Creative Evangelism

quest-9-3In the 80’s my wife and I were missionaries in Austria. For a time we worked in a town with a population of 40,000 to establish a church. When we started looking for a place to rent in town we were amazed to find that there was nothing available! So a friend of ours began driving the neighborhoods looking for vacant houses. He found such a house and put us in contact with the owner.

Apparently a nine-year-old boy had inherited this 100-year-old villa from his aunt, who had not been able to care for it or herself for the ten years prior to her death. After she died, the house sat vacant for another five years. It had been broken into several times and ransacked by vandals. When the mother of the boy (owner) showed us the house, it looked like Frankenstein’s lair! Everything was covered with soot. The curtains, floor and furniture all were blanketed in black soot. The place was a mess!

Additionally, the boiler and all the radiators had burst in the cold. So in its current state the house had no heat and no water. Further details of the repairs the house needed to make it livable are too many to list here! My sweet wife cried after seeing the house and I was overwhelmed with the notion of renovating it.

No other house was available, so we struck an agreement with the owner that we would do the work if they would provide the funds for materials. So for the next five-and-a-half weeks I worked 14-hour days to make the house livable. Our co-workers and friends helped tremendously as well.

But as I began to work on the house, I resented spending all this “ministry time” on home renovations. I kept arguing with myself that I had come to Austria to win people to Christ, not work on this mega home-improvement project! I was really hard on myself during this time and felt guilty and defeated that I—a missionary—wasn’t doing missionary work. I also wrestled through these issues with God. He kept telling me to cool it and trust him that he had everything under control. After all, he cares far more for the lost than I do!

After a few weeks working on the house I began to notice something that I had been too self-focused on to recognize before. Our new neighbors were intensely curious about what we were doing to the house. I also discovered that they were extremely grateful that someone was fixing up this neighborhood eye-sore. The neighborhood grapevine quickly communicated that we were an American family—which spurred a lot of questions. But they were impressed with the intensity of this crazy American’s work ethic.

These sympathetic vibes that we were getting from our neighbors increased as we continued working on the house. People began greeting us and we had some friendly conversations with them. In the process, I got to know our local baker who sustained me daily with his delicious creations.

As a result of their curiosity and friendliness, Linda and I decided to invite all our neighbors to an open house once we finished the remodeling. Someone from every home we invited showed up to see what we had done to the house. This kind of response within six weeks is unheard of in Austria! Normally those kinds of relationships take months and years to develop. And yet God in his wisdom used the renovation of an old villa to break down relational barriers and catapult us into relationships with our neighbors.

This whole experience was a huge lesson for me in trusting God and his infinite creativity in getting the gospel of Christ to others. Because of the renovation of that house and the relationships that ensued, we had many great opportunities to share Christ with our neighbors. And God planted a church in that village that still thrives over twenty years later!

©2009 Rob Fischer


1 Ray Edwards { 08.26.09 at 3:17 pm }

What an inspiring example of how being Christ-like in our behavior can show Christ to others – and draw them to him.

2 Brian CooperSmith { 08.31.09 at 1:47 pm }

That just shows you how powerful God really is I think and like you how trusting he really is also. I have had those same -problems trusting in him with certin stufff in my life but I have faith and I know that he will bless me latter with what I can not have right now.