Have you ever been in a situation where God taught you a valuable lesson in an unconventional way? I find myself in these situations often, and it always makes me praise the Lord that I serve a God who is greater than the box I often try to fit Him in. God is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than all that I could ever think or imagine (Eph 3:20), and that very truth is something to get excited about! I recently had an experience like this where God reminded me of a lesson that He’d taught me before (yes, I needed the reminder), but this time it was in a way that I truly did not see coming!
A little over a month ago, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip overseas. Foreign missions is something that I have experienced many times in the past, but this particular trip was nothing like anything I’d done before. This trip would completely remove me from my comfort zone. It would require me going to a country that I’d never been before, whose religion is predominantly Muslim, something that I’d also never encountered, and I wasn’t familiar with the language. All these factors together sound really intimidating at first, but I was comforted in knowing that God works all things together for good (Rom. 8:28), and He has purpose in all things. He called me to participate in this trip, and I could trust Him to take care of the details.
While I was on the trip, I quickly discovered that schedules are very fluid, and event start times could change by 2 hours without prior notice. For a Type A person like myself, this was a bit challenging. I found myself being frustrated at the laid-back schedule because in my mind, not always having something to do meant that I was missing opportunities to share the Gospel with people. After all, that’s why we go on mission trips, right? While we did have opportunities to meet people, I had to keep in mind that it was just as important to invest in relationships with the local and international partners in the area.
One day, one of those local partners planned for us to go up to the ski lodge (where he worked) to follow up with some contacts that he had. As I prepared my bag in the morning, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Why are we going to a ski lodge? This sounds like more of a vacation than missions. Sure, skiing sounds fun and all, but I’m here to share the Gospel with people. People need to hear the name of Jesus!” I expressed these concerns to my teammate, and (in her sweet, gentle spirit) she reminded me that ministry can look different here, and that we didn’t know what God had in store for us at this lodge. And boy, was she right!
When we arrived at the lodge, we did have the opportunity to learn how to ski (something that I had never done before, but surprisingly had a blast doing), but God also had something else in store. I noticed that there were several English speakers at this lodge. When I heard people speaking English, I jumped at the opportunity to introduce myself!
After we finished on the slope, I walked up to one of the men that I heard speaking English to start up a conversation. This conversation got deep quickly. At the beginning of our conversation this man, whose name is Jack*, told me that he was agnostic, borderline atheist, and that he was a “hopeless case.” At this, I thought to myself, “This guy doesn’t know the power of our God – nobody is hopeless, because we know the God of Hope! We know where Hope comes from!” I couldn’t wait to share these truths with him! One of my other teammates heard us talking and joined us in the conversation. He and I together were able to share a deep overview of the Gospel with this man. We shared about the Old Testament laws, how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law, and how Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice by dying in our place on the cross. We found out that Jack was a professor at the local university, and he thought he knew a lot about religion. To Jack, religion was nothing but blood, sacrifice and judgment. He had a bad experience in a mosque when he was young, and that experience had tainted his entire view of religion.
Thankfully, our God is able to break through any heart of stone that He chooses, and I was praying for just that to happen. The more we talked, the more I realized that we were getting nowhere with a focus on the Old Testament. This guy had heard all of these things before, and he wasn’t getting the full picture. I flipped the conversation and told him that all the things we were discussing were important, and while they were a part of Christianity, I wanted to make sure he also knew that the God of the Bible is also the God of LOVE! I shared about the debt we owed that Jesus willingly paid for us, about His desire to have a relationship with us and about His promises of faithfulness for our lives. I wanted Jack to know that His ways are good, and His promises are true! We can trust Him because He promises to never fail us nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6)!
This was the moment that Jack’s whole demeanor changed. He revealed to us that He had never heard these things before. He asked if this is American Christianity because He only knew European Christianity. I said “No, this is TRUE Christianity!” Toward the end of our conversation, I told him that the truth that we had shared with him is only a portion of the truth that is in the Bible. I asked if I could share a bible with him, and he asked if I had one in English. [Cool side note: The English Bible that I had in my backpack was one that I got from our First Baptist Powell church pews the very morning that we left for the airport to go on this trip! My sweet teammate (the one with the gentle spirit who is so kind and a great example of godliness) recommended I get one of them on the chance that I’d have the opportunity to share it with someone in that country since there would be no underlined or highlighted marks (this is disrespectful to Muslim culture). I didn’t know how God intended to use that Bible the morning I left, but in that moment with Jack, I knew exactly what God had intended for that Bible!]
I handed the Bible to Jack, and he promised that he would read it! Don’t forget – this is the same man who started this conversation by saying that he was a hopeless case! Jack allowed us to pray for him, and we said our goodbyes.
On our way to the next location, I was reminded of my conversation with my teammate earlier that morning. Here I was questioning this activity because it’s not what I would have chosen for us to do, when the whole time God had something so much greater for me! Throughout the whole trip, God had to remind me that His plans are greater than my plans, and His ways are higher than my ways (Is. 55:9). God does ministry His way, not Samantha’s way. He places every piece of the puzzle together in accordance with His perfect plan! Praise God that He can work with any person, in any location, at any time, in any situation that He so chooses! I am so thankful that I got to catch a small glimpse of this truth in a very practical way, and that I had the opportunity to be used by God to speak truth to this man who had never heard.
My encouragement to others is this:
Take the chance.
Respond to the call.
Go on missions.
Serve your community.
Do what God is calling you to do! It may not look like what you think ministry should, but God IS able to show you just how creative He can be! He has opportunities everywhere, every day. You could have the great privilege of finding the one person who needs to hear God’s truth from YOU!
*Name has been changed for security purposes