Most of my friends in this city are Muslims. In fact, I live not far from the largest mosque in all of Europe. But I wish more of these friends of mine knew Jesus.
That has been my purpose in being here. I pray that God would work in the hearts of my friends, to open their eyes to see Jesus for who he really is, to water the seeds of faith that have been planted.
At times, I’ve been discouraged in my work, humbled, even rejected. I’ve desired to see spiritual growth sprouting up in the lives of my friends, but saw nothing. At least, nothing that I could see.
I’ve learned to celebrate small victories: a prayer, a Bible received, a conversation with someone who actually listened as I explained who Jesus said he was. But I often hoped for more. Much more.
Recently, I caught a glimpse of what “much more” could look like.
Two years ago, I met a man in Paris named Nasser. He was born and raised as a strict Muslim in Saudi Arabia. But as a young adult he came to know Jesus and was living in the US. He came to Paris to encourage us in our ministry among Muslims.
Nasser openly shares his story of conversion from the strongholds of Islam and the freedom he now walks in to proclaim truth to his people. Although he lives currently in America, there are no limits to how the Spirit uses him to encourage brothers and sisters around the world, myself being one. Nasser’s story conveys the hope that our Father has much more in store, more than we could ask or imagine.
Six months ago, I met another man in Paris named Tyler, a young American who was on his way to Saudi Arabia. It wasn’t his first time to the Middle East. In fact, Tyler was already fluent in Arabic after spending time there in the recent past. He was thirsty to go back, to share the hope he had discovered with people he had grown to love, a love that had been growing in Tyler’s heart ever since his family had hosted students from the Middle East when he was younger.
However, after four months in the Middle East, Tyler was frustrated. He sent me a message explaining that his experience had not been what he expected. For some reason, he ended up moving to a different city where he had no contacts. He felt disconnected and discouraged. He needed someone to talk to.
I immediately thought of Nasser. Could he possibly be of help in this situation? I couldn’t think of anyone else that loved his people the way that he did.
When I contacted Nasser at his home in Kansas, he thought of Abe, a man like him who was from Saudi Arabia but had heard the Gospel while on scholarship at a university in the US and became a follower of Jesus. Abe had recently returned home, which happened to be in the very city where Tyler had moved.
Within days, Nasser and Tyler were talking on the phone. Nasser gave Tyler Abe’s contact information, and the two men were able to meet.
Far away from Paris and Kansas, Tyler and Abe shared a meal together and shared their hearts. Tyler was amazed to hear about the courage and boldness that God had given Abe to speak with his family and his company about his faith in Jesus, which potentially put his scholarship in jeopardy. But Abe shared more about how God had been faithful to him and that the laws governing the scholarship grant could not be revoked. Tyler was encouraged and once again filled with boldness to share his own story with others in this city. Before they parted, the two young believers prayed for one another.
I am amazed at these connections. As I watch the trains and people leaving from the station in Paris, my heart is encouraged, knowing that God is with Tyler in Saudi Arabia, with Abe and Nasser back in the US, and with me here. God is writing a beautiful story of our lives. He is the Author who makes all things possible, the One who weaves storylines across borders and time zones, the One who gives us friends and names to pass on to others so that connections can be made and people in faraway places can come to know him.