The Power of a Small Gesture

“Should we go?” I asked my husband. “It is so volatile in Paris right now. I must admit I am a little nervous even to fly. Plus, it is so cold and rainy there this time of year. Maybe we should postpone until the Spring when things calm down, and we could add on a few days of holiday. Yes, why don’t we postpone! What difference can we make anyway?”

It was January 2015, one week after the attacks at the newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The world was in uproar and my husband and I were scheduled to meet with missionaries to share the Gospel in Europe, starting in Paris. The evangelistic trip had been scheduled over a year in advance, and little did we know Paris would be in turmoil.

My husband and I prayed and discussed how many Christians were losing their lives for the sake of the Gospel throughout the world, especially in the Middle East. We had just heard detailed testimony from one of our pastor friends living in Iraq. With his testimony fresh in our hearts, we decided that we should go to Paris “for such a time as this.”

We landed safely at Charles De Gaul airport and were welcomed by our dear friends who were all smiles and joy. The car was full and there was much laughter but after the car doors shut they turned to us with an intent look, “Are you ready to share the Gospel?”

“Of course!” I said in my jetlagged blur knowing they must mean after we had a shower, a nap, and certainly a security debrief on how to stay safe in Paris post attacks.

“Well we have an opportunity now but we need to go straight there.”

“Gosh, I haven’t even brushed my teeth after the eight-hour flight.” I thought.

“Time is of the essence.” They replied.

“O.K. Let’s go now.” I thought we were probably going to encourage a youth group or something at the church.

I cannot share the details of where we went, but I was able to share the life giving message of Jesus with Salafists and even jihadists family members in one of the most dangerous sleeper cells in Paris. Their eyes were filled with longing, they listened intently as I was able to speak of the reality of Jesus and His unconditional love, total forgiveness, complete acceptance, and membership into His family for an eternity.

I shared how I came to know Him. Then the questions began, “Can Jesus really help me in this situation and that situation?” “Yes,” I said. We prayed with many. This was our first hour in Paris. The Lord continued to open more doors along these lines the entire week we were there.

One of the most striking conversations was with a young man and former jihadist who had been imprisoned and then became a follower of Jesus.

“HOW did you come from growing up in Paris from a nominal Christian home to become a jihadist, willing to kill others in the name of Allah, and even willing to blow yourself up?” I asked.

His response was chilling. “It started with a cookie.”

“Excuse me. Say that again.” I replied.

“Yes. My parents were fighting a lot and I was having a really hard time at home. I really needed someone to talk to about my struggles. I met a guy who happened to be a radical Muslim. This jihadists became my friend and listened to my problems. He began sharing about God. Frankly, the Muslims were the only people who talked about God in my neighborhood, and I know I needed a higher power to help me. One night he invited me over to his house for cookies and tea. There I met a number of young people my age who talked about God and prayed. This is how it started…”

My heart sank and chills went up spine. My first thought was, “Where was the CHURCH? Where were the Christians to come alongside this struggling teen?”

I have pondered my conversation with this young man many times over. What strikes me is that this jihadist did nothing out of the ordinary or heroic. The jihadist was available, listened to the struggling teen, became his friend, shared with him that God is real and cares, and then invited him over for cookies. These seemingly small gestures were a matter of life and death.

Oftentimes as followers of Jesus, we think that our small offerings will not really make a difference. We don’t think of ourselves as evangelists. We don’t feel equipped to share the Gospel because we might not know an answer. Perhaps we fear being rejected or seen as intolerant and pushy. Or frankly, we are so consumed with our busy lives that making time to listen to another person might mean taking on something we don’t have time for amidst our overly taxed schedule.

After returning from Paris, I had a chat at my mailbox with my aging next door neighbor who said, “I just don’t think I believe in God anymore.” If I am honest my first thought was… “Oh dear I am not sure if I have time to have this conversation right now. I have so much to do on my checklist.” Then I quickly remembered the teen and the cookie. God was not asking me to convert my neighbor, that was God’s job. All God was asking of me was to do what I could, and reach out even in the smallest way. So I listened and gave an encouraging word that has resulted in sharing books and more talks.

Many people think that they don’t have much to offer for the Gospel. Our mission starts at home, and our mission trip is walking across the street, making that phone call, sending that e-mail, or taking a little extra time at the coffee maker at work to have a conversation, to listen, to share even in a sentence or two that God is real and that He cares.

Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and YOU will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) God has strategically placed each of us in a sphere of influence where we can share Him. Look around you and think of ways you can share the news of Jesus Christ with others. A listening ear, a life giving word, an invitation, and perhaps a cookie can change a life forever.

Carrie Boren Headington

Carrie Boren Headington is the Founder of The Good News Initiative, dedicated to equipping others to share the Gospel in their everyday lives. She is a graduate of Yale, Harvard, and Oxford Universities and is an adjunct Professor in evangelism at Fuller Seminary. She also serves as Missioner for Evangelism for the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas.

Join the discussion

Penne Duke February 18, 2016 at 2:13am

Carrie, this message really speaks to me! Thank you!

LP February 1, 2016 at 3:02pm

A great reminder that little things matter. Thanks for sharing! God bless you.

Saydana January 27, 2016 at 5:48pm

I'll never forget that. i can't believe simple cookie can change lives! Thank you Carrie for sharing. I'll start my minister from my neighbourhood.

Avril January 24, 2016 at 2:14am

What a great reminder to reach out where we're planted. Sometimes I hesitate when I feel God prompting me and this is such an encouragement to just be obedient and let God do the rest. Thank you!

Aubri January 18, 2016 at 1:44pm

Beautifully put and a wonderful reminder that there's mission work to be done in our own backyards. Tangible opportunities surrounding us.

Sue January 17, 2016 at 3:44am

Amen and amen! I look for these opportunities!!!

Susan January 17, 2016 at 3:32am

I'm reminded of the power and loving impact of small gestures that God uses to open the door to sharing His amazing love and the gospel. Thanks for making it so clear and simple. God bless

Christina Delfert January 17, 2016 at 2:16am

This article comes at a perfect time when so many of us are not sharing the gospel do to fear. It is so true "the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." (2 Timothy 1:7)
The little things really make a difference, I am going to start baking a lot more cookies and share the love of Jesus!

Kathi Lanier January 17, 2016 at 1:11am

Really opened my eyes to how God can & will work in our everyday lives. To how God wants to use us in very simple ways to spread the gospel!

Grace January 16, 2016 at 4:47pm

My heart sank and chills went up spine. My first thought was, “Where was the CHURCH? Where were the Christians to come alongside this struggling teen?”-These of many confirmations that I should go to Vietnam this year for mission but fear always strikes. Thank you for encouragement. God bless you.

Stacia Long Glavas January 14, 2016 at 1:07am

Carrie: So nice to catch up with you! What a beautifully written post. I am so pleased to see how God is expanding your ministry around the world!!! Blessings, sister!

Lisa January 13, 2016 at 10:34am

Thank u for breaking the gospel down to the little things we do
Made me do a retake on my to do list attitude
God cont to bless you ❤️