It is a privilege to have Donna Thomas , founder of Project Partner in our home today. Donna asked me to take over Project Partner three years ago. I asked Kristen Levitt to become the Director. And this year we invited Donna to join the Project Partner board. It is a joy to learn from her. Last night she showed us an article that she recently had published in Leadership Journal. I love it when someone 80+ years old keeps fresh and lives on the cutting edge. Here is her article:
Have you been to a fast-food restaurant lately? I was out once ordering a Frosty. Looking at the name tag of the waiter, I noticed his name was Samish.
“Say friend,” I started out, “that’s an interesting name. Where are you from?” He looked directly at me and smiled broadly.
“I’m from Western Africa,” he replied. Not willing to let the conversation stop there, I asked what country.
“Senegal. My family is still over there. I have been here two years now, and I am learning your language.”
“I don’t know that much about Senegal, Samish. What are the religions there?”
“It is nearly all Muslim, and I’m a Muslim.”
Our conversation went on until there was a line behind me. That encounter was the beginning of a great relationship.
Are you in the habit of not paying attention to the opportunities to connect to those around you? We Americans have programmed ourselves to take care of our problems, look straight ahead, and not be sidetracked. But we have an amazing opportunity to meet the people of other nations right in the communities where we live and work. It is time to start looking at these people with eyes of compassion.
I went back to that restaurant, and each time I talked with Samish a little more. I wanted to know him and help him understand the love and grace of Jesus Christ. He had never been in an American home, and his concept of American culture was what he saw on TV, at the movies, and in the newspaper. It was time to invite him to my home for dinner.
His Questions, Not Mine
I prepared a special meal for Samish and another friend of mine who was there to help me with the conversation. We would have chicken, since Muslims don’t eat pork. I thought we would spend the evening as if we had all the time in the world, talking and enjoying ourselves. All the while, my friend and I would be praying that Samish would want to know Jesus. The warmth and comfort of my home and the pleasure of sharing a meal together would be the perfect opportunity to talk about the Lord.
Samish was late arriving, which was strange. He explained that he had taken the time to help another employee get home that evening because her car broke down. I called him a Good Samaritan and he wanted to know what that was. Great! My first opportunity to talk about Jesus.
Before we sat down to dinner, he looked at the artifacts around my house. He could see that I had been to several countries. He asked me questions about my life, what I did, where I had been, and what I had encountered. This was my chance to tell him how the Lord had directed my life. Over dinner, I answered his questions, sharing some of my story.
I could have told him about the good times and the blessings I’ve received from the Lord. Instead I chose to tell him about some of the hard times and how the Lord held my hand and took me through them. He wanted to know about dangerous times in some of my travels. I had those stories too. After a few stories, I was able to tell him how the Lord is my “Abba Father,” how he made me his child when I asked him, and about the love that he has for me.
He asked me just the questions I love to answer, and the great part was that he was doing the asking. It was a wonderful evening. As the evening progressed, we had more and more opportunities. Since he was among friends, he felt free to ask questions. They rolled off his tongue. “Aren’t all Americans Christian? Then how do you know who is and who isn’t? What is the difference in all these religious buildings (churches) with different names?”
As the conversation continued, I was thinking, How did I get myself into this anyway? This in itself is a miracle, considering how shy I used to be. That evening the seed of the gospel was planted, and I continue to pray for him.
Meeting Samish wasn’t a coincidence or luck. It was one of God’s divine appointments. He gives them to me and to you. It is up to us to make the most of them.
Another time, a young man at the eyeglass center was helping me pick out frames. I looked for a way to turn the conversation toward the topic of faith. It wasn’t difficult. I asked him his name. It was Joshua. I asked him why his parents chose that name. His answer?
“My parents are Christians.” He didn’t say he was. He did say, however, that he had recently moved to my town and was looking for some way to connect.
This morning I was at a car rental shop. Instantly I recognized that the proprietor was probably from another country. I simply asked him his name. His answer sounded like “Cmoe.” (I probably didn’t spell it correctly.)
“What country are you from?” I asked. It was Morocco. As our conversation continued, I found out that he came to the United States when he was 18. My friend who had gone in the shop with me was listening intently. When we left, we started talking about this process and how excited Cmoe was to have somebody interested in him. Once you see how easy it is to start a conversation like this, it becomes contagious and others want to try it too. Try it and see for yourself.
Name Badges Spell Opportunity
You don’t have to travel 8,000 miles to share the gospel with the world. You don’t even have to go to Mexico. Just look around. The world has come to you in Anytown, USA. Hispanics, Chinese, Thais, Nigerians, and Indians are right in front of you wherever you go.
Look at the clerk in the department store, the waiter at the restaurant, the owner of the specialty shop, the teller at the bank. Now look in the mirror. You are the missionary for this day, this time.
— Donna S. Thomas; © 2009 Christianity Today International/BuildingChurchLeaders.com.
1. How many people do you interact with every day from other countries?
2. In what area of your city can you find a large population of immigrants? What needs do they have that your church could help meet?
3. How can you initiate conversations with immigrants in your neighborhood?