The parking lot at my urban church has become the Land of the Personalized Cars. Millie, a fervent NY Yankees fan, has the team logo and a favorite player’s number stamped on her license plate, while Bob shows his loyalty to our state university by the big red R and armored Knight on his. (My automobile’s tag is rather generic, but I notice many cars manufactured during my college years are sporting “QQ” license plates which declare their historic status. What a wonderful way to show reverence for advanced age; I want a QQ plate for myself. No, not for my recent-model car, for myself.) Other cars in the church lot sport bumper stickers identify their owners as pet owners, proud parents, or politically active. Wherever these Jersey drivers go, they make their loyalties known to fellow drivers and attempt to evangelize others, without saying a word, to their point of view.
Recently I read a study by Jon Shure, the founder of the NJ Policy Perspective, on American citizens’ mobility. The author asserted, “Every year, fewer than 2% of the people in this country move from state to state. Over the course of a lifetime, fewer than one-third do.” Apparently Shure and I don’t travel in the same circles: within a three month period, four good friends have or will depart central Jersey for new careers far from the Garden State. Scott, a talented writer, will be editing a national Catholic magazine in Illinois; Michelle and her family, who served as lectors and acolytes at my parish, will resettle in Texas; John, a gifted church musician, will be sharing his talents in an Alabama parish; and Maryjane, a Catholic grammar school teacher, will take a sabbatical to teach orphans in Tanzania. These four former New Jersey residents will be spreading the Good News far from home and will be sorely missed.
Just before I indulged in self-pity and texted my friends, “Will the last one out of Jersey please shut the lights?!”, I remembered Jesus’ direction to all of us to evangelize. At the end of Matthew’s gospel (28:19-20), he urges his disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Since I am a born and bred Jersey girl with deep roots here, for a moment I was stumped. How can I evangelize far and wide if I have no intention of leaving? Then I remembered one more personalized license plate from the church lot. My friend Lori’s car carries a tag with her favorite Bible verse, Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Perhaps I will trust in God to present ways I might evangelize right here in New Jersey. There’s no need to travel when the opportunity to share His message exists at work, at church, at home, even on the roads. Even sitting at this desk chair hammering on a keyboard in solitude might touch a heart or soul. Try it yourself….