Hobart-based pastor, artist, and street evangelist Helen Devenish has recently released a book, Let's Go: Fearless Evangelism, in which she shares how she overcame "evangelism anxiety" to share the Gospel with others. The 52-year-old mother of nine speaks about her 'push' into ministry, her passion for sharing Christ's love and provides some tips on how to go about it...

What’s your faith story - how did you come to be a Christian?
"I was brought up in a Christian home so I have known about God since I was little. I don't recall an actual moment that I became a Christian as I didn't know anything different than to walk with Jesus. But as I got older (around 11-years-old), I went through a lot of doubt about my salvation. I heard sermons of how people were radically changed at the point of salvation and I thought, 'Well, I don't know that I changed'. So I would ask Jesus to be Lord of my life again and again - there was no obvious change, as I was already walking with Him. It took some years to overcome this doubt, including nightmares about hell."  

How do you define evangelism?
"Evangelism is the willingness to open your mouth and share the 'good news' of Jesus, who came to earth, died on the cross for our sins, was buried and rose again on the third day."

Helen Devenish

TAKING TO THE STREETS: Helen Devenish estimates she has shared her faith with more than 5,000 people.



A Bible verse that’s influenced me...Philippians 3:10 - "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death."

A book I’ve been inspired by...Remarkable Miracles by Guy Bevington

A person whom I admire...[Late 19th/early 20th century British Christian missionary and cricketer] CT Studd

When did you first sense you were called to be a ‘street evangelist’?
"It was really more of a 'push' into street ministry. We [My husband David and I] ran an outreach cafe for a couple of years where I would talk to people and listen to them and I grew in confidence in sharing the Gospel. When our lease expired for the cafe we wondered what to do next and, ever so gently, I felt led by the Holy Spirit to do street ministry. It started as an hour a week and over the last few years it's become for longer stretches of time and more often." 

What is ‘Love Hobart’?
"Love Hobart is the name of the ministry we run. When we first started looking at running an outreach cafe to share the Gospel, this was the name we chose to describe what we were to do - 'Love Hobart' and also it describes God's heart towards Hobart - love. The ministry now encompasses a church, 'Church on the Rock', a weekly youth night, a weekly outdoor prayer meeting in a city park, street ministry and training seminars in evangelism. Our focus is on evangelism, discipling and equipping."

What is the EvangeCube?
"The EvangeCube is a witnessing tool I often use while sharing the Gospel. It can be purchased from e3resources.com and is very useful in using pictures to help with your explanation of the Gospel. It's a small box that opens up to show more pictures and I find it an excellent tool to use, especially for teens and people who use English as a second language."

What are some of the key inhibitors which hold back people from sharing their faith with others?
"I think there are three main inhibitors holding people back from sharing their faith. Firstly, the fear of man - what will people think if I do this? Secondly, the lack of 'know-how' - what do I say? And thirdly a lack of love for the lost (those who don't know Jesus as Lord and Saviour)."

How can these be overcome?
"Fear of man can be overcome by having a greater fear of God than fear of man. That is, by desiring to obey God more than your feelings. If you're polite in sharing your faith, it is less likely you will have people getting angry or annoyed with you. God is with us wherever we go, and He helps us even when we're afraid. Secondly, learn how to share the Gospel from those who are already doing it. And keep learning. It's an on-going process. Also don't worry if you can't answer all the questions you get asked. Be willing to admit you don't know the answer but if appropriate, say you'll try and find out. Thirdly, we need to remember the Father loves the lost so very much. And His chosen way of reaching these precious lives is through all who are Christians. Ask God to give you a passion for the lost if you don't already have it and choose to keep eternity in view. Eternal life and death are at stake."

Do you have a particular method for approaching strangers whom you want to talk to God about?
"It's just about being friendly, respectful and kind. I might see a need and offer to help, like opening a door for a lady with a pram, or I might just say 'Hi' to a stranger in the mall. Sometimes I might talk about something general, like the cold weather before asking a question like, 'Have you ever been to church?' or 'Do you believe in God?' Other times I'll just say 'Hi, I'm Helen, I'm a pastor, do you know what that is?' I might have a little joke about me not being spaghetti or lasagne (pasta) and then explain that a pastor is a Christian minister and ask if I could have a few minutes to explain Christianity to them. 

Is evangelism just about telling people about God or building a relationship with them?
"In a sense evangelism could be described as 'just telling people about God', but, having said that, my experience indicates that building relationships has a way bigger impact than just a one-off encounter. Many of the kids I've met through street ministry have come to youth night, they then meet some of my family and some end up coming to our home for dinner or to just hang out. The more the relationships are built, the more they see a Christian family in operation and it confounds them. For example, adult kids living at home and respecting parents, nobody getting drunk, smoking cigarettes or doing drugs. The more they get to know us the more questions they ask and the more they can see that being a Christian isn't boring or because we need a crutch. They see we love Jesus and the outworking of that is that we love each other and those God brings across our paths."

Lets Go Fearless Evangelism


Can you tell us about a recent experience you had on the streets of Hobart which inspired you?
"Recently I walked to the alley with two kids I know, just as it started to rain. They went to find shelter to have their smoke but I got talking to Brian who was in the alley with two girls I'd never met. The rain was getting heavier so I invited the three of them to a cafe for wedges and 'God-talk'. I went through the Evangecube with them and answered their questions. One of the girls got a phone call to meet a friend. She wondered if she should bring him back to the cafe. I asked her the name of her friend and it was John, who I know well. He came to join us and then stayed on after the others left to talk to me. I invited him back to our home for dinner and Bible study. He thought about it for a while and decided to come. So from walking with two kids to the alley, to taking another three to a cafe, we were joined by another who ended up at our home for dinner - that was a whole lot of God appointments!"

Have you had any experiences that discouraged you as a 'street evangelist'? How were you able to move past them?
"Thankfully, there's not been many discouraging incidents, really only two that were difficult. Initially after the bad experiences, I rang some of my prayer support team (family and friends) to let them know what had happened and to ask them to pray. My husband, too, is always a great encourager and will offer to come and meet me if he's not tied up with work. He knows the best way for me to get through is to talk about what's happened and get it out my system through prayer and forgiveness. I think it's also remembering that for the very rare discouraging incidents there's so many encouraging encounters to give thanks for. And really, choosing to never give up. Eternity is at stake."

And, just lastly, as a mother of nine children, how do you manage to find the time for evangelism alongside your other commitments?
"Life is very busy, but only six of our children live at home now as three are married, so it's not quite as hectic as it used to be. All of our children walk with the Lord so that means that a lot of what I do ends up being family ministry, especially as we homeschool. For example our youngest daughter Shalom, 10, does street ministry just about every Friday afternoon with me. On a Friday night we run a youth night for contacts we've made through street ministry and my husband David and six of our children help with this. So in a sense evangelism is a way of life for us a family. Also everyone helps share the load at home with household chores, cooking meals and  the like, as I do get tired. Really it's team work."

Follow the link to buy Helen Devenish's book - Let's Go!: Fearless Evangelism. To find out more about her work, see www.lovehobart.com.