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Joy Frey was teaching a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association online discipleship course to members of her southwestern Ontario church in late 2018 when an email popped up inviting her to teach the ministry’s “Christianity Explored” course to people all around the world.
“I immediately moved the email into my junk folder and thought nothing more about it,” Joy recalled with a sheepish laugh.
But two days later, after feeling a prompting from her pastor and the Holy Spirit, the Wellesley, Ontario, resident said yes to BGEA’s offer. God has been using Joy since then to disciple people across Canada, and in many other nations, as part of BGEA’s Search for Jesus internet evangelism ministry.
“I love pointing people to Jesus,” said the 57-year-old mother of three adult daughters. Those daughters, who all follow Christ, are part of Joy’s inspiration. “I’m very much drawn to the 20- and 30-year-olds because they’re in the age range of my girls,” she explained.
As an online discipleship coach, Joy guides between 12 and 14 students each month through the Christianity Explored course. All of the students came to her through Search for Jesus evangelistic websites, such as PeaceWithGod.net.
Half of the students are new believers, and most of the rest are exploring Christianity. A few are people who think they are believers, but as the course gradually reveals the truth of following Jesus Christ, they realize their theology is seriously flawed. As they make this discovery, some commit their lives to Christ.
Sadly, others simply stop taking the course—especially when the topic of sin is explored.
“It is difficult for someone to answer a question such as ‘What will you do with your sin?’ when one doesn’t want to admit they are a sinner,” Joy noted sadly.
Mary*, however, was willing to face that question. When she signed up for Christianity Explored, she made it clear she understood her condition, saying: “I have sinned by lying, and I don’t feel like I’m forgiven.”
As Joy guided her through each part of the course, Mary began to comprehend the divinity of Christ.
This truth was made crystal clear when she read of the Roman guard at Calvary experiencing an earthquake at the moment of Jesus’ death, then declaring “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54, ESV).
At that point, Joy asked Mary: “What will you do with your sin?”
“Repent,” Mary said.
“If God asked you; ‘Why should I allow you into Heaven, what would you say?’” Joy asked.
“Because I believe in You and I believe the Bible,” Mary said.
At this point, Joy realized that Mary understood true, permanent forgiveness offered through Christ’s sacrificial death, and she rejoiced and praised God.
Another student, Kate,* revealed enough about herself that Joy began to realize that although she was a new believer, Kate was also a compulsive shoplifter.
“She stole and then felt bad about it,” Joy said. “She would ask for forgiveness, but then she would continue to steal. She never had any victory [over that sin].”
As Kate worked her way through the sin and grace sections of Christianity Explored, Joy didn’t shy away from bringing Kate face-to-face with her weakness.
“I remember telling Kate that God doesn’t categorize sin,” Joy said. “Anything that goes against what God teaches in His Word is sin. And the greatest sin we all commit is rejecting God and His plan to forgive our sin.”
Joy could tell the Holy Spirit was at work because one day she received a panicky email from Kate, saying: “I’m at a pharmacy picking up my prescription, and I feel like I’m going to walk out without paying for it!”
Joy immediately replied, urging Kate to resist the temptation and pay for her purchase. To Joy’s relief, Kate agreed, thanked her for the timely help, and continued in the course.
Joy spends about two hours a day with students like Kate and Mary. That’s a significant time commitment, but she has an understanding husband and loves being part of God changing lives for all eternity.
She also sees how God has used Search For Jesus to transform her own faith journey. At age 12, Joy accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, but for her the decision was primarily a ticket to avoiding hell.
During her teen years, she doubted her salvation and struggled to comprehend the Gospel.
“It would be many years before I understood what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” she said, “and longer still before I understood the truth of forgiveness.”
Joy’s challenges continued into adulthood. Her second pregnancy, in 1985, nearly ended in tragedy when, at seven months in, she began experiencing intense pain. Her doctor thought she was going into labor, but when they did surgery to confirm, they discovered her appendix had ruptured, and they had to push the baby to one side to remove the appendix before it killed Joy and her child.
“I went into the operation not knowing if my life or my baby’s life would be spared,” she recalled. “But I knew God was with me in that operating room, and it was well with my soul, whatever the outcome.”
In 2010, Joy began experiencing intense pain in her hands. Her doctor put her on arthritis medication, but it made no difference.
“Many nights I would just be crying out to God to remove the pain and fatigue,” Joy said. Then in 2014, she found herself submitting to God and telling Him: “I’m OK with this. Give me the strength to bear the pain, and even if it never gets better, that’s OK.’”
After that, Joy said with a laugh, “I’ve never complained again except to my husband.” And God has since provided her with pain medication that truly helps.
Through these challenges, and her opportunities to help people through Search for Jesus, Joy makes this statement emphatically: “God has proven over and over to me His unchanging love for me. I used to allow myself to be dragged into the pit of self-pity. Now, I allow Jesus to pick me up. So I am growing as a believer, and much of it is because of this ministry.”
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