December 3, 2013
By Tiffany Jothen
My husband and I recently combined My Hope with two Operation Christmas Child packing parties. As we neatly packed 23 shoeboxes for children overseas, we stepped outside our comfort zone to share our faith with more than a dozen friends.
It’s funny how I always thought about My Hope being for other people. Sure, I participated in it, but it’s really for people who haven’t experienced Christ. It’s a way to tell them about the difference He can make in their lives. Right?
Well, that’s part of it.
For the past year, I’ve prayed almost every day for 20 people. Some of them have been friends since middle school; others I’ve known only a short time.
I first started praying for them because of My Hope, a nationwide movement to tell people about Christ. The more I prayed, the more I saw prayers answered, and the more I wondered why it hadn’t occurred to me before to pray for my friends regularly. I prayed for time to hang out with them, for opportunities to share my faith and for them to realize their need for God.
I wasn’t sure where some of them stood as far as faith goes, but I know others on my list definitely don’t believe in God. Some would identify themselves as Christians, but don’t believe some of the basics of Christianity. My husband and I have spent the past year sharing dinners and concerts with them, seeing movies together, carpooling and going on short trips together. We’ve played Rock Band, gone camping, changed a friend’s tire and — with all of them — we’ve talked about faith.
Then, earlier this month, we hosted two Operation Christmas Child packing parties. We packed and wrapped shoeboxes, had appetizers and great conversation. We even made a bonfire. We had mentioned in the invitation that we also wanted to share a short film featuring Billy Graham in conjunction with the party.
In the days leading up to that first packing party, I asked God to replace the nervousness I felt with excitement. I remembered Mark 11:24: “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it.” I tried my hardest to trust that God would help me through it, and He did.
As we showed “The Cross,” the room was dead quiet. When it was over, a couple of our guests were teary eyed.
My husband and I shared our own stories of faith, and our friends thanked us for it. I could see from one friend’s face that he was particularly touched. (This is a friend who had recently opened up about his faith at the end of a long night, just hours after we prayed for a chance to talk about God.)
My Hope isn’t just for people I’m praying for. It’s also for me.
Another friend at the party looked slightly uncomfortable after the film, and that was OK; he needed to hear the message about Christ’s love and sacrifice.
He and his wife, a longtime friend of mine, even joined us for church the next day, and my friend told me about the Bible study she started attending. I’ve been praying for them to get involved in church.
At the end of the night, everyone said they had a good time, and no one left upset or annoyed that we openly talked about Jesus Christ. One couple couldn’t stay for the film, but we had the chance to reach out to them in another way and gave them a copy of “The Cross” afterward.
Two weeks later, we held our second packing party. This is the one I was more nervous about because one of my best friends who clams up when anyone talks about God was going to watch a My Hope film in our home — with her fiancé, an atheist.
At the second party, we showed “Defining Moments” because the stories so closely align with that of the guests we invited. A few friends commented on how good the film was, and even my friend’s fiancé seemed to enjoy it.
After both gatherings, we told our guests that if they don’t have the hope or peace that we shared about, we hoped they would let us know so we could encourage them. And if they prayed to accept Christ, we would be happy to follow up.
When all was said and done, we had 15 adults and four kids attend our packing parties. It was a relief and an emotional high to know that we effectively shared the Gospel and that people even liked it!
While no one said they committed their lives to Christ, there’s no doubt in my mind that seeds were planted. I know that analogy is overused, but it’s true. And there’s no harvest without seeds. I’m grateful that God has given us friends who don’t have a relationship with Him, and I pray that He allows us to see every single one make that commitment for the first time. We’re still finding ways to get “The Cross” to the few friends who couldn’t make it.
God has left no doubt in our minds that He is working in our friends’ lives. But even more than that, He has showed me that My Hope isn’t just for people I’m praying for. It’s also for me. It has made me more intentional about being a good friend and sharing my faith. It has brought me and my husband closer as we pray together for our friends. And it has increased my faith in the God who answers prayers and cares even more about our friends than we do.
While my husband and I have now “done” My Hope, it really never ends. This is only the beginning of living a more emboldened life for Christ that is not ashamed of our Savior but that passionately proclaims how He can transform lives, including ours.