I Couldn’t Have Done It Without God: Stuttering and Outreach

I stutter. It’s tough a lot of the time; I’ll be speaking, and then my mouth can’t form the next word. I’ve stuttered all my life, but it only bothered me when I got into high school and college as social situations gained greater significance. I found myself hesitating, judging whether it would be worth stuttering through the sentence in order to speak up.  This hesitation happened everywhere: in class, at home, ordering at Chipotle (which is still terrifying by the way), and even with my close friends in laid-back conversations.  I would find ways to avoid speaking, like leaving a classroom right before it was my turn to speak or allowing a friend to speak for me. It felt like my brain and my mouth just weren’t cooperating for some reason.

Here’s the kicker though: I wanted to speak.

I was invited to join a FOCUS Bible study my freshman year by one of the missionaries I met, and I quickly got involved in their outreach on campus. I was drawn to the missionaries because of their friendliness and their dedication to spiritual growth, and I enjoyed the brotherhood I found in the Bible-study setting. I wanted to give that welcoming invitation to other students, so I started my own Bible study my sophomore year. I actually just found a letter I wrote in a “message to my future myself” exercise from my first FOCUS conference in 2011 that talked about how I wanted to be a missionary after college. Four years later, it’s no surprise to me that I’m now a missionary because I’ve had that desire in my heart for so long.

I didn’t always think I could do the work of a missionary, though. If I hesitated speaking even around my friends, how was I supposed to talk to a new student on a different campus? Would someone new want to talk to me? Would I even be a welcoming face for the Church? All of these thoughts (and more) kept me from thinking I could do it. Serving as a FOCUS student missionary and growing deeper in my prayer life, however, helped me to gain confidence and learn to persevere.

When I first started leading a Bible study, I knew what I had signed up for. I would be talking to new students and welcoming them into my small group and the Newman Center community in general. I was scared of how the students might react and was nervous about speaking, but I had the desire to reach out which balanced those fears. I started off slow for sure, but I discovered that the people I talked to usually gave me the time to speak. I also found I really did enjoy meeting new people. After those outreach days, I would take it to prayer and find comfort in the work I had done.

Since three years ago, I’ve grown more comfortable speaking with people. I still fear many situations, but I know my work isn’t for me, it’s for God. It gives my struggles meaning. I’d rather put myself on the line and invite someone in than let them fall away because I was scared. It’s great seeing how God works like that: He gave me a goal, a challenge, and the grace to overcome the challenge in order to serve Him.

The oft-quoted saying that “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called” is very true. We all have something holding us back from what God wants us to do. It may be a speech impediment, another physical challenge, or something hidden internally that you struggle with. Either way, we can’t let that hold us back. We’re on this earth for a reason—and if that subtle prompting you feel to serve the Lord in a particular way scares you, that’s all right. God will provide everything you need to do His work!

Today, I’m still amazed that my job is almost 100% social. I still struggle day to day with my speech, but I know that struggle is what I’m supposed to do. God put that drive in me to serve Him in this way. As we go through college and graduate, we always have to be praying about our personal vocations. Don’t let anything hold you back from what you are being called to do.

Steve Ernst
Steve Ernst
Steve is a missionary at James Madison University in Virginia. He was born and raised in Damascus, Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 2014 with a degree in Fire Protection Engineering, which means that he got to burn things in a lab for a grade in college. He will take on any challengers in yard games like cornhole or kubb, and he will gladly join in on pick up games of ultimate frisbee, volleyball, and soccer.

Related Posts

Every week, FOCUS sends out the best resources available to:

  • Help you grow in your faith
  • Improve your evangelization strategy
  • Ignite your community on fire for Christ

Sign up for free right now!

Sign Up Now