Sometimes our inconveniences are God's opportunities

Joseph slipped his computer into his backpack and sighed, “Let’s try the coffee shop.”   With no internet in the apartment we’d just moved to as Global Mission Pioneers in a closed Middle Eastern country, it was the closest free internet access where we could contact our families and send in our monthly report. 

We set up in a quiet corner.  But within a few minutes, above the usual chatter of the shop, we could hear someone loudly, slowly repeating sentences in English.  Joseph and I exchanged knowing glances.  A young man nearby, huddled under bulky earphones and leaning into his computer, was obviously absorbed in an online English-language class.  

We were surprised when he stopped at our table as he was leaving and asked us in heavily accented English if his voice had disturbed us. 

“No, of course not,” my husband responded, pulling out a seat, and inviting him to sit down and visit.  We learned his name was Selim.  He was a civil engineering student at a nearby university.  We could tell he welcomed the opportunity to practice his English.  We planned on meeting for conversation time.

Before the scheduled date arrived, though, we happened to meet again at the shop, all of us still looking for internet.  But that day the coffee shop’s internet was down too.  With nothing else to do, we invited Selim to join us at a nearby restaurant for lunch.  As our habit is even in public, we bowed our heads over our food to say grace.  

Selim was full of questions.  “Did you pray before you eat?  Are you saying a Christian prayer?”

“Yes, we pray many times during the day, and, yes, we believe in Jesus,” Joseph explained.

“I have never met a Christian before in real life,” Selim observed.  When Joseph asked what he knew about Christianity, he responded honestly, “Only what I’ve seen in the movies.”

That was our opportunity to explain that we are Christians, but different than anything he has seen in a movie or a television series; we are careful about how we live, what we eat, and how we worship.  His surprise turned into a confession as he opened his heart about the inconsistencies he saw in his own religion. 

“I’m even thinking about becoming an atheist,” he admitted.  Joseph challenged him to do research and look into the options before making a decision, and to keep practicing his English with us.

Each time we met, our conversations together deepened from everyday topics to personal life, to faith.  One day he disclosed that he was thinking about learning more about religion, and that he felt an emptiness in his heart.  As I prayed, Joseph quietly asked if he would like to learn more about Jesus.

“Yes. But. I would like to do my own research,” was his measured response.  

Joseph pulled a New Testament out from his jacket pocket, where he keeps several.  “This is the best place to begin learning about Jesus.”  Selim accepted the little book reverently and agreed to read it.  We assured him we would be praying for him as he did his research.

We continue to meet with him for English conversation.  We continue to pray.  He says he is reading the book we gave him. 

By the way, soon after having that first lunch with Selim, the company showed up at our apartment to turn our internet back on.  We still frequent the coffee shop, though, because Selim is still learning English and God is still working!