had been put off church when she was a child because she was made to go to Sunday School, and it was all very strict and authoritarian. At this point Mary used her testimony to talk about her experience of church as a joyful place to experience the love of Jesus. The lady was receptive to Mary’s point of view, but she still maintained that church was not for her.
At this point her husband appeared, to take her home, and she introduced us to him, explaining where Mary was from and why she was here, and that she had told us about their daughter encouraging them to attend church with her. He seemed to be quite accepting and pleasantly surprised that we had taken an interest in them both. We wished them well, as they did us, and Mary wished them God’s blessing.
While we had been talking to the lady, Sylvia had gone into the nearest shop so she could follow what was happening unobtrusively. One of the shopkeepers had asked her if she needed any help, and in the process of talking Sylvia learned that this lady was suffering from pain in her hands due to arthritis. Sylvia felt suddenly compelled to ask the lady if she could pray for her, an offer that was gratefully accepted. And we have indeed been praying for both these ladies.
One of the main things that both Sylvia and I learned from this time with Mary was the truth of Luke 10:2 when it says “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” I think we tend to think that people will reject us or think we’re odd, but there are a lot of folk out there willing to talk about Jesus and open to Christian conversations. And if we don’t do it, who will?