The most impactful encounters often end up being the ones you least expect. They involve going out of your comfort zone, surrendering your pride in case of rejection and are often with people you wouldn’t expect. At least, this has been the experience of Team 8.
Every week, teams will have a team day to spend time together without a retreat. Our very first team day was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We were able to spend the day exploring Sioux Falls State Park. As we arrived and were browsing the visitor center, a teammate and I spotted two men who we could only assume were missionaries from the church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (otherwise known as Mormons). We shared a moment of excitement in seeing some fellow missionaries. They passed by and we went on with our day.
Later on, we spotted the two missionaries again. We looked at each other as if to say, “Let’s go strike up a conversation.” And off we went.
As we approached I asked if they were Latter-Day Saint missionaries and they turned as their faces lit up, replying, “Yes!”. We explained that we were Catholic missionaries, traveling the country leading retreats and thus began what I can only describe as one of the most beautiful conversations I have been a part of on the road. We asked them questions about their work and answered the questions they had for us. Despite our religious differences, we’d had countless similar experiences in our work. We talked about homesickness and the courage it takes to put yourself out there.
As the conversation came to a close, we prayed with them. In the middle of this state park, we all thanked the Lord for this encounter. We exchanged wishes of good luck and promised to pray for each other.
For both groups, it is our job to evangelize. Yet we all had an understanding that you cannot win anyone over without first having the genuine desire to get to know them. The first impression should always leave the other person knowing that they matter, they are loved, and they are seen. Christ preached the truth, while befriending the sick, the hurting, the rejected. He showed love, acceptance, forgiveness.
So take the courage to talk to a stranger – you never know the impact you can make, or the impact it will have on you. And always lead with love.