Talking to strangers regularly is not something I envisioned myself doing when I was growing up. In fact, for most of my life, I actively avoided it. I had my circle of friends and family, and that was enough for me.
When I went off to college, I was suddenly surrounded entirely by strangers. There was not a single person that I had ever met before within fifty miles of campus. Though it was nerve-wracking, it was also a beautiful opportunity for growth, and I learned that I actually enjoy meeting new people. God has created so many wonderful souls and it brings me joy to hear their passions and stories.
About two months ago, we decided as a UW-Milwaukee team to change our approach to outreach. Partially because of the pandemic, partially because of the city, partially because of our own fear, outreach was a struggle in the first semester. There was an idea in our minds that we had to do something super fun and creative to meet people, but it just wasn’t working. So this semester, we decided to just go and talk to people on campus. No gimmicks, no handouts, just the Holy Spirit, the Gospel message, and us. It was incredibly intimidating!
The first time I went with my teammate Mia, I was so nervous that I hoped that we wouldn’t actually find anyone on campus to talk to. Luckily, there were two lovely women who offered to watch my backpack while I ran to get something, and we ended up having a really natural, comfortable conversation about their year and how they had chosen UW-Milwaukee. Though there weren’t any fall off your horse conversion moments nor did the Holy Spirit physically descend like a dove, there was a fire set in my heart from the conversation. Everyone we spoke to that day was so thankful to be approached and genuinely cared for. It was amazing!
As the weeks progressed, it became less frightening and more exciting to go out on campus. A few weeks ago during outreach, I felt a tug to approach a woman who was sitting alone. I walked up and introduced myself as a missionary from the Newman Center, and she immediately reacted by saying that she had been trying to get there for over a year but was afraid to go alone. We chatted for about fifteen minutes and ended up agreeing to meet at the Student Union sometime to walk over together. A week later, I texted her to try to set up a time to meet, but her schedule and mine kept conflicting which was very frustrating. I started to feel discouraged and that although it was a blessing that outreach was less intimidating, it still wasn’t bearing the fruit that we had hoped for.
The Lord in His goodness took over from there, and much to my surprise, she came to our student dinner last week with a good friend of hers. She had been continually thinking about it after we spoke (the Lord definitely kept the dialogue going!) and ended up talking about it with her friend who was interested in also coming. Not only did the Lord guide me to speak to her, He then continued to guide her to the community here at the Newman Center.
The Lord has continued to bless our outreach efforts in surprising ways which has continued stoking the fire in my heart! God is good!
Thanks for reading all the way to the bio! My name is Mariah Navis, and I am a first-year missionary with Brew City Catholic at UW-Milwaukee. This year has brought so many blessings, especially joy, and I am so excited to share some of them with you!