Recently I went to a public speaking workshop. I never thought of myself as a public speaker before I had to give a three-minute talk on the topic of my choice to complete strangers. Three minutes does not seem long when you are having fun visiting with a friend, scrolling social media or watching your favorite sport. But public speaking for three minutes can feel like a long time.
I wrestled with preparing my talk for nine months! What would I say? How should I say it? What has God been up to in my life … should I write on that? Finally, it came to me. As I took my eyes off myself and shifted my focus to another, suddenly there was peace. I could hardly wait to start writing. I was getting ready to bless someone!
With the blank page in front of me and my heart overflowing, I was expecting the blessing to pour out. But it did not. At least not until I remembered what one of my mentors, Roddy Galbraith, reminded me to do. Roddy is an international speaker, trainer, mentor and coach with a passion for helping people find their voice, craft their message and refine their delivery.
Roddy shared three brilliant tips for public speaking that helped me shape my talk:
- Have something good to say.
- Tell an interesting story.
- Look for a place to make an emotional shift (with humor, sentiment or anticipation).
As I worked with his advice, I realized that these same tips could also be applied in letters to Luis, the child I sponsor. Here’s what my public-speaking experience taught me about sharing my story — and how it helped me write more authentic letters to Luis.
Sharing My Story in 3 Minutes
Roddy’s advice worked. My talk went something like this …
“I am thrilled to get to talk to you today. Not only is speaking to you today an honor, but today is my birthday! So, getting to be with all of you is the best birthday present ever!” I heard my audience shout with joyous birthday wishes and cheerful hand claps. I thought to myself, this will not be so bad. They really are for me!
I continued, “I joined this group to grow my skills, but what I found, somewhat to my surprise, is how much healing my leadership needed. You see, after 15 years in full-time ministry, I was left as one of the walking wounded. Over time, I grew unsure of my value and questioned my fitness to lead anything.” I could hear an audible gasp and see the compassion in their eyes. Wanting to relieve the tension in the room, I began to share why I dedicated myself to the ministry in the first place.
“You see, in my role as a speaker, teacher and coach, I create learning experiences that sharpen people’s resolve and bring growth potential into focus. In reflecting on my spiritual journey, I realized God routinely challenged me to say yes to things that seem impossible. Impossible, that is, unless it can be done with help. Can you remember the last time you faced a challenge so big that if you did not have help, you doubted you could make it through?
“A big challenge that comes to mind for me is when without any financial sources saved up, my husband and I decided to adopt internationally. It seemed like a crazy idea, and there were many well-intentioned folks who wanted us to avoid the hardship it would cause. But there were others who were willing to share the load. It required partnership, fundraisers, second jobs and classes. But God supplied every step of the way. Because of what God did for us, I realized I wanted to help others get through their challenges too.
“Fast forward five years after that challenge. Our little adopted girl became captivated with the song ‘Super Trouper’ by the band ABBA. At this point in my talk, I could sense their interest and curiosity of where all this was leading. I knew I had to bring my main idea into focus and be a blessing. “
I went on to say, “If you are familiar with the lyrics of ‘Super Trouper,’ you will remember the verse:
“Super Trouper beams are gonna blind me
But I won’t feel blue
Like I always do
’Cause somewhere in the crowd there’s you.’”
I finished my talk by saying, “Growth is hard. Saying yes to your calling is hard. Being willing to accept help to support your calling can be hard. But Scripture tells us not to grow weary of doing good in the world. I know my calling. My leadership is healing — with God’s help. And I know you and Jesus are both for me. So now, when I share my story, I am encouraged because I know that ‘somewhere in the crowd is you.’”
My three minutes went by in a flash. Everyone was smiling and encouraging. The experience left me wondering where else to tell a story. Who else might need encouragement? That’s when I thought of the child I sponsor.
My Example Letter
I am so happy to write to you again. Today is a special day for me: It is my wedding anniversary. It has been 18 years since my husband and I were married. On our wedding day, we told each other that we believed that God brought us together and that we were irreplaceable parts of each other’s lives. Today, my husband gave me a special anniversary card to celebrate and remember our wedding. My husband said he still remembers how I looked that day. He said he would do it all again! Do you know what? We did! We got up early in the morning when the sun was just coming up and re-enacted getting married just like the first time. It was so special I wanted to share a picture with you.
Luis, every time I think about you, I feel grateful to God to be your sponsor. You are special. I remember the first picture you drew for me. It made me so happy. I keep all the pictures that you draw. They are like treasures to me. When I look at the pictures, I remember what it looks like where you live. I also love to read your letters because you tell me about your favorite games, friends, family and what you are learning in school. You also tell me how to pray for you.
I will continue to pray for you and your whole family! Please remember, if I could sponsor you all over again, I would.
With love, your sponsor,
Your Story as a Letter
How about you? What story could you tell to encourage your sponsor child? Just write about what has happened to you recently. It might be funny, sad, hopeful or hard. Be real, be honest, and most of all, just be you. You are special.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.Galatians 6:9, NIV