So, we’re in lockdown and it’s harder to talk to people about Jesus because we aren’t seeing them, right?
Yes... and no. St Mark’s, Revesby has had two recent experiences of God’s word going out despite (or perhaps because of) lockdown, showing that while it might be hard to make new connections, it’s not impossible, and we can certainly build on those we already have.
Revesby rector the Rev Andrew Lim says a senior member of his congregation – we’ll call her Joan – has been reading the Bible on her balcony in recent weeks, taking advantage of the warmer, sunny weather.
Her neighbour – we’ll call her Angela – came onto her own balcony, saw Joan and asked what she was reading. When she said it was the Bible, Angela expressed such interest that Joan suggested they read the Bible together.
“So, they’ve arranged to meet regularly on their neighbouring balconies with a cup of tea and Matthew’s gospel,” Mr Lim says. “Everyone’s stuck at home, and they’re socially distanced, but they’re able to still share in the word.
“Sometimes you think, I need to hire a big-gun evangelistic speaker to do the job, but often it’s the person who quietly and faithfully perseveres in their life and mission, without fuss or fanfare, that God chooses to work through.
“God’s been preparing the way and putting the pieces in place... [Angela’s] son has been praying for her for years without really seeing any interest. Yet God saw fit, at this time when they’re two neighbours in lockdown, to do this work. We’re praying that she will come into a living, personal relationship with Jesus as she gets to know him.”
About a fortnight before lockdown began, the parish also had a group viewing of the Equip women’s conference. St Mark’s member Linda Parsons invited her sister-in-law Serena, who travelled to the event from her home on the outskirts of the CBD.
Mr Lim’s wife Lucy struck up a conversation with her on the day and says that not only was Mrs Ung interested in finding out more about the things of faith, but she (Lucy) could tell the Spirit was already working in Serena’s heart.
Then Sydney was thrown back into lockdown. No problem! Mrs Lim and Mrs Ung met up on Zoom, and Lucy decided to begin their weekly Bible time together by going through Two Ways To Live. She explained each element as they went and, at the end, Mrs Ung said, yes, she did want to live Jesus’ way.
Says Mrs Lim: “She already had a desire to trust in Jesus and knew that there’s more to this world, so she had all the things there but just needed it tied together. [After doing Two Ways To Live] she could see that ‘Oh – he died for my sins’.
“Some people feel like they need to know everything before making a decision and I have to say to them, ‘You’ll never get to the point where you know everything!’ But others think, ‘This is right’ and they’re happy to make that commitment earlier on and learn along the way.
“We’re reading the gospel of Mark. Serena says that she doesn’t know Jesus that much, so we’re trying to get to know who he is – but she knew enough to make a decision.”
Mrs Ung observes that, from the world’s perspective, she already had it all before coming to faith. She had a loving husband, a good job, promotions, a nice home and a beautiful baby girl.
Yet she still felt unfulfilled and “didn’t know how to be contentedly happy”. For years she had been encouraged to consider God but hadn’t made the time or effort. Now, she says, “even through this pandemic, I found some light in my life through God... and for that my life is truly fulfilled” – adding, from Psalm 28: “The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him”.
Says Mr Lim, “The Archbishop recently encouraged us all with these words: ‘Jesus is not locked down. His word is not chained’. And here we have two examples of that very truth, to both young and old, to both near and far, that the gospel is not caged.
“I’m hugely enheartened, and it is my hope and prayer that in sharing these two stories of how God is working, they will also be of encouragement to others and increase people’s boldness to speak the gospel – even in lockdown!”