David attended our Live Dead Silk Road internship this summer and was greatly impacted by his experience. Here’s a story from his time in Central Eurasia.
In the second week of the internship, my sowing partner, Andrew, and I walked into a very religiously conservative city neighborhood to scatter gospel seed. We soon found our way into a small, hole-in-the-wall shop that sold handcrafted board games. Andrew struck up conversation with the store owner, and lo and behold, the store owner spoke basic English! The owner introduced himself as Cengis. After exchanging pleasantries and purchasing a game, Andrew and I left, agreeing that we would definitely return in the coming weeks to build further friendship and speak of Jesus.
A few weeks passed by and Andrew and I took the opportunity to go visit Cengis. Just as soon as we crossed the threshold of the shop door, Cengis greeted us, “Andrew, David! Welcome back! Would you join me for tea?” Over the next hour, we sat on short tea stools and enjoyed each other’s company talking about our families, jobs and upbringing. Naturally, we shifted the conversation and began to speak of our faith in Jesus, inviting Cengis to share about his Islamic faith as well. The faith conversation was fine, but naturally finding its end.
Listening to the Holy Spirit
As Andrew spoke, I began silently praying, asking God to give me wisdom and insight on Cengis and what I could say that might spark an interest in Jesus. Out of nowhere, I suddenly had a strong intuition to share the Parable of the Prodigal Son. So I took a risk, and asked, “Cengis, could I share a story with you that Jesus shared? A story from the Bible?” He smiled and said, “Of course!” and sat back to listen. In kindergarten level English, I shared. I shared of the loving father, the younger son with his devastating selfishness, of shame and promiscuity, of severe and utter hopelessness. And I shared of the father’s unconditional love, his welcoming home, his forgiveness and of the restoration gifted to the shameful son. As I finished, I looked up to an astonished, wide-eyed Cengis. In a quiet voice, he said,
David, that’s an amazing story.
As we left Cengis’ little shop that afternoon, I knew that God was working on his heart. We had found a person of peace and of course we would return. But then, we didn’t. Time flew by – we had many other trips, trainings, and sowing in other areas of the city that took our time. Then, Andrew left for a several month long period of itineration. My days in Istanbul were coming to a close. I knew I had to go back. I wanted to go back.
It is one thing to stroll through a foreign city with a sowing partner, who speaks the language, deeply understands the culture and has tons of experience in sharing the Gospel and street-smarts up to his eyeballs. But now it was just me. Little ole me. Of course I could have asked another worker to join, but entering a new person into the equation likely would have taken us back to square one with Cengis. I knew it had to be me and only me.
As I prepared to trek across the city to Cengis’ neighborhood, all of the fear that I had been praying away for the past few days flooded over me with a vengeance. “Cengis is ten years my senior… I don’t have the right to share with him. What if I come to his shop and two or three of his friends are there? Then it will be just one of me and three or four Muslim guys. What am I even going to say – ‘uh..hey Cengis, there’s this Jesus guy!… uh, you should check him out.’ Maybe he’s an extremist and he’s really been playing us all along just to infiltrate us and ultimately to do us harm…”
Fear, insecurity, and lots of it. I really didn’t have to go. No one other than Andrew even knew about Cengis. I could walk away and just forget about it.
But something inside me deeper than my fear longed for obedience.
So mustering up my courage, I stepped out the door headed in the direction of Cengis’ game shop.
Halfway through my thirty-minute walk, I was losing the battle with my fear. For a split second I thought, “Maybe his shop will be closed and I can turn around and go home! Yes!” My next thought was, “No! I want to do this. God, you opened this door and I want to step through.” Fear and truth, back and forth. I stopped, sat on a doorstep and prayed. I prayed that God would fill me with greater boldness. I prayed that he would give me words to speak. I prayed for the Spirit’s filling. I prayed that His peace would quiet my mind. I took a deep breath and walked on.
Taking a Step of Faith
As I rounded the corner, there it was, Cengis’ shop, front door wide open. One last prayer and I stepped across the threshold – into his shop and into a deeper place of trust in our King.
An hour and a half later, I said my goodbyes in the traditional handshake plus head bump-to-head bump fashion. However, my farewell wasn’t just to Cengis, it was to Cengis and two of his closest friends who had joined our conversation. I spoke of Jesus, His hope for today and assurance for tomorrow. I shared scripture. I fielded their questions and doubts about following Jesus. Finally, I got to pray right there in the shop to Jesus Messiah over each one of them, their families and their businesses.
From the moment I set foot in the shop until the moment I left, I experienced zero fear. Every word came with joy and ease. God’s presence was tangible in the shop that day. I left with incredible joy in my heart having just experienced God move profoundly… and I got to be His pipe! Imagine that, a pipe for God! Really though, I got to be the conduit that God flowed through that day. My obedient choice to take a risk brought hope to Cengis and his friends, but also blessing to me as I experienced God come through.
I learned a lesson that day: God’s invitations often feel like RISK. And we can trust God to show up when we take obedient RISK for the Kingdom.