October 27, 2010

The Five-Minute Witness

One morning, I joined the rush-hour crowd at the bottom of the four escalators, clutching the book New Ways to Tell the Old, Old Story, by H.M.S. Richards, Jr., and agonizing about why my spiritual life seemed stuck in a rut. “Jesus, help me,” I prayed.
Less than 30 seconds into the ride I found the answer. Prayer and Bible study are essential, but my life was missing the third, key ingredient: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Dan. 12:3). Jesus wanted me to witness.
Joy at the discovery quickly evaporated into doubt. I’m soft-spoken and shy, not an evangelist, I thought. Moreover, a good witness needs a compelling story to share. How can I start experiencing compelling life stories if my life is stuck in a rut? Whom would I witness to?
2010 1535 page17I glanced at the metro passengers packed on the escalators; two escalators charging up, two others going down. Parallel to me on the next escalator stood a young, Black man.
“Witness to him,” a voice seemed to say.
Never, I thought. How would I witness to a complete stranger? What would I say?
“Witness to him,” the voice said quietly, incessantly.
I began to waver. Jesus, if I am supposed to witness, let that man turn right when he gets off the escalator. I was going right.
The man reached the top and turned right. Fine, if I’m really supposed to witness, let him turn right when he exits the metro. Many people turn left.
The man turned right.
I walked next to him. Now what am I supposed to say, Jesus?
“Where are you from?” I blurted out.
The man kept walking, giving no indication that he had heard me.
“Where are you from?” I said again.
The man looked at me, still walking. “Why should I tell you where I’m from when I don’t know you?” he said, gruffly.
He thinks I’m crazy, Jesus. Perhaps I am. Now what?
“I asked because I was born in Zambia,” I said. “My name is Andy.”
The man looked surprised. His eyes softened. “I’m from Nigeria,” he said.
“Several people at my church are from Nigeria,” I said.
Wow! It was easy to introduce You into the conversation. But why did I mention Nigerians at church? Who attends church from Nigeria? I can’t think of any; except one, and he died of pneumonia last winter. I’d better not mention that.
“Really, from Nigeria?” the man replied. “Which church do you go to?”
“Moscow International Seventh-day Adventist Church. What about you?”
The man named a nondenominational Protestant church.
At that moment we reached the end of the underpass. I had to climb the steps to the left. My new acquaintance headed for the steps on the right.
“It was good to meet you,” he said, smiling broadly. “My name is . . .” his voice dropped off, and I didn’t catch his name. But he pulled a business card out of his pocket with the address of his church. “Come visit us sometime,” he said.
I don’t have a business card for my church. Anyway, wasn’t I the one who was supposed to be witnessing?
“I’m glad that we met,” I said, returning his smile. “God bless!”
Jesus showed that I could witness if I surrendered just five minutes of my walk to work. Imagine what He could do if given an hour, a week, a lifetime.
Andrew McChesney is a journalist in Russia. This article was published October 28, 2010.