The Blue Cord, by iHOPE Ministries

Embrace Discomfort. Find Joy: Debbie's Story

Episode Summary

Have you noticed women of other faiths in the grocery store, park, or school? Debbie did and knew she should engage. Yet striking up conversations about Jesus across cultures was daunting. Then Debbie embraced discomfort and discovered it was easier and more fun to engage than she imagined. Now she is joyfully sharing Jesus with many. If Debbie can do this, you can too. She shares practical ways to begin.

Episode Notes

Have you noticed women of other faiths in the grocery store, park, or school? Debbie did and knew she should engage. Yet striking up conversations about Jesus across cultures was daunting. Then Debbie embraced discomfort and discovered it was easier and more fun to engage than she imagined. Now she is joyfully sharing Jesus with many. If Debbie can do this, you can too. She shares practical ways to begin. 


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Episode Transcription

Karen Bejjani: If you're like most women, I know you want to trust the Lord and fearlessly share Jesus, yet something holds you back. Maybe you're struggling to navigate our culture. Maybe you wrestle with fear or lack skills. Maybe it's easier to stick in your comfort zone and keep your mouth shut rather than to talk about your faith, especially across cultures. That's what the Blue Cord Podcast is all about. I'm your host, Karen Bejjani and if sharing your faith has been hard for you and you long to be brave, strong, and courageous. This is for you.

All right. So let's get started. Today, I've invited my friend Debbie to share her experiences in knowing God and making Him known.

So we're going to start by thinking about Jesus's words in Matthew 28:19, where He told us to go make disciples of all nations. And this is what's known as the great commission. So Debbie I'd love for you to share what your earliest thoughts were about what that even meant. 

Debbie Douglass: Awesome. Thanks for having me. I'm so excited to be here. So for me, I got saved, at 20 years old and that's when I started getting familiar with my Bible and read the great commission and every gospel. And, for me, it just meant that I needed to disciple people is kind of what I thought I needed to teach them the Bible.

And so I took that literally. I was young in my faith and zealous and wanted to do whatever the Bible told me to do. So I started a Bible Study down the street at the high school with some high school girls. And I was three months in the Lord and I just sat on a blanket and taught young high school girls, the Bible, and basically taught them whatever I was learning in my church and just replicated that. And that's how I started and for me, it just stopped there. I was making disciples right here in my neighborhood with my friends and my sister and my friend group so I didn't think outside of that of the great commission. 

Karen Bejjani: Got it. So let's back up a little bit, you were saved when you were in your twenties. How did that even happen? Talk to us a little bit about what that was like, how did you come to even know the Lord? 

Debbie Douglass: Well, I grew up in a church-going family and I say that because I didn't see a lot of. Spiritual things happening in my family. There was no passion for God's word or reaching the lost or anything like that. But I was raised going to church, but I didn't know the Lord. So at 20, basically some of my friends had become Christians and I heard about it. So I went to visit their Bible study. And for me, it just hit me like a ton of bricks the way that they worshiped, the way that they loved God's word. It just confirmed the truth of God's word. Their transformation, they're born again, experience who they were, to who they had become was so radical that it just impacted me so powerfully. It's just the power of the testimony, you know? And I saw their change lives and to me, it was like there was no excuse at that point, the gospel was so real and so obvious that it was powerful and needed for us to follow. That I gave my life to the Lord. And I overnight gave my life to the Lord. I completely changed. I was a new creation. My whole brain thought changed it was amazing. 

Karen Bejjani: Wow. And so here you are, you're in your twenties and you are taking the Bible literally. This means you go make disciples of all nations.

So tell me some stories about those early times. Like, was it a real sudden shift for you? You're a brand new believer and you're out there going. What did that look like for you? 

Debbie Douglass: Yeah. So I think my experience is pretty unique because I got saved in a youth revival. So tons of people were getting saved around me so everybody needed discipleship. Not revival just within the church, but an awakening also was happening. So people were just getting saved. Tons of young people out of drugs and alcohol and crazy lifestyles and stuff. So all of them needed discipleship.

And actually at that time, because I was one of the earlier converts, I was like the old elder woman at 21 or something. Me and my sister-in-law I actually, started bible studies in the front yard and sharing the word and discipling people. And so we started multiplying ourselves, basically, because everybody was young in their faith and hungry for the word. So it was pretty easy pickings at that point. 

Karen Bejjani: So no resistance along the way. 

Debbie Douglass: Not at that beginning. It was a unique experience because like I said, it was a revival time. 

Karen Bejjani: So then, did God give you a heart for the nations all around you right then? Or did that come on more gradually?

Debbie Douglass: Yeah, that was much later. So basically in our church, my husband started teaching the book of Acts. And as we started studying the book of Acts as young Christians, my husband became a senior pastor at 25, we were going through the book of Acts and realized this book is about missions. This book is about the nations. This book is about reaching those who have never heard. And as we studied it, all of a sudden mission started getting birthed in our church. And remember I told you all young people, so now people are being sent all over the world, you know, going to Mexico, going to Africa. England all over the world. And so that was my first experience of going, oh, I'm actually going to go where Christ is not named. I'm not going to plant another church in orange county. I'm going to actually go to the ends of the earth and reach people there. And that's where that started for us is just really in the book of Acts. The word of God convinced us that we needed to go. 

Karen Bejjani: And now I know that you are really involved in the local community where you are truly declaring God's glory among the nations who live all around us because the nations are coming here. How have you seen even just where you live, how have you begun to notice so many more nations among and around you? Talk to me a little about that. 

Debbie Douglass: Yeah. And you're saying exactly, basically what happens. So what happened was I'm going overseas, I'm going all over the world. Right. And then all of a sudden I do, I start noticing all these women covered in the grocery store at Walmart, in the parks. And I'm seeing them more and more and more, and I'm like, Woah. they're here. I don't have to go anymore. They're right here. So then I started getting interested in thinking, how do I meet them? I didn't know how to meet them. I'm like, do I walk up and go, I notice your head is covering. Would you like to have coffee? I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to interact with them. 

Karen Bejjani: Who does? There's no manual for that. 

Debbie Douglass: No. And I was literally like, Lord, how do I do this? And so we were visiting friends in Tennessee actually. And I met a convert from Islam and she was doing ministry amongst refugees in Tennessee. And she was telling me about how she finds seekers and how she brings them to church. And she shares Jesus with them. And how amazing it was. And I'm like, I want to do that. So her story inspired me. I was like, maybe we can find refugees by me.  

Karen Bejjani: Yeah. so let's just camp out here for just a second. Cause you shared several things that I want to relate back to our listener today.

So number one, You were putting yourself out there and you heard a story that inspired you to take a step. And this podcast might be the story that inspires a listener to go take that next step. And that next step you took was to go back to your own community and to really intentionally, and with a lot of purpose, seek out an organization that you could get plugged into so that you could go meet people who were different than you.

Debbie Douglass: Yeah and then what was so cool about that? It was like exponential because I do chase women that are covered now, but, at that time, I didn't really know how to do that. And, I would meet 12 new friends at every event, get their phone numbers and contacts. I mean, it was just amazing how I was able to access so many of them at one time. 

Karen Bejjani: So here you were, you went from not really knowing anyone of a different faith or culture, seeing them in the grocery store and retail. But all of a sudden you had opportunities to develop authentic relationships and be an authentic Christian witness among them.

Debbie Douglass: Yeah, it was amazing. And all of them wanted to be my friend cause they all want to practice English. So that's always like a quick bridge is they just want to be your friend because they want to practice English.

Karen Bejjani: So what surprised you in those early days when you first started to go and engage with women of other faiths and cultures? Refugees. 

Debbie Douglass: Well, as it does surprise, I think everybody who, all of a sudden starts hanging out with women who are Muslim women, how hospitable they are, how open they are, how kind they are, how easy it was to develop a love relationship with them and a trust relationship with them. It still blows me away. How they literally draw me In over and over and over again. Every relationship I have is like that. It's amazing.

Karen Bejjani: Okay so tell us a story or two, about a relationship that you're in right now, I'd love to hear. 

Debbie Douglass: Okay. So one of my first contacts was a lady by the name of Minaal. She's from Iraq and she wanted to start practicing English. Well, then I found out she has three sisters and no husband. There are they're older than me. So I have four ladies with no men around, which makes it easy for me. I was like, Lord, thank you for that blessing. And so I started going and visiting them in their home. I started inviting them to my home. I invited them to my mother-in-law's because they really value family and especially the elderly in families. So I started inviting my mom and my grandma to things. We would just eat together and hang out. And one day I had a friend of mine that was here from North Africa visiting and she does cross-cultural ministry there. And she has really unique tactics to be able to get into spiritual conversations. So I invited her to come with me on one of my visits, and that was the first time we were really able to have a spiritual conversation in a really deep way. For sure. I talked about Jesus all the time, but this was a much more deep conversation.

So basically she started asking them questions and they, in turn, started asking her questions and they started asking her about her experience in college. And so she started telling her testimony about how she came to Christ and it was powerful. And that got them asking us questions about Jesus and salvation.

And I remember at one point in that spiritual conversation, they were getting really frustrated at the idea of grace. That we're saved by grace, that you can just believe in Jesus. And when we believe in Jesus and give our lives to him, he changes us from the inside out. But being good isn't what saves us. It's actually putting our faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross and the whole idea of atonement. They don't have any idea about that belief. So, one of the ladies, my friend Minaal looks at me well and she was really frustrated? And she's like, yeah well what if, You know, they don't do what you're saying and believe in Jesus, then where do they go? And I was so nervous to say it. I'm like, well, they would go to hell. I was so nervous. And she's like, oh ok. And it totally satisfied her. I'm like, oh, they want justice. They almost have this idea of justice is a good thing. Grace is hard. Justice was easy. So it was an interesting conversation. It was a good first open door. And then we just went on and ate tea and had cookies. 

Karen Bejjani: So for a listener hearing us today, who is at that point where she's been in a conversation or in relationship with a woman of another faith for a period of time, and maybe hasn't had that opportunity to truly open up a conversation about Jesus. You mentioned some tactics. I just want to share a resource for the in that situation. So look at a previous podcast that says start spiritual conversations 1 and 2. And I'll put that in the show notes for you so you know how to link over there and hear some real simple process, that'll help you easily dive in to start those kinds of spiritual conversations. And the second thing I think that you amplify Debbie is the importance of going with a friend. We embolden each other, don't we?

Debbie Douglass: Oh I always invite friends now, always every single time I never go alone. And Jesus sent us out by two. So I always bring a friend and I also bring friends that I'm discipling, which is really cool because now I'm influencing a younger generation to do the same thing

Karen Bejjani: Exactly! She role modeled for you gave you both courage. Now you're role modeling that with others. That's exactly how it was intended. I love that. 

Debbie Douglass: And then I have one other story about a spiritual conversation. So this other one they didn't ask a question back. I actually paused the conversation to happen, which I had never done. Okay. That's not true. This was, I have done it before. Like I remember one time driving in the car and talking to them about how I'm really close to my dad. And then I talked about the parable of the prodigal son. And so I remember sharing that story that was very intentional, but this other time we went to go apple picking. We went to this apple picking area that is near us here in Southern California. And I took all four of them and we went to have a picnic and we went to go have apple pie and they have to ask if the apple pie was made with any animal? Because they eat Hallel, which is like kosher, but for Arabs or Muslims.

So anyway, they could not eat the food because it was made with animal products and I was so bummed about it, you know? And they're like, oh, it's okay. No problem. Can we buy it for you? And they were super gracious. They bought us dessert, me and two of my friends. And so we sat down and I just said, Do you know why Christians can eat all kinds of meat with no reserve, as opposed to a Jew who can eat pork or you guys can't eat things that aren't prepared a certain way.

And they said, no, and I go, would you like me to tell you about it? And they said, yeah. And so I just went into Peter's vision. About the animals coming down and God's saying rise Peter, kill and eat. I've made all these things clean and that led us into a whole conversation about atonement again.

So we were able to share the entire gospel with these four ladies. And one of my friends told me, Debbie, when you started talking about Jesus, all their posture changed. And they all leaned in to listen. It was amazing. Like you could sense the whole atmosphere changing. As soon as I started talking about Jesus and atonement and why we don't have to eat certain things to please God. 

Karen Bejjani: From apple pie to atonement.

Debbie Douglass: Yes. 

Karen Bejjani: That's wonderful. And it all started because you're very intentional and purposeful about how you spend your time so that you can expand God's kingdom and build relationships and look for women who don't know Jesus so that you can tell them about Him. Yeah. If you don't ever put yourself in a space to do that, then you'll never have an opportunity to do it.

So the first step obviously is just putting yourself in a position where you can have opportunities to share with Muslim women.

Karen Bejjani: And one other thing that struck me as you were sharing the story of apple pie to atonement. And that is that, you know the word. And I know you Debbie I know that you're in the word and because you're in the word, the word springs out, From within you and the holy spirit guides your words at just the right time.

And so even that time where you began to share the story of Peter, kill and eat, is because you knew the word and it came right out at just the right time. 

Debbie Douglass: Yeah, that happens a lot. Like I said, with the prodigal son story, that was just a casual conversation driving in the car, and yeah, I was able to share that whole story from the Bible. I wasn't preaching the gospel necessarily, but I was making them familiar with Jesus's teachings, which creates curiosity. So having Jesus's teachings in my brain helps me so much to have a plethora of things to share just off the cuff and natural conversation with the ladies.

Karen Bejjani: So Debbie, I'm so curious. Knowing that we're living in this culture right now, where Christianity has declined so fast and very few people in North America right now have a biblical worldview. And here's this cancel culture. What gives you moral courage and boldness to share your faith right now?

Debbie Douglass: Well, a couple of things. One, I kind of ignore all that. I try to ignore the fact that the world is going crazy and denying Christ in the sense of, I don't let it get me, distracted, I guess I should say. And I just keep what God says, the main thing. I just want to obey him, but He says, Go and make disciples. And He also says, He's going to anoint me, empower me and give me the words to speak. So I just have to obey what He says, simple obedience. I don't have to have a script. You don't have to be eloquent. I don't have to know my Bible back and forth. I need to position myself in a space where I can be used by God to speak into other people's lives because then He shows up, but I have to give Him a place for Him to show up. I can't just sit in my house. So, for me, I just keep moving forward, keep looking for opportunities and even if the door opens a little bit, I shove my foot in there and get in, you know what I mean?

Karen Bejjani: Yeah, and as you shared that, it made me think of the verse do not conform to the world, you are making a choice to cling to the Lord, to seek after him, and not conform to the world, but be obedient to him. What a great word for the day and great sage advice. 

Debbie Douglass: And it helps, too, if you push out all the other noise and just think about what he commands us to do, cause I think that can give us excuses sometimes 

Karen Bejjani: For perhaps a listener who is concerned about appearing, pushy. What have you learned about that? What's been your experience.

Debbie Douglass: Ask questions and listen. I mean, everybody likes to talk about themselves. So ask questions and listen, be a good question asker. Learn how to ask questions. I mean, I'm very curious. I'm kind of like a journalist in my brain. I am so curious about everything they do and say, and where they lived, and how they were raised. And who's their mom and dad and how many brothers and sisters they have and what was life like where they lived and how long have they been here? And what's the difference between here and there. I mean, I asked a bazillion questions just to get to know their story and they love it. These women aren't asked that and many of these women, aren't valued in their culture. So when we're putting value on their words and value on their voice and on their time that we want to spend time with them, we show them that we want to spend time with them, man that goes a long way. So just listen, ask questions, let them talk. You're not doing anything but listening to their story. And that creates trust and a love relationship and that gives you a platform to share your faith.

Karen Bejjani: So good. Anything else that you'd like to share Debbie from our time together?

Debbie Douglass: Yes, I do. So one of the things that I really want to encourage your ladies or your listeners to do is just start inviting. Inviting yourself there, inviting them to you. Enjoy their food. Everything with cross-cultural relationships, especially with the Muslims is their food. But also with Indians. I do a lot of cross-cultural stuff with Indians, from India. Listen, nothing is too sacred to not invite them to. I've been nervous. And Karen I've even shared with you some of the times that I've invited them to things and I'm like, eh, how's this going to work?. So I invited them to Easter at our church. They came, I made sure they had the words they told me later. We followed along with all the words, they read all the words about Jesus rising from the dead and the power of the resurrection. If you don't think that impacts them, it does just invite them. I invite them to Easter services. I had a women's night where my mother-in-law was sharing there. And so I invited them to come and join in a house. They came to a home. And sat with us and my ladies in the church just loved on them and sat with them and talked to them and ate with them. It was amazing. I invited them to our Christmas event. Our Christmas event was all about Jesus. Literally, the theme was behold. And we were just going to talk about Jesus and the names of Jesus and they sat through the whole thing and they thoroughly enjoyed it, thanked me like a thousand times for inviting them and they heard everything about Jesus.

And so, Just don't be afraid to invite them. And again, they love hosting. So I would always say things like, oh, I love Arabic food. It's my favorite. And then I might throw out a couple of dishes I love, or, Arabic coffee or Turkish coffee, you know, and they're like, oh, you want to come over?

they're very hospitable. So I'm always hoping for an invite too. So I do both. I invite them to things and then I, sort of, invite myself, but not really, but kind of invite myself to their house. And as I get to know them better, I invite myself over much more often, but that's because they're just so easy. They're so fun to be with and so easy to be with. And so I would just want to encourage women to not be afraid. For me, my experience, every single relationship I've had. They've been so open. And a few weeks ago I was invited to go to a girl's house for her citizenship party. That was amazing. She invited all of her Syrian friends. There were about 20 of them. And all the hijabs are off. They're dancing. The music's loud, they're boogying. I'm up dancing with them and I'm just developing friendships. I'm not sharing Jesus in that moment, but I'm just, I'm just creating bridges. For me to have trust with them that they know I'm there to just be with them. I'm not there necessarily just to make converts from them. I'm just there to know them and love them and hang out with them and have a good time. Another thing. And a woman invited me to a Muslim center. I forget what that's called Islamic center. And I went, I went to this bizarre. This is my first contact with her. So I came, her husband sells bok lava. I bought their bok lava, just hugged her and kissed her and made another contact and got pictures with her and her daughters and complimented them and then left.

So that just gives me another contact. So I'm just intentionally, always trying to go into their world. And I was nervous to go into the Islamic center. I was nervous, but I just did it. I just obeyed and went in and did it. And I had no idea what to expect. And it was a little awkward. But I think you get used to it the more you do it. Right? Karen.

Karen Bejjani: Absolutely, I think the big takeaway is that 99% of the things that we imagine never happen. And so, when you go stand outside that mosque, all kinds of things run through our minds but the odds are really good, none of those things will happen. So just step through it, feel the fear and do it anyway. That's been my experience.

 Yeah. One more thing, the unreached are. Those who have never heard the name of Jesus or understand what Christianity is. Some of them have never even had a friend as a Christian. They're right here. They're right here. They're coming to America. God is bringing them to us.

Debbie Douglass: So, we have to reach them. It's our responsibility. As the people of God. To reach them. That's what Jesus would be doing. If he was here, all of us, don't have to go. Some of us need to still go, but all of us don't have to go there right here. We can reach them here and the unreached are among us.

Let's reach them.

Karen Bejjani: Amen. Wonderful. Well, thank you so much, Debbie, for joining me here today. What incredible words of wisdom. So, thank you so much. Thanks to our listeners and we'll catch you next week. 

 If you enjoyed today's episode, please subscribe and rate the show wherever you listen to get more involved in the Blue Cord, start small. Read my book, The Blue Cord, and sign up now to get my e-newsletter at the I hope you can join me at our Blue Cord women's conference coming late, April 2022 in North Texas. Look for more details at