How to Share Jesus When You Can’t Say His Name

While on a Passport trip to Vietnam, Rose Cushwa struggled with being in a country where ministry looked very different from an typical mission trip: meeting people at coffee shops and inviting them to English class and karaoke nights, instead of openly sharing the Gospel with everyone she met. 

Then God did something amazing. 

Monday morning came to Vietnam bright and sunny. As the clock ticked toward 11:30, I felt the insecurity that had been haunting the back of my mind since we arrived creeping up on me.

Because Vietnam is a closed country, we can’t openly share the Gospel. Instead, our team was supposed to go out to local coffee shops and meet people, otherwise known as “relational ministry”.

But how was I supposed to just go out and make friends with random people when I don’t even do that at home? As we began walking down the street with card games in my purse and no destination in mind, I was consumed with my inability.

I have no purpose here. I am not equipped to invest in people this way. I should be somewhere they just give me babies to hold, not this. I thought.

For some reason I started verbalizing these thoughts to my team. Just saying those things out loud helped me identify these thoughts as lies. As my friends spoke truth next to me, my mind also brought up Scripture.

I was reminded that we don’t need to be equipped; we just need to say, “yes” and our Father will provide the rest. I was also reminded that God called me to Vietnam so clearly for a reason. And finally, I was reminded that God is a good father and does not ask me to step out in faith just to let me fall. His plan is greater than my insecurity.

Even knowing the truth of my purpose in Vietnam, all my doubts still warred inside me. Finally, I prayed, “Fine, God, show me. I’m trusting you have a purpose in telling me to come here with nothing to give but I can’t do this you have to show me what you’re planning on doing.”

Walking in this internal conflict made it seem to me as if we’d been walking for ages, but it was about 15 minutes of walking past empty coffee shops that didn’t feel right when I saw a sign with gold letters said, “cà phê” (which is Vietnamese for coffee in fancy gold letters). For no reason I could understand except being tired of walking already, I said “We should go in, it says ‘coffee’ and we aren’t going to find anywhere better anyway.”

It turned out to be a small, very fancy, coffee store. There were small shelves of coffee and tea and things I didn’t even recognize, and glass cases lining the wall. It looked expensive, definitely not like a place to play card games, and more importantly it was empty.

We probably would have turned around immediately, but the second we stepped into the store one of the girls working there with one of the sweetest smiles I’ve ever seen was already by our side to showing us the coffee. In an attempt not to walk out rudely, I tried to ask her, confusing hand gestures included, where we could get a cup of coffee hoping for a recommendation.

Instead she sat us down at a table off to the side, disappeared momentarily to her coworkers who were giggling and staring at us (a normal reaction), and returned with traditional Vietnamese tea to tell us she would bring us coffee. In an attempt to salvage some sense of our purpose, I invited her to sit with us when she returned with the coffee but she insisted she only knew a little English and disappeared with a smile.

So there we sat staring at our fancy tiny French press coffees that no one (except me) actually wanted, and I felt defeated. I apologized to my team for misleading us, and offered to pay for the coffee that I was sure would be far too expensive.

How could we befriend someone who wasn’t even comfortable speaking English with us? I downed my green vanilla tea as Halle encouraged from across the table that we just needed to ask her questions to make her feel more comfortable. In my self-pity it seemed like an impossible task, but beneath the frustration I couldn’t shake the small feeling that I really wanted to talk to this girl.

When she came back to check on us I found myself asking her questions about the coffee and tea, which led into her staying to talk with us more. She told us how the shop is mostly frequented by Chinese tourists and so she speaks fluent Chinese, but she is trying to teach herself English. Her name is Dung, which she told us means “Beautiful” before telling us that we were all beautiful. She was very excited to hear that we were going to be teaching English at Vision Café and we were able to invite her and share when we would be there.

Shortly after she introduced us to a couple more girls, one of them named Kim, who spoke great English. She talked to us for awhile about everything from school to the Fast and Furious movies. She told us we drank our coffee too fast for Vietnam and not to buy the coffee from that shop because it was too expensive.

When Kim had to get ready to leave for another job we left as well, after making sure to add both girls on Facebook of course. We walked out smiling as I was overcome with such a peaceful joy and content in the fact that, despite my doubt and what I believed to be my inability, God brought us exactly where He wanted us and opened the door for us to talk to exactly who He wanted us to.

The story could end here, and I would have been praising the Lord in how He used and lead us, but as we stepped out He gave us a true “But wait, there’s more!” moment.

The second I was out the door, I heard my name being shouted from behind and turned around to see five girls running out to us. Kim was with them, and they all had big smiles on their faces. Kim told us they all wanted to come learn English from us! We gave them all the information, told them about karaoke, and made our way back past the empty tables, waving goodbye to our new friends.

I would have loved to share the story of how God used us in the places He had planned that ended with me being content in how I was being used, but our Father loves to give us more. Instead of just walking out with a smile on my face, I walked out with tears in my eyes as well, overwhelmed by the faithfulness of a Father who would take me from a place of being completely sure of my failure to a place of using me more than I imagined. He didn’t need my plans or intentions, just my “yes” to love whoever He put in my path.

I might not be able to publicly say the name of Jesus in Vietnam, but His name and His love are being shared just the same.

Do you feel God calling you to share His love in Southeast Asia? Check out our 3 month Passport trips for college students for Fall 2017 and Spring 2018!  

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