My time in the foreign land began in 2006. During the trying time of beginning to learn the foreign language, I soon realized that it would take a while before I could do justice to the gospel by means of my language abilities. But by the end of my first two years in the country, I began feeling some sense of being able to share stories and some important aspects of the gospel. But such opportunities (due to variable openness of the listener) continue to be rare. And trying to begin a talk about spiritual matters usually falls on deaf ears…or so it seems. The years since that initial phase of language learning have been filled with times in and out of the country of my assignment, completion of a master’s degree (including a thesis), marriage, the birth of two children, and the death of my father.
A few years later, in 2012, I met an elderly man whose mother tongue is different from the language spoken in our area. But because he also speaks the language I’ve learned, we’ve been able to communicate, and through him I have been able to continue gathering data on his mother tongue, something I began doing in 2008.
This friend, whom I’ll call Matthew, used to be a history teacher and school principal. So while I was more interested in talking about his mother tongue, he was more interested in telling me the history of his people and talking about significant historical events in his area of the world. During our conversations we would talk about someday going on a little journey to his area to visit a couple of the ancient sites. In the fall of 2013, just before Tili and I returned home for the birth of our first child, Matthew and I went on our excursion.
Matthew asked me one of the very best questions during the ride home, a question we wish all unbelievers would ask: “Why did God send Jesus to the world?” At first I was shocked that he asked me this question as our previous interactions had not yet gone very deeply into spiritual matters. I began by telling him that his question was no small question. I don’t remember now everything I said. But I do remember that I began with talking about sacrifice, starting with the time when God told Abraham to sacrifice his son. I told Matthew that God did that to give us a picture of his great love and to share his promise that he would later provide man with a perfect sacrifice.
I don’t remember how long I was speaking before looking over at Matthew, who seemed to be dozing off a little. I’m not sure how much he heard. But I’m sure he was at least initially listening very intently. And I’m happy to share that he now has a Bible in another language he knows well. When I presented it to him last year, he expressed a piqued interest. Having mourned with him over the recent tragic death of his son, I directed him to the Psalms and together, in different languages, we read God’s Word in silence. Matthew continued to read from other books and look at the table of contents for about an hour, all in complete silence. I read some other Psalms via my cell phone. Then he took the Holy Book, tucked it away behind some other books on his shelf, and then asked his wife to bring us lunch.
Please pray for Matthew. I feel greatly burdened to share with him more intimately about God’s great love for him—and to tell him that Jesus the Messiah wants him to know him.
This work, along with our other global partners, is supported by the Outreach budget.
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