Once a fearful witness, now an overcomer

Fear gripped Melissa Campbell’s heart as she stood at the door. Across the threshold stood a self-professed atheist who just the week before said there had to be a “catch” to the evangelistic team’s visit to her Austin home. 

The fear had begun several hours before with unbidden thoughts: “No one’s receptive. They don’t want to hear. I am just going to be pushy.” 

Melissa and Fred Campbell, members of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, are using the T4T method of church planting and discipleship promoted by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board and Greater Europe Mission to reach Austin and other cities for Christ (see related story).

Campbell remembered shaking off the thoughts and reciting Acts 1:8 out loud: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Moments later the woman ushered Campbell’s team inside her house for the second time—this time, however, sensing there was no “catch.” Sharing a biblical story from Luke 7, Campbell listened as the woman told her there were “many reasons” she could not pray.

Sensing the woman’s confusion, Campbell was patient. She returned with her husband, Fred, for several weeks, each time sharing more with the woman about the claims of Christ.

Finally, one night the woman’s tone changed, and the team was greeted with a Nativity scene in the living room. They learned the woman prayed to receive Christ in the early hours of that morning. From there, she stepped onto a road of discipleship at her apartment building which lasted several months until she relocated to another part of the state.

“It’s stuff like that, that happens all the time,” Campbell said of her new commitment to evangelism and discipleship. “I can’t believe the relationship I have with [God] now, versus sort of sitting there in fear.”

The once-atheist woman is just one who comes to mind when Campbell thinks about how many others have responded since she and her husband, out of obedience to God, left their 3,800-square-foot home behind to make themselves more available by living in a large, diverse apartment community in the city.

One younger Hispanic woman—probably in her 20s—seemed reassured that Campbell, and not just her husband, affirmed what was being shared.

“She was relating to me woman to woman,” Campbell said. “I remember asking the Lord to give me the words to say.”

Campbell said that while it might be difficult for some families to make the transition to full-time ministry by selling homes and businesses, her three adult daughters and 9-year-old son have taken the changes in stride.

“The fun we had growing up as a family was us, as a family, serving other families,” Campbell said.

Despite having financial resources, the family has lived simply, she said.

The Campbells’ one married daughter is a teacher, and the other two daughters are both seniors in college—one at the University of Texas and the other at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. Their son, Joshua, recently went on a training mission with them and wrote his father a note afterwards: “Thank you for taking me to the training to learn about the Almighty King.”

Watching people answer the claims of Christ and grow through discipleship while at the same time realizing she has worked through her own fear of sharing Christ has been an unexpected gift to Campbell.

“I started noticing that when I participated in what God was doing on a daily basis, I was having to rely on him for the words to say to overcome my fear,” Campbell said. “Sometimes I still go in fear, and that’s where he meets me.”

Through it all, however, Campbell describes a supernatural peace that comes from knowing she is doing the right thing and from knowing in advance what she has been prompted to say through evangelism and discipleship training.

“My walk with [Christ] changed,” Campbell said. “I thought that fear would be something I would never be able to overcome. He proved himself very faithful to meet me exactly at my point of need, and he would literally deliver me. It’s like the Bible sort of came alive.”

Living in an international community of 4,200 adults, Campbell said she recently began a Bible study with a Muslim and a Hindu.

“For us, our fun is what we are doing,” Campbell said. “Talking about Jesus is fun for us, and advancing the kingdom is our hobby. This is what we choose to do.”

Joni Hannigan
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