A life-changing conversation on a park bench

By David Johnson, executive director, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention –

One of our IMB missionaries in Southeast Asia recently shared the following story with me:

During a recent training we had the assignment to go out to a park and share the Good News with as many people as possible. After two days of gospel sharing in the park we didn’t feel like going for the third night though we convinced ourselves otherwise.

On the way to the park we hired a taxi, and, since we were in a confined space, I took the opportunity to share with the taxi driver. He really wasn’t interested and gave us the typical response, “I’m a Buddhist.”

Feeling like I had basically done my duty with the taxi driver, we entered the park with our kids and headed to the playground. As we headed to the back of this enormous park where the swings and slides were located, we looked a bit for people to share with, but not with much determination.

It was a busy day at this park, and, just before arriving at the playground, a man said hello as we walked by. Then he actually asked me if I would be willing to speak with him. This worked out great because it relieved me from having to walk up to someone cold and start a conversation with hopes of it transitioning to a spiritual conversation or feeling guilty for not.

Using his native language, which was surprisingly easy for me to understand, he said he wanted to talk with me, because I looked educated and when he greeted me, my children greeted him with such great respect. His name is Mr. Doan. We sat on a bench and he began to tell me about his troubles.

After listening to Mr. Doan for a while, I decided I would take a bold approach. I looked straight at him and, in the clearest language I could, I said, “Sir I believe that God has sent you this very moment to sit on this park bench and speak with me, and I believe it’s because I have life‘s most important story to tell you.”

At this point, he was all ears and I began, “One day my friend came up to me and explained that I had a major sin problem.” I asked Mr. Doan if he was Buddhist, and he said he was. I said, “Well then you probably understand sin, correct?” He said, “Oh yes, I’m very familiar with sin and I have lots of it.”

I continued telling him that my friend also explained to me that sin is a very serious problem and I also realized I had a lot of sin and therefore had a big problem. I asked my friend, “What can I do about my sin?”

Then I turned to Mr. Doan and asked him, “What will you do about all your sin?” He said that he could do good things to make up for his bad things. I reminded him that just a minute ago he said he had a lot of sin and asked him even if he spent the rest of his life doing good things could he make up for all the bad things he did. In a moment of honesty, knowing his sin, he said, “You’re right, I couldn’t do enough good.”

I explained that my friend told me that Jesus was the only way that I could be forgiven of all my sins and avoid living forever apart from God. I continued explaining to Mr. Doan that the Bible tells us if we put our faith in God, that Jesus came to earth to die on the cross for our sins, and that he rose from the grave three days later defeating sin and death so we could truly be forgiven. Finally, I explained if he wanted to be forgiven of his sins and have eternal life with God he must believe that Jesus is the truth, he can’t get rid of his own sin, confess Jesus as Lord, turn away from Buddhism, and obey Christ only.

Then I asked him, “Are you ready to receive forgiveness?” His reply was a simple, “I’m ready.” I told him that he should talk with God and tell God the things that we had just talked about. He recited each one of the points back to me and then asked me how to pray.

I told him our God promises to hear us at the moment we call out on his name so just speak aloud the things that you want to say to God and he will hear you. He remembered each point, and, with his eyes open in the middle of a busy park in the center of the city, he professed his faith in Jesus. When he was finished speaking I said amen. Then I taught him how to pray in Jesus name.

Just before parting ways, while sitting just inches away from each other on the park bench, he turned to me, staring straight into my eyes intently, and said, “Todd, I will never follow Buddhism again. I will only follow Christ.” And then he repeated both those statements one more time. I don’t know if I will ever this man again on earth but his parting words reassure me I will surely see him in heaven.

You were a part of making that conversation and many others like it possible if you give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering or give to your church and your church gives to the Cooperative Program. That’s the beauty of working together!

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