During a recent London Bridges Jesus Film Mission Trip™, one mission team had a welcome encounter while praying about whom to approach with the good news.
The team leader shares:
Our team was enjoying the beauty of Hyde Park. While we walked, prayed and chatted about past mission trips, a team member asked me about my favorite people group. I mentioned a people living in a certain [closed] country on the Arab Peninsula. “Oh, maybe we’ll meet somebody from there,” the team member said. To which I insisted, “No, not here. I’ve never met anybody from [country] here.”
We turned a corner and saw a group of young Middle Eastern women, traditionally dressed, sitting on a park bench. Scooting over, they patted the seat, signaling us to sit. So our group joined theirs—squeezed onto the same park bench together.
We asked them where they were from, and I was surprised and delighted to be able to tell them I had visited their country. It was the very one I had just shared with the team! One of the women exclaimed, “You know my country! You come with us; you stay with us for the day!”
We quickly bonded and enjoyed great conversation with them until they eventually looked at their watches and indicated it was time to go. They were hungry and it was time to eat.
I knew, of course, that it was Ramadan—a special time of fasting. So I asked them if they were Muslim and they said they were. I told them I was a Christian but that I hadn’t been raised a Christian. They expressed surprise and indicated that they thought everyone in America was raised a Christian.
Then one of them asked, “How does a person become a Christian?”
Well, our team stood flabbergasted at this perfect opportunity to share the gospel. So I told them my story:
“I didn’t know either but I tried to be a good person. I always thought religions were like ice cream—different flavors but all involving praying, fasting, reading a holy book, and treating others as we want to be treated.
“But at the end of the day, my heart was still ‘black.’ Why would a God who created so much beauty [I gestured to the rose garden around us] accept me with my black heart?
“Well, I didn’t know what to do so I turned to a friend of mine who always talks about God as if He were a friend… not stern and scary. I asked him how his life was different after he accepted the Lord and became a Christian. That’s when he told me that God wanted to be my friend, too, and that I could know Him personally.”
At this point, I explained the gospel to the women. They were sincerely tracking with me through my personal story and about the good news. The entire conversation was the textbook setup. And then the time came to ask them if they would like to accept Jesus.
“We can’t,” they all said, expressing their religious affiliation without hesitation. I was shocked by how abruptly our “perfect opportunity” had become a dead end.
“We have to go,” they continued, and then they mentioned a church they enjoyed visiting, called Mary Magdalene.
Boom! I suddenly remembered I had a “Magdalena” DVD in my purse!
“Oh gosh,” I said, “It’s the weirdest thing… I have this DVD that’s about the person the church is named for and it’s in your language!”
The young women, pleasantly surprised, accepted the DVD; we exchanged email addresses, took pictures and promised each other we’d keep in touch. I knew I would be visiting their country in four months so I wanted to stay connected.
Four months later, I visited the Arab Peninsula and was able to visit with one of the women. I thought surely by now she’d want to become a Christian. This’ll be easy! But every attempt I made to start a spiritual conversation with her was stonewalled.
The night before my flight home, the young woman (along with her father and sister as chaperones) took me to one of the finest restaurants and still I could not get into one conversation about Jesus. I prayed, “Lord, You know I’m leaving tomorrow. Please give me a divine appointment to invite this woman to become a follower of Christ.”
We finished dinner and all of us went for a walk toward the beach. As we approached the sand, she and I kept walking but the others stopped as if God had put up a wall. When we reached the water, she confessed, “I love the water; I wish I could swim.”
I said, “Well, why can’t you?” “Because of this,” and she picked up a wad of her traditional dress.
“You’re not allowed to?” I asked. “No, I’m trapped—literally. My whole generation is trapped. We don’t believe any of this. It’s my parents’ generation. The religion…? All that, it’s theirs.”
I said, “Have you thought about our conversation from this summer?” (I was trembling.)
“I think about it every day,” she replied.
“I brought you a gift,” I said. “It’s a Bible in Arabic and English. Will you read it?”
“I have searched for one ever since we spoke!” And she grabbed the Bible and kissed it and then kissed me.
Looking outward toward the Gulf, we cried and she said, “I knew God brought you here for a reason.”
Since that evening, we have kept in touch. I plan to go back to that region and spend a few days with my new sister in Christ.
This experience was a great reminder that God is always at work… With the help of the Holy Spirit, we plant seeds and He brings them to fruition.