Sharing the gospel at our digital doorstep

“No offense, Chuck, but I’m not sure you’re you. Remind me where we met.”

“What do you mean by that ?
“This real me.”

The Lord is good, and faithful to meet our every need. He demonstrated that again last week by bringing me a cross-cultural ministry opportunity.

One of the things we miss here in New York is the daily opportunities to share God’s love (both in word and deed) with people from different backgrounds, especially those who may not have heard. As Christ’s followers, we are called to be faithful in sharing about Him no matter where we are or what we do, but as missionaries, we enjoyed living that out as the direct focus of our lives and work.

Last Thursday night, the Lord brought me an opportunity to do so—although I didn’t initially see it that way. As often happens anymore, I got a contact request from an old friend, an older (perhaps now elderly) man with whom I used to work at the newspaper many years ago. I later taught his granddaughter, and Tracy treated him or his wife (or perhaps both) as a physician assistant. I was, therefore, very glad to hear from him and reconnect—and then very frustrated to realize it was an imposter trying to set me up for a scam.

It went a little further, me giving “Chuck” very easy opportunities to prove himself and him laughing them off, but eventually I made him a little upset:

“What Brian it seem you have been hacked .” After which he video called me, got a screenshot of me looking at the phone (perfect for a profile picture), and made me worry that he was now duplicating me just as he had the real Chuck. I was a little worried and a little more upset, but after a few minutes of forewarning my friends and having a security specialist friend check for a fake profile, I got thinking.

If I had met this guy on the street, him trying to beg me or scam me wouldn’t have stopped me from trying to talk to him, especially not on a street in any of the places I imagined he might be. Those were the very interactions I’ve cherished overseas and that I’ve missed (and even prayed for) in between my trips.

Why should it be any different here?

Thus began a more sincere conversation that lasted nearly two hours: him asking me more directly for help (an iTunes gift card, which I suppose is a newer way of asking someone to Western Union some money) and me sharing over and over about God’s love for each of us, no matter what we do.

“I will continue to pray for you; I wish I could do it by your name. I wish I could do it knowing where you are. Not because I wish you any trouble but because prayer connects people with each other as they spend time connecting with God. He loves you, and He loves me, and so in gratitude for that love He gives me and in respect for the love He gives you, I seek to reflect that love toward you from my own heart.”

He dropped the charade but never told me his real name, although he did eventually share that he was from Nigeria; he was very surprised that I have been there and remember the people fondly. At one point, he said he would like to study to be a doctor, an aspiration that (whether sincere or strategic) highlighted the good and bad in each of us. By the end of it all, I called him “my friend,” wished him well, and said he could message me any time he wanted to talk again. In the morning, I even went back to greet him, but Facebook had booted him from Messenger for being an impostor.

Like those many street encounters, there is little way to know what influence this conversation might have on him or for how long, but that’s not for me to worry about. I am called, as are all who follow Christ, simply to represent Him faithfully and lovingly, no matter the time or place or human calculation of probable outcomes. Share about God and let Him handle the deeper workings in every heart involved. Including mine.

Last Thursday, I got approached by an old friend who turned out to be a scammer a stranger trying to scam me and became someone I would have been willing to call a friend.

No matter what else he is, he is certainly someone I can keep praying for. Perhaps you can, too.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” — Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)

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