We are blessed to be joined this month by Anna Jackson, owner of the online store, “Evangelism Stuff.” Anna and her husband Dale have a unique way of encouraging the world to consider their faith, and to see that life here on earth is temporal, while life in Christ is eternal.
Ann is also a Lady Mentor for the Ambassador’s Academy, with a passion for preaching the gospel. This month, Sunny Shell sits down for a blessed chat with this mother of two, to talk about the many ways God is using her in building His kingdom.
Sunny: Precious sister, you have a very unique online store, “Evangelism Stuff.” What inspired you to open this “store?”
Anna: At that time, my husband, Dale, and I had been working for Living Waters for a little while. We were having a wonderful time going to all these large scale events to pass out gospel tracts, and I thought it would be great to have t-shirts we could wear when we went out. So I found a place online where we could easily have some t-shirts made up for the two of us. But when Ray and Kirk saw the shirts, they suggested we open an online store so we could supplement our income with the ministry. It turned out to be a great idea, and we’ve had a lot of fun with it!
Sunny: Would you please share with us some of your favorite items at Evangelism Stuff and why they’re your favorites?
Anna: If I had to narrow it down, I’d probably say the ones in the “designs related to death” section. It may sound weird, but the goal of those designs is to help the average Joe think about the fact that they are going to die. Most people in our modern world are so far separated from death (by hospitals and mortuaries) that death seems far away, surreal, and rare… when it’s none of those things. It does people good to think about the fact that they are going to die. It is sobering, and it makes them consider eternity.
Some of the designs we have in that section include one with the side view of a man’s face with the classic “X” over his eye, and says “Death, it’s hereditary.” Another has the word death written out in 24 different languages… none of them English. One of the more controversial ones has the silhouette of a dead cat on it. (No hate mail, please… I’m actually a big cat lover, I just think the shirt is funny enough to get read by an unbeliever.) Probably the simplest design just says “You are going to die. NeedGod.com.”
Sunny: How do you get the ideas for your merchandise?
Anna: Oh, they come from everywhere. Many from Ray’s books or sermons; that’s definitely been my main source. For example there is this great quote Ray uses in “Hell’s Best Kept Secret” by Ozwald J. Smith, it says:
“Oh my friends, we are loaded down with countless church activities, while the real work of the Church, that of evangelizing the world and winning the lost, is almost entirely neglected.”
What a great quote! And how wonderfully appropriate and convicting for all of us today! We put that one in our “stuff to wear to church” section.
Others come from being out sharing with people. One time, at a Starbucks, I saw this guy with a really plain shirt that just had a chemical symbol on it, and no explanation of what it meant. It made starting a conversation with him really easy, because that was the obvious intention of the shirt. He told me it was the chemical symbol for caffeine. I thought that was just brilliant! So that’s how I came up with the “smell of death” design which contains the chemical shorthand for two substances created after a person dies and their body begins to decompose. I know it sounds macabre, but when someone asks you about it, you have a perfect platform for asking if they’ve thought very much about what will happen to them after death. I’ve gotten really good feedback about that one!
Still other ideas have come from people who send me them to me through the website. One of our newest designs came in that way. A lady sent in the idea and it’s now in our “anti-evolution” section. It has a picture of Mount Rushmore and says, “just another product of time and chance.” Then there is a little cartoon bubble coming from Abe’s mouth that says, “oh that’s idiotic.” And it really is, isn’t it? How can a person with a reasonable level of intelligence believe an arrowhead requires a designer, but DNA requires no designer? It’s completely nutty!
Sunny: You’re also a “lady mentor” for the Ambassador’s Academy. What is the Ambassador’s Academy and how do you fulfill your role as a lady mentor?
Anna: The Ambassador’s Academy is a fantastic program for men and women who want to experience street evangelism in a very supportive group environment. Living Waters puts on several of them each year, and they are each limited to 50 students. It consists of a day of classroom teaching, from Ray and Kirk, and other members of the Living Waters staff. Then there are two days of street witnessing.
The Lady Mentors work closely with the women students. We want to give individual support for whatever each woman’s goals are. For example there have been women who’ve come out to the Academy who have never passed out a gospel tract. So that’s their goal. Many have never started a conversation with a stranger to share the gospel… still others want to work toward sharing a gospel message with an entire crowd of unbelievers (in what we call an “open air” session).
No matter what the goal, we do what we can to help the student meet it. It’s really exciting to be around the students! These are women, from all over the world, who love the Lord enough to try to put their own comfort aside and share the gospel.
Of course, being a mom of two little ones, I don’t get to be a Lady Mentor as frequently as I’d like. But I do get out there as often as I’m able!
Sunny: When did you get saved and when do begin to have a passion for the lost and preaching the Gospel?
Anna: Many Christians have what they refer to as a “life verse,” but mine might be the oddest one you’ve ever heard. It is Ecclesiastes 7:2, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.”
That became my verse when, as a teenager and a fairly new Christian, I had to watch my little brother die of Leukemia. Praise God, he knew Jesus before his death, and I can look forward to seeing him again.
I remember one, apparently Christian, teenager who approached me, just after we buried my brother, to say, “Hey, God works all things together for good!” Now, anyone who wants a tip about how to help a grieving person should listen to this little piece of advice… this is the kind of thing you should think and not say. Believe me when I say that only God can reveal this to a person. But now that it’s been more than 20 years since my brother’s death, I can see the truth of it. God used it to shape my life, because the reality of every person’s impending death was stamped on my soul with a branding iron! Heaven and Hell became realities, instead of just ethereal ideas.
Think about the fate of your neighbor that you’ve never shared with. Do you actually believe that they are heading to Hell without Jesus’ sacrifice and forgiveness for their sin? I mean, do you actually believe that? If you don’t feel a weight of that on your heart, then I suggest you follow the counsel from my life verse. Go into the “house of mourning” and spend a little time there. You can find it at your local hospital. Just go into a waiting room and sit there quietly till you’ve heard several families receive bad news. Then visit funeral homes and respectfully sneak in the back during a service. If it doesn’t break your heart, I suggest you call on the Lord to give you a heart of flesh rather than a heart of stone… which he can do, mightily! To feel nothing, no concern for the lost, is a numbness and an apathy that God can cure in your heart.
And when you do share the gospel, please share it biblically. Don’t allow yourself to be swept up in the newest “Christian craze”… whatever that might be. Be like the preachers of old, and start by sharing with the person what it means to have violated the Holy Laws of a Holy God. Share with them from God’s Word, which never returns void: “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed,” (Romans 2:5). I could go on and on about this particular subject, but I hope your readers will go online and listen freely to the message called “Hell’s Best Kept Secret,” which goes into great detail.
Sunny: You have two precious sons. How did becoming a mom change or challenge your passion to preach the Gospel?
Anna: Wow. In more ways than I could possibly share in this short article. My husband and I were childless for the first 14 years of our marriage. We never thought we would be able to have children, although we both wanted them, so we accepted God’s will and really poured ourselves into the work at the ministry (Living Waters). We worked crazy long hours, with extreme joy because of what we were doing! We went out evangelizing at the drop of every hat. And we loved being able to drive Ray around to speaking engagements in the Southern California area.
When God, without any medical intervention, miraculously allowed me to become pregnant, we were flabbergasted! Then, against all odds, the Lord allowed us to have a second one!!! (Sorry for all the exclamation points, but aside from my salvation, it’s probably been the greatest mercy God has ever given me!)
Now, when we only had our first child, and he was a little infant that we could carry in his car seat everywhere, the only thing that really changed was the amount of gear we had to haul around with us as we tried to keep doing most all of the things we had been doing before. But, as you can well imagine, that didn’t last long. Soon there were feeding schedules, nap schedules, and exhaustion to deal with. We dropped back to doing much less.
When our second little joy was born, we went down to doing nothing. Yes, I mean nothing. And on top of that, I wanted to be a stay-at-home, home-schooling mom, so that meant giving up my full-time duties at the ministry.
For quite a while, I had a lot of mixed feelings about all this. I tell you the truth, I am amazed and will never cease praising God for the mercy of our two boys (now ages 2 and 4). But I also need to be honest in that giving up all the things I had been doing, was a big fat blow to my big fat ego. Ugg. I even hate writing that out. No one likes to think of themselves as wrapped up in the praise of others, but this was really revealed to me in a big way.
My husband is probably one of the most loving and supportive people in the world, but it’s hard to go from having a lot of people telling you that you did a great job on this or that web site, or that it’s amazing how fast you finished a project. From that, to crying babies (my second son was colicky), that never stopped crying, diapers on two at the same time, and no more strokes on my ego… it was hard. And honestly, sometimes it still is hard. I don’t want to give the impression that I’ve somehow conquered this, because I certainly haven’t. It can still be very hard.
But I comfort myself with the knowledge that God sovereignly opened my childless womb… and the most important task He has ever given me is to do the mom’s part of raising these boys in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
Once I’m done with homeschooling, if I’m still any use as a web designer, I hope I can go back and make a contribution again. But for now, I am content to do the coding for the ministry’s weekly newsletter… a job I can do, once a week in the evenings, after kiddos are asleep.
Sunny: In closing, would you please share with our readers, a Scripture or passage God has been using to inspire you lately?
Anna: The one God has really been using in my life lately is the passage in Galatians about the fruit of the Spirit:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law,” (Galatians 5:22-23).
God has specifically been hammering me with the “self-control” part of that, both in my tongue and in my weight. I know that self-control is a fruit that should be growing in me, more and more all the time… but I still have a quick temper, and I often say things I wish I could take back the moment they are out of my mouth. I also believe that I should be having more self-control over what I’m eating, and being self-disciplined to exercise. So this is a constant prayer, and a constant battle!
©2009, Sunny Shell