By: Theron Guild (New York City)
Learning to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide our steps and words in evangelism is essential. Out ‘on the street’ there can be many thoughts that go through your head with regards to things such as strategy, preference, impulse and teamwork. I have to say that it could feel a bit like a roller coaster ride at times if you let it, but thankfully, I have been able to come to the realization that it is the anchors of our faith and the Spirit of God that provides the stability and peace we need to walk in love and with discernment.
One example of this happened a few weeks ago while a teammate and I were meeting with a Gambian friend in the Highbridge neighborhood of the South Bronx. Our friend, "H", owns a small shop in this immigrant dominated neighborhood. While we were there visiting one evening, we were surprised to notice that the store radio was tuned to a station that had an evangelistic Christian message. We were fairly surprised, to say the least, since "H" is a devout Muslim belonging to a highly Islamicized West African people group. But then, a little later on, we were again surprised as we were browsing the internet for language helps in his heart language. While we were searching the internet alongside "H", we came across an evangelistic video targeting people of his own ethnic group in his own language!
Known for their devout adherence and self-identification with Islam, his people have not previously had a lot of Christian presence or witness in their midst, so to see something like this come up in this language was not exactly expected. Arguably, this was a moment at which one could have launched into a sought after ‘evangelistic moment.’ However, we were honestly caught a little off guard, but in another sense, it seems that there may have been more to it than that. For one thing, we both felt a little unsure about how our friend, a devout Muslim, and his wife (who was in the store as well) were receiving these messages at the time. We knew this not only from inference but also from our own observations, as was apparent when we had visited them in their home 2 weeks beforehand. We just weren't sure if the time was right.
Over the past few months, as we have learned through Epuip training and gained knowledge of African Muslim friends here in the Bronx, we have come to recognize the need for building relationships and investing time in knowing people authentically. We have come to appreciate and expect moments of sharing the Good News, but we also now acknowledge the importance of authenticity, intentionality and maybe even a certain amount of ‘reserve,’ with those who may not be immediately open to the Gospel.
So, while we do acknowledge that there was something significant about these "coincidences" that happened while visiting "H's" store, we also feel comfortable to be in relationship and investing time in knowing our friend. We will continue to ‘check in’ on "H" and build on our relationship, while keeping our eyes open for the sharing opportunities that God provides, trusting that the Spirit is active in preparing the soil to receive his message of salvation and acceptance in Christ.