Written by: Natalia Nino
It was a tremendously hot summer day in the Southern states. Sweat constantly dripped down every surface of my body. The nylon straps of my heavy canvassing bag dug into my back as I walked over hills and down long driveways while simultaneously dodging dogs and angry residents with uncomfortable frequency.
Perseveringly, I went from house to house knocking on doors, spreading the gospel through literature evangelism with the principle of “leaving books on a donation basis.” Although there had to be an exchange of money for a product, we were not salesmen, we were literature evangelists. For 10 weeks, I would drag myself out into the field, put a smile on my face and march myself out to do God’s work.
I had been told by elders and spiritual leaders in my life that literature evangelism was an amazing opportunity to challenge and share my faith. To my young mind, this sounded like an amazing opportunity, and I accepted with zeal. However, once my feet hit the concrete, I found out that the world of literature evangelism can be far from what it seems.
To make a long story short, my summer of literature evangelism taught me valuable lessons, yet it came with a great cost. As a zealous Christian coming to spread the gospel, I was shocked when I discovered that my work focused on money rather than souls.
I was taught to move quickly, even if it meant cutting a conversation short once it was clear they were not going to leave a donation for a book. I was dropped off in parking lots and gas stations and instructed to stop everyone I could and leave them a book for a donation. If they refuse, try at least two to three more times.
All this haggling was justified with the excuse of doing God’s work, a concept my mind could not justify. It was my understanding that these books were simply a means toward salvation but not salvation itself. For me, it was more important to leave a person at the door with a prayer and a good conversation about spiritual matters than to leave them with a book they bought to get me off their porch.
My resolve to canvass for the people instead of book goals meant that I ended every week hundreds of dollars behind my goal. In a place where book goals and money are associated with God’s blessings, I felt like a failure. I left that summer disillusioned with ministry and religion. What started as a crusade for lost souls ended in a battle for my faith that continues to this day.
Despite all these struggles, that is not to say that I oppose literature evangelism. This ministry has been instrumental in spreading the gospel. Thousands of people need the gospel. Sometimes the only way to reach them is by going to their houses and workplaces and leaving them with a book that can change their lives. However, this opportunity is often missed because more value is placed on getting a book in their hands than on taking the time to minister to their needs.
In conclusion, my canvassing summer challenged my faith in an unexpected way. In some cases, it left me with more questions than answers which sent me down a dark path. Even so, I do not despise this work, I simply advocate for change.