How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! – Psalm 119:103
It has been a week since I returned from London when the Lord sent a group of evangelists to proclaim the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ during the 2012 Summer Olympics. While I am adjusting to the “normal routine” of life, my heart still lingers in London with all that the Lord accomplished for His glory. I miss my brothers and sisters who I labored with from the States, as well as my new friends who the Lord blessed me to meet and labor beside. While I cannot possibly remember all the good things that happened during our mission, I hope I will be able to share some things the Lord has used to teach me and grow personally as a result of the trip. I’ll share two such stories in this article (note: names have been changed to protect identities).
The Cost of Following Christ
On Wednesday, August 1, we set up our ministry location at Trafalgar Square, a major tourist attraction adjacent to The Mall entrance to Buckingham Palace. The architecture and statues in this area were magnificent, and the vast amount of pedestrian space provided for an excellent ministry location. 100,000 people traversing the area on the day we visited would be a conservative estimate.
Robert, Jason, and I set up in the middle of the Square and it wasn’t long before we were prohibited from preaching (we couldn’t practice any religious speech or hand out literature within the park). Eventually, Robert and I found our way over to a couple of young students named Patrik and Fahim, who couldn’t have been older than 15 years old. As Patrik is from Hungary and Fahim from Saudi Arabia, we had a bit of a language barrier but they seemed to understand well enough to have a conversation.
One of the first things that surprised Robert and I was that Patrik had never heard of Jesus before, and he had never owned a Bible. Ultimately, after hearing us speak of the things of God, the Bible, and the Gospel, Patrik did say he had heard of Jesus before but they call him Jézus (Yezoosh) in Hungarian. For someone who seemed to have a decent understanding of the English language, it was foreign to us that Patrik was not at all familiar with the English name for Christ. Needless to say, Robert and I were pretty excited to have the opportunity with these young men.
As of the time of our conversation, Fahim professed to be a Muslim. He, of course, knew of Jesus as a prophet in Islam, but we were able to explain the deity of Christ to Fahim and Patrik and the bloody price that Jesus paid to reconcile sinners to God. Despite the language barriers, both young men seemed to understand their sin before God and the punishment due them and the Gospel of Grace. At one point, Fahim was confronted with what he thought of everything, and what he said was not surprising considering what pure Islam teaches and practices. This is how Robert remembers the conversation:
Another amazing day of sharing the gospel with a lost and dying world. I cannot believe the sea of people that were in Trafalgar Square! People were everywhere! Prayer requested for Patrik (Hungary) and Fahim (Saudi Arabia) whom received bibles after listening to the gospel. Fahim responded, “I can’t believe in Jesus, they will kill me at home” and make no mistake he meant it literally. Who would do such a thing you ask, well those who are of the “religion of peace.” Yet the young man needed to hear the truth from Jesus, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” ~ Matt 16:25 Please pray with us (Justin Edwards) for the salvation of these two teenagers.
Fahim had gestured he would lose his head if he converted to Christianity. This gave us an opportunity to explain it may just do that, but he will have gained Christ and eternal life. Patrik and Fahim were very thankful for our conversation, and before we parted I gave Patrik a copy of the New Testament to later give to Fahim in private. There had actually been a Muslim several feet from us nearly the whole time we were speaking to them, and I did not want to risk Fahim being harmed as a result of our encounter. Patrik said he would do this and we parted ways.
As I look back to this encounter, I am reminded of how offensive God’s Word is to the world. People have lost their lives by simply possessing a Bible, and most have surely done so with honor by the grace of God. This was the first time that I had been confronted with this reality as we have it so easy in America, and the closest I come to this type of persecution is reading about persecuted believers in the Voice of the Martyrs calendar I have hanging on my kitchen wall. We have no idea.
The Lord knows whether Fahim will count the cost to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, even to the point of death, but is it not a sober reminder of the persecution that Christians face around the world when they lay down their lives for Christ and the Gospel? Not only this, but our conversation with Fahim puts “It Will Cost You Everything” into great perspective. For many (and no doubt for many in Western society one day), losing one’s life for Christ’s sake not only speaks to a spiritually reality, but also to the reality of literally losing one’s life. Oh how we take for granted the freedom to own the precious Word of God and speak openly about Him!
Weeping Over God’s Word
Two days later we found ourselves at the busiest intersection I have ever witnessed. Another 100,000 people easily walked before us at Oxford Circus, which is a trendy retail area that sits on top one of the busiest tube (subway) stations in London. In fact, on each corner is an entrance to the Underground, which provided a high volume of pedestrians the entire day.
The highlight of my day came while Scott was preaching and Tony and I were handing out tracts 15-20 feet in front of him. A lady named Sahar walked by us and turned around to ask me for a tract. I gave her a tract and she stood in front of Scott to read it. I stood beside her to ask her a question and she then said she was listening to the preaching. I said, “by all means, please do.” Moments later she asked if what I gave her was the same message Scott was preaching, and then she asked about his Bible. I asked whether she would like a free Bible and she said “oh, yes.” I went to grab one from my bag and after I gave it to her, tears streamed down her face as she pressed the Bible against her face. She stood in front of Scott for a few more minutes and then sat down.
By this time, Scott had finished and Tony got on the box to preach. Picking up on Sahar’s soft heart, Tony read from Psalm 23 to about chapter 35. As Tony read the Scripture, Sahar was reading through the first few chapters of the Gospel of John, weeping the entire time over God’s Word. I remember Scott and I looking at her then each other in somewhat disbelief as I know I had never seen anything like this before. I sat down beside Sahar and learned that she is an Iranian Christian who had been living in London for about three years. She said she was saved just two years ago, and that she is all alone with no family there. You see, Sahar’s family remains in Iran, and she cannot return home as she will lose her life. So for the time being, the Gospel has cost Sahar her family. Yet, she was filled with so much joy as she heard the Word of God being freely proclaimed in the open air – what sweet sounds of Grace God’s Word brings to His sheep!
Sahar later asked me what Tony was reading, so I grabbed my Bible and showed her in the Psalms. As the Bible I had previously given her was only the New Testament, she asked me about my Bible. I asked whether she meant if she could have my Bible, and she said yes. Sahar explained how her Bible was very, very old and the pages were yellow and crumbled like leaves. So I had Sahar sign her name in the front, then I signed my name and left her a verse to remember (Romans 8:1). Selfishly, there was a part of me that struggled in giving away my “preaching Bible” with its highlights and “broken-in-ness”, but how could I not after witnessing how the Lord blessed and encouraged Sahar through the open proclamation of His Word? This truly was an encounter I will never forget, and represents just one of many privileges I had to meet a believer from another nation. It is a testimony of the sweetness of God’s grace in the fellowship of His sheep, and only a foretaste of what awaits us in heaven!
In closing, do we really cherish God’s Word as we should? I know I have not, but my prayer is that as a result of these encounters with Fahim and Sahar, I will yearn for the precious Word of God with greater passion and commitment, and be careful not to take for granted the freedoms I have to read and study the Bible without threat of persecution (at least not yet).
p.s. perhaps you have seen the following video before, but I was immediately reminded of it after my fellowship with Sahar. I think it compliments this article well and I hope it causes you to cherish God’s gracious revelation to sinners all the more. I’ve also included some pictures below from our time at Oxford Circus.