Have you heard the expression “Boots on the Ground?” Well our Live Dead Missionaries are the boots on the Silk Road. Here we’d like to take a moment and allow one of them to share part of their life with you. Some names and details have been changed, but this is a true story from this colorful, vibrant, and sometimes surprising region and those who God has called to work here.
“I’ve been an atheist my whole life, but when you spoke about God, my heart felt tranquility.”
The middle-aged man stood across from me, tears in his eyes under a neatly combed tuft of gray hair. His English was excellent; an English teacher himself, he had come to an event at our school, and then asked to speak to me privately at the end.
I took his phone number and told him I would try to get together with him sometime. I was encouraged that he seemed so hungry, but speaking about Christ at our place of work is a delicate thing.
The country we live in is what we sometimes refer to as a “sensitive” country: the government here does not look positively on people doing missionary work. For that reason, my family and our coworkers are here as English teachers. If our school develops a bad reputation with the authorities here it could be shut down, our visas could be revoked, or we could be deported.
We are here to proclaim Christ, so regardless of potential risks that is what we do. But in all situations we seek to follow scripture’s exhortation to be “as wise as serpents and gentle as doves.” We know for a fact that government informants have been sent to the school before, looking for reasons to get us in trouble.
This man fit the usual description for such an informant: a middle-aged man with a good command of English. When we shared about the encounter with our team we found out another piece of information: he’s come around the school before, acting suspiciously and getting caught in lies about his family.
Trusting God for Discernment
A few days later he returned, this time asking to see my colleague Tom who had spoken with him before. His story was the same, and this time he had another friend along. He said he was looking to hear more about God, and that his friend wanted to know as well.
Early the next morning I got a text. Tom had agreed to meet with him that week, and was asking for us to all pray for discernment. Was this a dream come true, a Saul becoming a Paul, desperate to know the truth of Christ? Or was it a clever set-up, fishing for evidence that could be used against us all in the future?
We all prayed that God would make the way clear. That very day Tom had a meeting with another seeker, a young man who was interested in studying the Bible. As they sat down and started talking, the young man said: “I didn’t like those guys who were hanging around the school this week!”
“Why not?” Tom asked with interest.
“I walked by them and heard them saying bad things about your religion!”
Tom breathed a sigh of relief.
True to his promise, God had answered our request for discernment with a clear sign that this man was not truly seeking answers about Jesus.
Tom still followed through with the meeting, directing the man to a local orthodox church that is officially recognized by the government. This church is not actively discipling people or reaching out, but it is a place where he can get a Bible and ask spiritual questions. While we do not believe he is sincere in his pursuit, if he begins to authentically seek God, it provides a door for him to begin his journey without exposing our team to his schemes.
We are thankful that God was faithful in this situation. We believe in boldly proclaiming the gospel every chance we get, but in a situation specifically designed to ensnare, God’s guidance helped us stay here longer so we can proclaim boldly to more people.