December 22, 2010

The Precious Gift

 After being a pastor and teacher for 11 years, I decided to become a lay preacher. Interestingly, the country in which I found employment had stringent laws against proselytizing. In fact, giving away religious literature was prohibited. Fortunately, the practice of religion itself was protected by the government.
In the months that followed my relocation, I fell in love with the people of that gentle, peace-loving nation. I often thought that if only it embraced Jesus, this nation could be a catalyst for peace and prosperity in a volatile region of the world. I asked God to give me opportunities to represent Him and to present Jesus to the people I met.
The Gift That Keeps Giving
I felt someone standing beside me. I looked up and saw Zainab. She asked, “What are you reading? You seem so engrossed.”
I showed her the cover of my pocket-sized Bible. Her eyes brightened. She whispered, “Some of my friends have read the Bible; they say it’s a good book.”
2010 1541 page28“I draw daily strength from this Book,” I replied. “It’s filled with hope; it’s the best road map one can have.”
Our conversation was curtailed by the clock; it was time for the next period. Before we rushed off in different directions, Zainab asked, “Can I borrow your Bible sometime?”
Surprised, I asked if she wanted one of her own. She said, “Every time we have department parties and exchange gifts, I hoped I would get yours.” This came as an even bigger surprise; I hadn’t known anyone had thought that. “We all know you always give a Bible as a gift,” she said. “Unfortunately, I’ve never exchanged gifts with you.”
In that department there were 21 faculty members. Apart from two Christians and three Hindus, all the others were Muslim. One hundred percent of our 2,300 students were Muslim. During weekdays, for eight to 10 hours, my world was black and white—young women in long, black abayas and young men in white dishdashas.
Again I asked Zainab, “Would you like to own a Bible?”
She quickly answered, “I don’t mind paying for it.”
Two days later I gave Zainab the gift she wanted. She received it thankfully and held it with reverence. Afterward I sat in my office and prayed, “Father, thank You for giving me another opportunity to share Your Word. Let it touch Zainab for eternity.”
That day, the day after, weeks later, even after six months I saw her carefully leafing through the pages of the Scriptures to satisfy her spiritual hunger. Although I offered to help her understand the Bible better, she never came to me with queries. I’m sure the Holy Spirit befriended her and was guiding her into the truth.
A Little Step Forward
I returned from summer break to find the atmosphere in the faculty room electrifying. Older faculty conversed with renewed spirit; and newly recruited faculty eagerly sought to make connections.
Within 30 minutes Zainab came ?to my cubicle and excitedly reported, “This summer we went to Germany. One evening my husband and I walked past a church. I told him I had to go inside, just to see. Confused, my husband stood quietly outside while I tiptoed softly into the church.
“All my senses were alert as I inhaled the atmosphere of the architecture and the furnishings. It was a powerful, indescribable experience. I felt the presence of God. Someone seemed to speak to the storms in my life, and they were stilled. I was bubbling with joy and felt drawn to God’s embrace.”
That summer Zainab seemed to have grown in the knowledge of the Word. I’m positive that the One who began the good work in her will finish it.
An Opportunity, or a Trap?
Sabbath is truly a day of rest and rejoicing. Unfortunately, many believers are forced to work on Sabbath, as if it were any other day of the week.

What Do You Think?

1. What is it about the Bible that leads some people to risk their lives to read it and share it?

2. Is the Bible more lightly regarded where it is easily accessible? If so, why?

3. If you had to do without a Bible, what would you miss the most?

4. What indicates how highly you regard the Bible? How many copies you have? How much you read it? How seriously you try to live by its values?

One Sabbath between Sabbath school and the worship service, I went downstairs to the restroom. I heard two men talking. The conversation seemed intense.

“Brother, I’ll say it again,” said one voice. “The Bible Society strictly follows the laws of the nation. We can sell Bibles only to Christians. If you have Christian friends, ask them to give you a Bible.”
“I want to study the Bible,” said the other voice. “But I have no Christian friends who can give me the Book. If you don’t sell me one, where else can I get one?” Disappointment was written across his face when I came into sight.
I walked up to the tall young stranger and introduced myself. He extended his hand in friendship, but did not give me his name. This was unusual in a culture that asks about even the animals within your gates.
“Will you accept me as your friend?” I asked. “I want to give you a Bible.”
He hugged me and said, “Thank you, thank you. You are more than a friend; you are my brother.”
I asked the salesman to give my newfound brother the best, easiest-to-read Bible he had.
With gratitude and reverence the man accepted my gift and soon drove away.
About 10 minutes later I was called into the office of the Bible Society director. “Pastor, I understand your zeal to reach the locals,” she said. “Two months ago my husband was deported because he was carrying religious materials. I hope your adopted friend is not an intelligence officer.” Secret police often disguise themselves to investigate the violation of religious laws.
Was I in trouble? On my way home I submitted my fears to God. I was afraid of imprisonment, of deportation, of losing my employment, of being barred from reentering that country and working with those in the region, of jeopardizing our Adventist presence and our freedom of Christian worship. I wondered whether my “friend” was truly seeking the truth.
I prayed, “Father, even if he is an agent, reveal Yourself to him. Show him that Jesus is his Savior, and that the Bible is the true Word of God. Pour upon him a desire to read the Scriptures. Let your Word lighten his path.” I didn’t want to be deported. So I told the Lord, “You asked me to give Scriptures. I’ll do it as long as You keep me in the country.”
The Lord kept His part of the deal. I stayed in that country for as long as I wanted, and God gave me many opportunities to give the good gift.
For all occasions, for any age group, across all religions and seasons, I recommend that good gift, so that His Word will go to many.
Maywald Jesudass continues to make friends and share the Word somewhere in the Middle East. This article was published December 23, 2010.