Peter Villa and his colleagues, Andy, Orlando and Jairo — despite working together at a California homebuilding firm — were like planets passing each other in orbit. Adding to the distance was the hectic pace of daily life, including Peter's role as co-pastor of Kern County Seeds of Greatness Church in Bakersfield.
"I didn't really know what was going on because all we would do is just say, 'Hi,'" Peter said. "I never had this chance or the boldness to talk to them or to share the Bible with them. I prayed for them, over them, but I never got a chance to share the Word with them or my testimony."
The workplace barriers began to fall when Peter approached each one of them with Boxes of Love®, a national partnership project between Cru® Inner City and local churches, including his congregation. Normally, Boxes of Love are filled with all the goodies for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, plus gospel literature. But 2020 wasn't a normal year.
In order to reach the most people while maintaining social-distancing protocols, the Bakersfield Inner City team decided to provide grocery gift cards in lieu of the traditional boxed goods.
"Since we couldn't go house to house it was an opportunity to sit and do a little bit more interacting with the individuals," Peter said. "It gave me more boldness or courage, confidence."
Much of that confidence was fostered through specialized online training provided by the Inner City team, which offered pointers on effective outreach. Before taking the training, Peter admits sharing the gospel outside his family was intimidating.
"I was so scared to speak," he confessed.
Peter said the training familiarized him with practical techniques to share the gospel one-on-one, prompting him to approach his co-workers. Before starting, though, he asked God for wisdom on what to say.
The perfect ice breaker, he said, were the Boxes of Love gift cards.
"When they did the cards it gave me a chance to really step out of the box, for me, at my work, with my co-workers, to reach out to them and see if they will give me the time of day and they did," he said.
During his conversations with his co-workers, Peter learned that Andy was suffering because he lost custody of his children; Orlando and his family were dealing with fear after his mother-in-law was diagnosed with COVID-related pneumonia.
"When they started opening up to me, it really got to my heart," Peter said.
For co-worker Jairo, the issue was skepticism.
"It was hard for him to commit," he said. "He'd listen to me but he never accepted anything. But this time he listened and he accepted. He believes in God."
Jairo wasn't alone, Andy and Orlando also gave their hearts to Christ.
"It was awesome for me," Peter said of the three professions of faith. "It really inspired me to do more, to get more involved."
In addition to the gift cards, the Box of Love package included a New Testament Bible and gospel literature such as the Four Spiritual Laws, which he used to tell them about Jesus.
Peter's commitment to them did not end with their decisions to follow Jesus. Since then, Andy, Orlando and Jairo have participated in online Bible studies on occasion. Peter hopes they will eventually visit the church. In the meantime, he tries to handle them with finesse, like trying to do a tricky drywall patch in a corner.
|“Every day is a challenge. That's why it's important for us to follow up with them because, one day to the next day, they can go back to what they would do before.”||"I didn't want to bombard them," Peter said. "I didn't want to scare them with a bunch of stuff so I take it one day at a time with them. Every day is a challenge. That's why it's important for us to follow up with them because, one day to the next day, they can go back to what they would do before.|
"I used to be that way. I would choose God and then the next week, I would go off the path. In and out. So I know how that is. But they do give me the respect and they do give me the time of day when asked."
As excited as Peter is for his work friends, he's equally pleased to be able to live out God's command to love and disciple others.
"It just changed me," he said of the training experience. "I know that this is what God has called us to do from the beginning. But when you actually do it, something goes over you that you start loving, you start having this compassion, you start having this desire and a need to reach out more. It was cool. I mean, it's like, wow, this is what I've been needing to do for a long time."
Photo by Jack Sharp/Unsplash
Lori Arnold serves as senior writer for Cru's inner-city ministry.
Peter’s story demonstrates the dramatic change that happens when we are able to step out in faith. Share his story on Facebook or other social media platforms by using this link:
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