By Caitlin Health, Originally published at www.evangelicalcatholic.org
Evangelization can happen anywhere, even in the stratosphere. Pete Agosto knows this better than most. Pete is a commercial pilot for a major airline and spends a lot of time up in the air, many times with co-pilots that he hasn’t met before.
“I’m always looking for ways to break the ice,” Pete says. “When you’re in close proximity to someone on a fourteen-hour flight and spend five days in Seoul with them, you learn how to be a good conversationalist.”
It wasn’t always easy for Pete to slip into natural conversation with his co-pilots. He’s a big guy and retired Air Force, too—he knows his first impression can come off as intimidating. Growing up in a devout Pentecostal family and becoming Catholic as an adult, he had a zeal for his faith, but he had not learned how to share it with others in ordinary, daily conversations.
Pete’s life took a sharp turn when he suffered a devastating loss in 2017—the passing of his thirteen-year-old daughter. Through the tragedy, Pete’s faith deepened considerably. “I became closer to Jesus through that suffering,” he shares. Pete and his wife poured themselves into their parish, involving themselves in many ministries, events, and initiatives.
Eventually, a parish staff member invited them to join a mission training group by the Evangelical Catholic. Pete was initially hesitant but thought highly of the staff member and was honored that she personally approached them. Pete says, “I admit that before joining the mission training, I had a pretty cynical view of evangelization. I tend to envision someone standing on a street corner with a big sign. I also had this idea that it was all up to me to convert others. But my perception of evangelization was totally turned on its head as I continued through the training group.:
Midway through the season of training, a lightbulb went off in Pete’s head. “I realized that I was already in my personal mission field while I was in the cockpit! The Evangelical Catholic helped me reframe those encounters as evangelization opportunities. Now when I have conversations with my co-pilots, I do so much more intentionally.”
Now when Pete spends time with his co-pilots, he’s always looking for opportunities to build trust, to inquire about their lives in non-threatening ways, and, when the opportunities arise naturally, to share some of his own story. His prayerful attentiveness, genuine interest, and vulnerability have opened men up to connect with Pete about life and meaningful topics, including faith. He stays in touch and checks in with fellow pilots he encounters and continues to be a witness for Christ even when they’re not flying together. “I love that I know I’m not alone in faith when I’m up in the air. God has put [other pilots] there for me to learn just as much from as I’m there for them. I’ve grown so much because of the other pilots I interact with. I’m more accepting of where people are in their own journey. I’m open to letting the Holy Spirit take the lead.”
What about you? What does evangelization look like in your life? What assumptions or stereotypes have colored your understanding in the past? Are there ways, closer than you previously imagined, where the Lord is calling you to be good news in some simple but intentional way?