When serving overseas, there are plenty of opportunities for fear to enter cross-cultural workers’ everyday lives. It’s no wonder that the phrase, “Do not be afraid” occurs so often in Scripture.
The reality of that struggle plays out in our lives in many different ways. On the field, fear can creep in when workers are learning a new language, finding their way around an unfamiliar city, starting a new job in a new setting, and sometimes just trying to buy groceries.
But depending on the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean ignoring fear. It means recognizing the fear, but then being willing to step out, in faith, and trust that He is with us, that He cares for us, and that He will help us overcome the obstacle that lies before us.
Sometimes, fear enters in when we are sharing with someone about Jesus. I serve in the Middle East where issues of faith are often divisive.
One day I decided to walk down to a local shop. I had gotten to know the shop owner fairly well, and we had started to share with one another about our own faith walks. He is Muslim and there are issues on which we agree and disagree. Talking at his shop meant being unsure of the circumstances as I attempted to engage him in matters of the heart and head.
As I got close to his shop, I sent a short text to friends, asking for prayers and the Holy Spirit’s help as I sought to share more about Jesus. I walked in and there were a number of employees, customers, and other people inside. He invited me to sit down. I silently prayed that God would bless our conversation and that He would make space for us to talk. Suddenly, as people texted me saying they were praying, we found ourselves alone. It was as if God had parted the waters and all of the obstacles that lay before me were moved aside.
Our conversation that day went on for well over an hour. We talked about his faith and mine, about his love of the Koran and my love of Jesus, about his struggles as a shop owner and his difficulties in addressing the anger issues he deals with. Through it all, we had the space to engage with each other in ways that were respectful, authentic, and private. It was a life-giving conversation for me, as I hoped it was for him as well. The experience made me excited to come back and visit him again.
The Holy Spirit walks with us into all kinds of situations where the potential for fear exists. I’ve learned that, at least for me, fear will often be an obstacle to overcome as I attempt to engage people in matters of faith. What I have also seen is the Spirit’s provision, and His willingness to walk with me and help me during these same times.
I will never forget the conversation with the shop owner and God’s answer to prayer. He set the stage for a wonderful discussion about faith, about freedom from sin and pain, and about Jesus. Fear exists. So does the Holy Spirit. And that is a far greater force than any obstacle we may find before us.
This article was written by a cross-cultural worker who serves with TMS Global in the Middle East.
Learn more about what world mission looks like through the Wesleyan lens—get the classic work, World Mission in the Wesleyan Spirit (eds Darrell Whiteman & Gerald H. Anderson) with over 30 contributions from missionaries, missiologists, and other scholars with a heart for spreading the gospel across the globe.