Years ago I saw a plea to help an international woman, an Asian lady who wanted to learn English and also the Bible. I already had an international friendship partner. I was working full time and had an active teen-ager in the house, along with half his friends it seemed. The bottom line was that I had no time to take on another international.
However, no one else did either so I agreed to do it temporarily and so I contacted the family. The husband immediately said that they would like to go to church and gave me their address. As it turned out, the address was very incomplete. They lived in a large apartment complex and we weren't certain which building was theirs. So on that first Sunday morning, we literally had to stop and ask God to help us find the Asian couple - we didn't have a phone number so we really had no idea where to start. After praying, my husband said he was going to start with the first building and that he thought it would be good to start upstairs and work his way to the lower level. As he started to knock on the first door, it was opened by an Asian man who was dressed for church. He had just decided to come out and look for us.
We took them to church and set up a time for me to come to their apartment after school and give an English lesson. About two days later, I showed up with a grammar workbook and a Bible, still not sure that she really wanted to study the Bible, armed with secular English lessons just in case.
Clearly she wanted to learn both the Bible and English so I opened up the NLT, not sure how to proceed. We finally hit on the plan of me reading a few verses out of John 1 and then her reading them after me, working on her pronunciation. After she had the pronunciation right, we worked on meaning. Even though she had a bi-lingual dictionary, we often had to resort to pantomime or even hastily drawn sketches to break through the language barrier. It was slow going but fun. Sometimes we would both just break down in laughter at our poor acting abilities and our even worse drawing abilities! Sometimes, even with our best efforts at communicating, we got our wires hopelessly, hilariously crossed! I knew early on that I was going to like her and in fact we did become good friends over the next few months. When she had to leave, I missed her deeply and still do.
However, that is not what this blog is about...
During that first session, halfway through, she stopped me and said, to my total surprise, "Last night I tell Jesus I want belong to Him." Then she turned to me. "Do, ah, you think He hear that?"
I said, "Yes" even as the steps to salvation ran through my mind. Did she understand that she was a sinner? I didn't know. Did she understand that she needed a savior? I didn't know. How did we go from laughing hysterically one minute over grammar to this? I just didn't know!
So I said, "Yes" and waited, hoping it was the right answer.
She nodded and said, "I think so too."
Then she told me that she had prayed that prayer the night before and when she started praying, the room was totally dark. But within minutes, it was filled with light, a bright light like she'd never seen before.
Over time I would learn that she had lived in several countries and in her previous location, a friend had taught her a lot of the Bible. I knew she hadn't come to faith from anything she saw or heard at church with us because her English was so limited but when I realized she had studied previously in another country, things made sense.
We continued to study each week and then one afternoon, she pulled out a list of verses and began to ask me about each one. I was totally surprised; each one, taken out of context, seemed to deny central tenets of Christianity. I knew enough to recognize that taking them out of context was the main problem. But before I could scan the first passage in it's entirety, she would ask me to turn to another.
At each place, I would say, "I'm sorry. I don't have the answer but I'll look it up later and get back to you."
After looking at about three verses this way, she suddenly said, "No. I should not ask."
I assured her that she had every right to ask, that I wasn't an expert on the Bible but I would study and ask others and provide the answer at our next meeting.
She shook her head and said, "But, no, I should not ask."
When I started to reassure her again that she had every right to ask, she stopped me and said, "Later. I get answers. Now, I don't need."
She then told me that her previous teacher was not a Christian. This was news to me! So when my Asian friend e-mailed this woman, telling her how happy she was that she had become a Christian, the other lady got upset and pulled verses out of context to show her that she should not believe in Christ.
Wow. That was a game changer! But still, I told my friend that she had a right to ask any questions she wanted and she replied again, "No. I don't need."
And then she told me that when she was living in this other country, she had a problem that was really troubling her deeply. So she shared this with her mentor and her friend told her to pray to God and ask for help.
My Asian friend did exactly what she had been told to do but nothing changed.
Then she came to America and met some other Asians who were Christians. She explained to them how prayer did not work and they told her, "You didn't do it right; you have to ask in Jesus' name."
So she went home and did that and her prayer was answered.
After she ended this story, she said, "So I know Jesus is right way. Later, I get answers. Now. I don't need."
Sometimes we wonder: what will I do if I share my faith and then I run into someone who has a bunch of tough questions?
Be honest. And remember that there is only One who has all the answers and He can give both knowledge and assurance in a multitude of ways. In time my friend's questions were answered but in the interim, she had peace and her faith continued to grow.