Words by Lianna Wittick
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. -Romans 1:16
The gospel is the good news of God’s kingdom coming through the life and actions of Jesus Christ. This is a central part of Christianity, that Jesus was born on earth—the Son of God made human—and that he died on the cross. By doing so, Jesus took the punishment for the sins of all people, so that we can be forgiven and made new. This past year my job was being a missionary, which essentially means that my full-time job became sharing the gospel through my words and actions of love and service.
I grew up in the church, and therefore have heard about the gospel my entire life. My faith was definitely important to me growing up, but I began to realize as I grew older that while Sunday school had given me a knowledge of the gospel, I didn’t always see or feel the real transformational power that the simple gospel message holds.
Even during CityLove, there have been times when I lost sight of the beauty of the gospel message as I wrestled with the nuances of theology, the politics of Christian life in America, and feelings of inadequacy in my own abilities as a missionary. But time and time again throughout this past year, I have seen the simple, important gospel message impact people in powerful ways, and have felt the impact in my own life as well.
One of the most striking moments to me was during Festival of Light, the Christmas art installation we put together last December. The station I co-led was the Gift Room—we set a scene reminiscent of Christmas morning, with a Christmas tree, sofas, and presents scattered underneath the tree. The main part of this station was hundreds of tiny boxes under the tree for people to take, which contained a letter written in first person as though it was from God. This letter reads:
My beloved child,
It is my great joy that you are here to encounter me today.
I have picked out the perfect gift for you, and I am so excited for you to receive it. It is the free gift of grace given to you through my son, Jesus. I sent Jesus to be born on Earth so that he could set you free from sin by suffering and dying for you, and to open the path for you to experience healing, joy and eternal life with a Father who loves you more than you could ever know.
I know your heart, I see your pain, and Jesus is ready to meet you with this free gift of grace no matter where you’re at.
Merry Christmas - Love, God
Although this letter was the final version of several drafts, and also a joint effort, I was ultimately in charge of writing it, and to be honest I hadn’t felt up to the task. Writing a letter from the point of view of God that succinctly shared the entire gospel message felt like a task too spiritually important for me to take on! I wanted to say, “Pastor Scott, this really seems like a job for you.” Nonetheless, the letter was approved, and 1,000 copies were printed to hand out to everyone who came through the art installation.
But as people began to go through the station and open the boxes, I started to see how God used this simple letter to work in people’s hearts. Many people cried as they contemplated the truth and goodness of those words. Some stayed in the room and prayed for a long time. Others shared after the fact that although the letters were all the same, theirs seemed to speak directly to them in a personal way. While I had been praying for that kind of impact, it still blew me away.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote:
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:17-18)
As someone who is often very success-oriented, doing missions work can sometimes feel daunting. I worry that I’ll be too bold and come across as pushy, or not bold enough and miss a chance to share life-giving truth with someone, and I worry that if I'm not interesting, or smart, or loving, or outgoing, or passionate enough that I won’t be representing Christ properly. And I often don’t feel up to that task. Thankfully, during CityLove I have come to better understand the fact that there is so much power in the simplicity of the message of God’s love for us. Like the tiny gift box and the short letter inside, God can and will work through us even—and maybe especially—when we are humble and imperfect.
Like the tiny gift box and the short letter inside, God can and will work through us even—and maybe especially—when we are humble and imperfect.
I am so thankful for the opportunities CityLove has given me to serve the people of Providence and to grow in my relationship with God. There have been plenty of times when I felt outside of my comfort zone or my abilities, but those have often been the times where I was able to recognize God's work the most clearly, and ultimately they were the most rewarding. God is powerful and loving and good when I am fearful and inadequate, and the gospel is full of beautiful, life-changing truth. When my trust is in these truths, I can go out and love boldly, and expect to see both my life and others’ changed for the better because of it.
Lianna grew up a Navy brat and setting in Maryland in middle school with her family. Her call to missions started in her childhood and studied International Development and Spanish in college at the University of Maryland to pursue that.