Athens is Everywhere: The story of Josh and Nurlan

Josh and Nurlan

Josh was new to Embassy. He was feeling his way forward one step at a time, wondering how exactly he was going to meet a complete stranger online with whom he could share the good news of Jesus.

When he logged onto a forum for the first time, he had been open about the fact that he was a follower of Jesus and would enjoy having conversations about faith. He didn’t want to surprise any of his new Muslim friends when he brought up spiritual topics. He had searched through the profiles of men from a specific Central Asian country that was on his mind, amazed at the numbers who were looking for English language conversation partners.

With the simple click of a button he had prayerfully sent out his first friend request to a young man named Nurlan.

And then he waited. It was a curious, nervous sort of wait but it didn’t last long. Within days, Nurlan had responded, and they had set aside time to have their first real conversation. For over an hour they texted back and forth, learning about their lives, their families, their countries and more. Nurlan’s English was quite good and the next week they had another good conversation. Josh was praying for the right opportunity to share about Jesus, asking for doors to open in the conversations.

And then, during their third conversation, with the simple question, “How is your week going?” the door opened.

Nurlan’s week had not been going very well. He had lost his job. He’d been laid off in recent reductions at his company and was now on the job hunt.

Josh responded, “My family and I will be praying for you in Jesus’s name and asking Him to provide you with another good job. He loves you very much.”

He paused and prayed and then hit send, not knowing exactly how Nurlan would react. Would he find the last comment strange? Would he want to know more? Would praying in Jesus's name offend him?

In Scripture, there are three general ways that people respond to efforts to share the gospel. We see a clear example of this at the end of Acts 17 after Paul shares in the Areopagus in Athens:

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.”

In John 6:44 Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 that, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”

God is the only one who can speak life into the hearts of men and women, and so our starting point must always be in prayer. We pray that God would be drawing people to Himself and we pray that he would lead us to those he has prepared.

In Luke 10, Jesus commands us to pray for more harvesters because the harvest is plentiful. As we go online as Embassy volunteers we go into fields that are ripe unto harvest. God is working in the hearts of people to draw them to himself. His desire is for no one to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Without a doubt, there are Muslims online that God has been preparing to respond to the gospel. The challenge is finding them.

Our first step is always in prayer. We pray and we invite our prayer team to pray for God to lead us to those He has been drawing to Himself.

The next step in finding God prepared people is to share the good news of Jesus. We look for opportunities to share about what God has done in our lives. We share something we learned that day from our Bible reading. We give God praise for his creation. We offer to pray in Jesus name when problems arise in the lives of our new friends.

And then we observe. How do they respond?

Do they mock? Do they push back with with stern disinterest and make it clear that they do not want to talk about God? Do they offer signs that they want to hear you again? Is there interest in continuing to talk about spiritual things, an openness to read the Bible with you, or genuine questions about faith?

Or, do they join and believe?

As we go online as Embassy volunteers and transition to talking about the good news of Jesus with our new friends, we will encounter one of these responses. We can count on it. "Athens" is everywhere.

That was certainly the case for Josh and Nurlan. As Josh waited for Nurlan to respond, he continued to pray. He racked his brain for what he could share next if the response was positive and wondered how he’d respond if the Nurlan was offended.

Really?” Nurlan replied. Not knowing exactly what “Really?” implied, Josh took another step forward.

A Bible verse had come to mind and so he shared it. “One of my favorite verses was written by Suleiman (Solomon): ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.’ Have you ever heard that before?

He hit send and then added, “When I face new challenges, that verse helps me.

Nurlan’s reply confirmed that he was open to this conversation and to receiving this encouraging verse. He asked questions about the Bible. Josh asked if he had ever read or seen a Bible in his first language.

The discussion of God’s holy books went on for a bit and then Josh’s heart skipped a beat when one final message came through from Nurlan:

“Who knows, maybe the Lord wants me to read the holy book (Bible) during my free time.”

The God of the universe knows and He is working to draw Nurlan to himself. Nurlan has not “joined and believed” yet, but he had given Josh every reason to believe that he wants to “hear him again.”

God is on the move. He is drawing Muslims to himself. And he’s looking for more harvesters to go out into the harvest fields.

Do you want to be a part of the harvest and to have these kinds of interactions with Muslims in closed countries? Become and Embassy volunteer and let us help equip and encourage you to become a digital ambassador to the Muslim world.