My wife and I had passed "Sara's Gallery" on several occasions, but this time the Holy Spirit prompted me to stop and introduce myself to the dark-haired businessman who was sitting, reading a book. After shaking hands, I asked him, "What language are you reading?"
"It's Arabic," he responded.
"How do you politely greet someone in Arabic?" I asked him.
"Es salaam alecum," he replied. Then he told me the appropriate response to his greeting would be, "Alecum es salaam."
Growing up in New York City and having a love for languages, I learned Spanish, a little Russian, and whatever else I could pick up in conversations with immigrants. Wherever I was stationed in the Army-- Thailand, Korea, Germany--I tried to learn the basic conversational language of the country. So I asked Roger (not his real name) if he would teach me some simple Arabic phrases when he's not busy tending to customers. He graciously agreed.
We spent some time getting to know one another. Of course, he asked the usual question that people ask when they find out I am from New York City. "Why did you come to Springfield, Missouri?"
I responded that God had called me to the ministry and I came to Springfield to attend seminary. Then I related to him how Jesus had touched my wife and greatly improved her health two years ago, after she had nearly died on several occasions. "If it weren't for what Jesus had done, she would not be walking here at the mall today."
"Why don't you give God the credit?" Roger asked me. "Why do you give credit to Jesus?"
I explained that Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are one God. In Genesis 1:26 God says, "'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.'" When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, the Spirit of God descended like a dove upon Him, and the Father spoke from heaven, "'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased'" (Matthew 3:16-17).
I listened attentively as he told me about his beliefs. At some point in the conversation, I mentioned that I am Jewish. Roger, who is from Syria, responded, "You are the first Jewish person I have ever met."
The other day I stopped by Roger's kiosk at the mall, and he took the time to teach me some more Arabic phrases.
Later, as I prayed for Roger and thanked God for the opportunity to share a little of the gospel with him, I thought of some simple principles that we should follow when we talk to an unbeliever about the Lord.
- Treat the person with respect.
- Be courteous and value the person's time.
- Speak in a calm, friendly tone of voice.
- Try to find a common interest.
- Allow the person to share what he believes or what concerns him.
- If the conversation starts to become heated, silently ask God to calm your spirit and give you wisdom.
- Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading and timing.
- If you offer to pray with the person, don't feel insulted or discouraged if the person refuses.
- Continue to intercede for the person whenever God brings him to mind.
Be patient and let the Holy Spirit convict the person and bring him to repentance.
Remember: You are not responsible for winning the person to the Lord. That's God's job! You are responsible for being obedient.
© by Howard W. Stevens