RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–“Tom Edwards”* won’t risk speaking the names of the friends he made while serving overseas as a missionary journeyman. He won’t even mention the Muslim country he lived in the past two years.
He wants to protect the identities of his Muslim friends, some of whom came to know Christ because of their friendship. Islamic law prescribes death for Muslims who leave Islam. Though the government of the country Tom lived in wouldn’t directly enforce the sentence, it would look the other way when family members carried it out.
“If something bad happens to them,” he said, “they know they are on their own, for the most part, except for God helping them.”
Despite the danger, many men asked Tom for Bibles, often discreetly. “One guy told me specifically, ‘You could get in trouble for giving me a Bible, but I still want one,'” he said.
Tom met students who were interested in practicing their English with a native speaker. Many young men were curious about Christ and the Bible. He found they loved to argue about all kinds of things.
But Tom was not interested in pursuing apologetics. He wanted to meet people who already had seeds of faith planted in their lives by Christian radio broadcasts and believers they had met.
“I didn’t want to waste my time arguing with people or just sharing with curious people,” Tom said. “I started praying specifically that God would open their minds and that God would lead me specifically to guys in whose lives [he] was already working.
“When God did lead those people to me, it was easy. He had already opened their minds to hear about the gospel and glory of Christ.”
While a volunteer group was prayerwalking in the area, Tom met a student he calls “Paul.”
“I could tell from the start that this guy was different, very intelligent,” Tom said. “He could process what I was telling him and he saw the parallels between different things and the symbolism in the stories. It could have been just because he was smart, and also because the Lord was working in his heart.
“I was able to talk with him about lots of things, especially the person and work of Jesus Christ and also God’s plan through history.”
One evening, after praying specifically for Paul’s salvation, Tom went to meet him after work. Another friend was waiting there too. The friend and Paul had planned to study at a professor’s home for an English competition.
“I chatted with his friend awhile,” Tom remembered. “Then [Paul] came over and the first thing he said to me was, ‘Tom, I’m interested in joining your party.’
“I was excited because I knew that was sort of in code language. He was saying he wanted to accept Christ as his Savior.”
Tom was exhilarated by Paul’s statement, but he knew Paul already had an appointment with his friend.
As the pair was preparing to leave, Paul’s friend told him, “Why don’t you go with Tom, and I’ll go to the professor’s house to make an excuse. I’ll just tell him something so you can spend time with Tom, because he’s leaving the country soon and he’s your friend.”
Tom and Paul walked to the beach for dinner and discussed a gospel tract. Tom did not often give tracts to Muslims, but Tom knew Paul would not be turned off by the vocabulary because they had already talked about Christ.
“It seemed like he had already made the decision and this was kind of review,” Tom said. “There on a bench overlooking the sea, he asked Jesus to come into his heart and save him from his sin.
“Now he is meeting with another Christian, a South African guy, and going through some discipleship things together.
“Our prayer is that he’ll grow. That he’ll learn to share his faith with others. That he won’t be afraid to share his faith. That when he is persecuted — and he will be eventually — he’ll come through it. That there will be some kind of Christian community for him.”
*Name changed for security reasons. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: WILLING TO LISTEN.