Written by Noah Stone, a PI Canada Worker
Sometimes it seems that God is not working. We evangelize faithfully. We pray fervently. Despite this, we see no fruit.
For workers in Central Asia, this can be commonplace. The Enemy has his grips on the most subtle aspects of a person’s life and, like William Carey who didn’t see a single convert in India for seven years, one may labour for a long time without seeing any fruit from hard years of ministry.
Yet, we know that the changing of a heart of flesh to a heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26) is something only that God can do, and when He works, it is unmistakable.
We work in a country where Central Asians almost exclusively come as refugees. One of these refugees, Stephan*, left his family to help find a better life for them and arrived in our country after a solo two-year journey from Central Asia.
Along his journey, he more closely encountered Christianity and was invited to visit an Orthodox church. The opportunity challenged his thinking and the Lord used this to build greater curiosity in his life about the claims of Christianity.
After arriving in his destination country, he sought physical and psychological help from a local non-profit organization. His counsellor, Matthew*, happened to be a faithful brother who sought to provide him practical support and also passionately shared the gospel with Stephan through Google Translate. You might think that this significant language barrier and using AI translation to communicate spiritual truths might rapidly shut down any kind of potential friendship or future evangelistic opportunities, but in fact, the opposite happened.
God gave Stephen a thirst to learn more about the gospel which gave Matthew such joy and meaning in life. Matthew and Stephen began meeting regularly and Stephen kept digging deep into the concepts of sin, forgiveness, the death and resurrection of Christ, the Trinity and the reliability of Scripture.
One day while the two were together, they were reading the story in Acts 8 about Peter sharing the gospel with an Ethiopian man. Stephen was captivated by this story. During this conversation, the two were conversing via Google Translate and got on a train, intending to go Matthew’s home. As they sat on the train, Stephan came to a realization that all those who profess faith in Christ are baptized and voiced that he too wanted to be baptized like the Ethiopian. Matthew was taken aback. Was Stephan serious?, he thought.
It was around this time that Matthew realized that they had gotten on the wrong train and were heading in the wrong direction! They got off at the next stop and found themselves by the shores of a lake. Stephan, seeing the lake, asked Matthew if he could be baptized.
Matthew carefully considered Stephen’s knowledge of the gospel, his profession of faith, and the providence that Stephen had expressed his desire for baptism at a time when they had unintentionally headed towards a lake. While the situation wasn’t ideal, nor were the still-winter weather conditions and the fact that they didn’t even have towels, Matthew decided to baptize Stephen.
While not all the aspects of Stephan’s story are ideal, he has very clearly professed faith in Christ, and lately, has been sharing the gospel with Central Asians in his community and inviting them to church. Although I was uninvolved in the baptism of Stephen, I’ve since had the privilege of doing regular discipleship with him in his mother tongue, and God is clearly bearing fruit in his life.
I could not have imagined how God would work in Stephen’s life, but I am so thankful that he seeks to live a life dedicated to serving our gracious God. Would you pray for Stephen and I as we continue studying the Scriptures together and also for his unbelieving family in Central Asia? Lastly, would you pray Matthew 9:37 with me, that more would be sent to gather the harvest?
*Names changed to protect identities.