More Than Survival
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of being part of the team of RZIM speakers for Austin Think Week. "Think Week” was an opportunity for Christians to unite through multiple events across the city that invited people to engage with the big questions of life and faith. Over the course of the week, the RZIM team engaged in more than 30 events, ranging from university talks, podcasts, private meetings at leading businesses, evening discussions at local hot spots, lively Q&A sessions, dinner gatherings, and church events for both training and evangelism.
Michelle Tepper answers questions from young professionals in Austin, Texas. A few minutes before, Michelle gave a presentation entitled "Isn't the Bible Sexist?" in which she boldly walked through evidence that the God of the Bible offers freedom and equality to all.
During a 2.5 hour Q&A on our first evening, a young, professional woman named Hiba asked how a loving and just God could allow children and babies to have cancer. She approached me after the Q&A and passionately stated: “Even if what you say about God’s love is true, He could never be just if He were to allow men who have abused me to enter Heaven simply by repenting." After telling me this, her very painful life story began to unfold. After telling me some pieces of her story, she then said something I will never forget: "I want a God like you spoke about, I just don’t think it could be true." She agreed to meet up with me and her two friends a few days later to continue our discussion.
Hiba is originally from the Middle East. During our time together she told me that after the fall of Saddam Hussain she “fled the violence and chaos looking for a life, a safe life, to finally reach the US.” Though she managed to “providentially” escape, she still grieved the fact that during this time so many friends and loved ones lost everything they had; some were repeatedly attacked, abused, and forced to live in hiding. She had spent the last decade hoping to find the “safe life” she so desperately longed for through the pursuit of professional and financial security.
Hiba continued to ask me good, apologetic questions about other religions and the historical Jesus, interspersed with more details about her life and very emotional questions about pain and forgiveness. She didn’t understand or like that fact that the cross could be payment for what she had suffered at the hands of others. I began to share about God’s beautiful and yet sobering eternal justice, which gives hope to her and many others who feel their perpetrators ultimately get away with evil. I told her that eternal life without God’s love would be no life at all; that it was the greatest punishment for all those who violated God’s law and love and would not repent. To her surprise, she suddenly broke down saying, “I have not cried since the day those men hurt me, but I feel dead inside. I am the one suffering now. I can’t enjoy anything."
As I spent the afternoon with her, I was able to show her how Jesus offers life to the full extent: free of bitterness, full of love, and rooted in truth; a life so much sweeter and meaningful than just a life of survival.
In the presence of her two friends, who I found out later were Christians and had been praying for her, she agreed to pray to start a journey of faith and trust with Jesus Christ.
Jesus came to make dead people come alive. This was precisely what we saw happening all across Austin, often in places seen as the most hostile environments for faith. We serve and worship the God who brings life through resurrection. He is the one who makes all things new. Austin is a creative, successful city, constantly looking for new and fresh things. Every person we spoke with was hungry for real, true, vibrant life. All we had to do was point them to "the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:23). Our hope is that the seeds planted would grow into a great harvest of people that are alive in Christ and living in such a way that others will be asking for the reason for the hope that they have. We are already exploring another “Think Week” in Austin and in other places in the United States. Please join with us in thanks for all God has done in Austin and for continued open doors for city-wide evangelism.