138 Dirksen Drive, DeBary, FL US 32713
For years I’ve heard about hosting “Christmas Gatherings,” where you share Jesus with your neighbors by inviting them over for coffee, snacks, and conversation during the holidays. Hosting such an event sounded nice, but I lived with my mom, I didn’t talk to my neighbors and, if I’m brutally honest, I was just never interested in hosting one. The events didn’t seem like they were for me.
Fast forward, and I find myself co-leading the Women’s Ministry at our Wilkinsburg Campus. Did you read what I just wrote before that? I seriously wasn’t interested in sharing Jesus with my neighbors.
Boy, has God done some work in my heart!
Last September, our leadership team was discussing what it would look like to host a Christmas Gathering in Wilkinsburg. We decided it would be a great way to end our fall semester, so we planned it for December, set the date, and held it on a dreary Monday evening.
At our campus, many of the ladies who participate in the Women’s Ministry are single moms. Finding childcare for our women’s events can sometimes be challenging, but we have two young adults who love to serve, love kids, and almost always provide childcare for us. I sent a quick text to these two ladies, Lexi and Celia, and then forgot about it; it was as good as handled in my mind. As Monday approached, though, I realized that I hadn’t heard from either of them, which seemed odd. They’re both in college, so I chalked it up to studying for finals. I went ahead and re-sent the text to see if they could commit to providing childcare for us.
To my surprise, Celina messaged me back saying that she would love to watch the kids. Celina?? I messaged Celia! It’s funny how God works. Did God autocorrect the name? Here is where the real story begins.
Celina is a girl who I met in the Young Adults Ministry at the South Hills Campus. She comes from a traditional faith background where rituals and steps mean more than a personal relationship with the Lord. She knew a lot about God, but didn’t know how to take that step into knowing Him.
Why had I never thought to invite Celina to the Christmas Gathering? I had been praying for opportunities to share Jesus with her, but I felt I first needed to gain more ground in our friendship. Well, it seems God felt otherwise, and presented me the opportunity through this mixed up text message to ask Celina to come to the event as a guest instead of watching the kids. She said yes, and we planned to meet at my house and drive in together.
The evening was great! Naomi Paul, Preschool Director for The Bible Chapel, shared her testimony, and our group of 15-20 ladies gathered around two tables in the Fellowship Hall and listened intently to her story. We had desserts and coffee and chatted for hours. I think we had to be told to leave…we just had the best time together.
As Celina and I headed home, she couldn’t stop talking about how great the night was and how much Naomi’s story resonated with her. I asked her point-blank if she knew what it meant to have a relationship with Christ. She said no.
I began sharing the gospel with her, pulling verses from memory, and asking her clarifying questions along the way.
I wish I could better explain what that car ride felt like, but all I can say is that I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit working in Celina. After sharing the gospel with her, I asked her if she wanted to have a relationship with Christ. I’m glad she had her seatbelt on because she practically jumped out of her seat as she said, “yes!” It was such a beautiful moment. Thankfully we were turning onto the street where I live, and we sat in the car and prayed together.
I know there are many prayers that people use to help lead others to Christ, but I didn’t use any of them. Instead, I asked Celina to pray from her heart. I told her that she just needed to have a real conversation with God and ask Him to be the Lord of her life. We talked about what Lordship means and what it looks like to give God authority over your life.
Celina prayed the most beautiful prayer. She asked God to take her burden of trying to live life on her own. She asked God to take control of her heart, mind, and soul. She earnestly prayed for her salvation, and I watched a sense of peace wash over her as she prayed. There were tears of joy, and there was lots of hugging. God is so good!
I am continuously humbled to see that even though I am incredibly stubborn, God invites me to join with Him as he expands His Kingdom. What a beautiful experience it was in which He asked me to participate. I am so thankful that He provides opportunities to share Jesus with others. The best part about our Christmas Gathering is that I did nothing. Jesus did it all! I was simply a vessel for him, and you can be, too. I challenge you to take the step to learn more about how you can share God’s love in your community by attending our upcoming Christmas Outreach Training. Learn more and register!