This coming Friday, September 23, the Emmanuel Community will be hosting its monthly Mission Night at the church of St. Vincent de Paul in Redfern. The goal of the night is to spread God’s love through joyful encounters with those passing by in the street. Participants spend time evangelising in pairs and also interceding for the mission inside the church before Jesus, exposed in the Blessed Sacrament. All are welcome (no registration needed).
Below is a testimony from Richard, a seminarian, about his first Mission Night experience.
My first experience of street evangelisation with the Emmanuel Community was one I’ll never forget. We began with prayer and Eucharistic adoration within the church, and then split into two groups. My group went outside first and started by singing songs to God in the open. To me this seemed to create an atmosphere of joy and welcome.
Then partnering up with Victoria, we offered small “words for the day” to passers-by. These were little pieces of paper with quotes from Scripture that we hoped might inspire. It’s hard to know what might have been the fruit of this as people took the paper and read it as they continued their walk by.
One lady, however, stopped and was drawn to watch the musicians singing on the street. Seeing her there, I thought it would be a great moment to introduce ourselves; “Perhaps she wouldn’t mind talking with us…”, I said to myself. So Victoria and I went over.
What followed was a beautiful encounter with a lady from Brazil. She had been to the church once before, on Good Friday, but every other time she walked past it had been closed. It was providential that we were there that night, because the “word of the day” that we offered her really spoke to her heart, giving her words of consolation and encouragement during a difficult time in her life here in Australia. We were there as a reminder of God’s never-ending love. After speaking for about 5-10 minutes, Victoria led us in a beautiful prayer, spontaneously asking Our Lord to bless and guide the lady through all these challenges. The Brazilian woman then entered the church to pray.
The experience left me moved at how God was able to put us in just the right place and time to be an instrument of his love and mercy. While I was a little hesitant at how the street evangelisation would go, I was surprised that it was actually easier to do than I thought. We just had to be open to talking with others about our faith, and wait for the opportunity to present itself.
Perhaps sometimes we can think of evangelisation as preaching the truths of the faith to the unchurched, or converting non-believers. Yet, in this instance, it was as simple as listening to someone share their story, offering words of compassion and respect, praying together for their intentions, sharing a bit of our own lives and inspiring them to pray to God from the place in which they find themselves. It really was a ministry to offer love and hope to those struggling to find it.
I’m glad I gave street evangelisation a go. Even though I was going into something new and unknown, I found it wasn’t so complicated. The fact that people are paired up helped with this, since I was able to take my lead from my more experienced partner. The experience was thoroughly rewarding even just for the one soul that I witnessed encountering God. It was a beautiful reminder for me that it is in giving of ourselves that we truly receive and find the meaning of our life.