Sand crumbling between my toes, Kaela and I stopped our walk along the beach to ask God for direction. Here to tell the hundreds of beach-goers about the hope in Jesus, we waited for His response. A blue bucket hat came to mind. This was the first time I had received an item of clothing to identify who God wanted me to speak with. Kaela, unsure if it was God of her own imagination, received the image of a flag. And so we continued walking along the beach towards the life-guard’s red and yellow flags, on the lookout for anyone wearing a blue bucket hat. Not until we reached the flags did we find our mark. A few metres from the flag sat a middle aged man sporting a blue bucket hat. Coincidence?
Having found our man, we realised we didn’t know how to initiate conversation with him. So approaching him rather awkwardly, “Hey, how are you going today?”
He turned to look up at us.
“So we’re just going around this morning talking to people about Jesus. We were just praying and…..“ Then one of the women reclining in a beach chair shouted,
“You can go. Go away now! We don’t want anything to do with that. Go away.”
I was taken aback by the aggression of her response. Trying to explain that we had received the bucket hat and flag, how it was by no means a coincidence we were there and how the God of the universe wanted to make an appointment with him, we were flat-out rejected. Leaving as this lady became increasingly aggravated, Kaela and I saw a choice ahead of us, and so we chose to press on to the next flag. Funnily enough, we spotted yet another hat. It belonged to the mother of a family enjoying their beach-side lunch. As we neared her, we decided on a more casual approach with Kaela leading the charge;
“Hey, we’re walking along the beach saying hey, getting to know people and offering encouragement to people.”
In contrast to our previous encounter, she didn’t react negatively at all to us.
She just didn’t react.
After a pause, she offered a slight nod and ‘hey’ before returning to the vast ocean. Kaela and I were lost at how to continue the conversation. “How are you going today?” I asked, admittedly hesitant.
She continued to gaze out at the ocean in silence as her children chewed their sandwiches awkwardly. As the conversation didn’t seem to be open to continuing, we concluded with ‘have a lovely day’ and left her to enjoy the beach view.
Yet another choice stood before us. So continuing on to the next set of flags, we discovered another blue bucket hat just past the last of the next flags. This one belonged to the father of a boy and two girls donning their wet suits. “How are you going today?”
Finally, we had stumbled into a more natural conversation. We learned he was here with his family on holiday. He learned we were part of the Christian organisation, ‘YWAM’ and were spending our day getting to know people and encouraging them. Commending us, he then left with his family for the surf.
These encounters, whilst not particularly fruitful, didn’t stop us in our efforts to build God’s kingdom.
They served to train us in our approach, free us from the fear of rejection and grow us in our understanding of the cultures we were trying to reach.
We learnt, adapted and grew, ultimately trusting Him with the hearts of each person we spoke with. Gold is refined in fire, and like that refining process, the challenges we face have the potential to either burn us out, or refine us as we overcome them with the strength and encouragement of our loving, Heavenly Father. By Peter Chenery