It was in 2016. My family and I were on vacation, visiting the Saxon Switzerland National Park in Germany when I saw him. I’m not sure exactly why he caught my attention, but I knew from the moment I laid eyes on him that he was Russian. What struck me the most about him, however, was how sad he looked. He was alone, and no one was talking to him. Was that the reason behind his sadness?
I could see my wife and oldest son on the other side of the viewpoint, taking pictures of the Elbe River valley below, and as I idly watched them, I couldn’t help wondering why no one was speaking to the man. I’m not sure why I did it, because I’m not usually outgoing enough to do such things, but I made my way over to where he was standing on the lookout, and the next thing I knew, I had struck up a conversation with him. Sure enough, he was Russian; but he spoke a few words of English, and we were soon chatting about the Bastei rocks, and the Bastei bridge that provided a walkway to the 16th century Neurathan Castle built among the rocks. Not only was it a sight worth seeing, but it was an experience worth sharing with a friend.
I don’t know why no one else spoke to this Russian tourist. Maybe it was because people don’t always walk up and speak to strangers, but I could tell that my new friend was hungry for friendship, and as I saw the look of joy in his eyes, there simply because I had spoken to him, it made my heart warm to know that I had helped him in this way.
Why is it that we don’t easily reach out to strangers? I know this isn’t an unusual thing. In fact what is unusual is for a stranger to actually come up and speak to you! And perhaps what is even more unusual is when two perfect strangers actually enter into a conversation! After all, we tend to be a bit hesitant to accept the friendship of a stranger. Most of us prefer to be left alone. Perhaps my fear of “intruding” on someone’s world is the reason why I am so hesitant to approach people I don’t know. However, the look of joy in my new friend’s eyes made I understand something vitally important: We can’t help people when we don’t speak to them!
Some of Jesus’ most famous words, spoken just before He left this Earth to return to Heaven, tell us that we must speak to strangers. If you don’t remember reading that in your Bible, here it is: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a NIV). Still not seeing the command to speak to strangers? It’s right there in the first line: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations”! We cannot go and make disciples of all nations if we are afraid of speaking to strangers!
This past summer, my wife and I had the privileged of meeting up with an old friend. While we were out hiking and chatting, we came upon a lady who had a sore foot. My wife and I simply passed her by, but our dear friend didn’t. She stopped, approached the lady and struck up a brief conversation with her. In the end, our friend was praying over the foot of this total stranger. We would later observe this same lady hiking out of the valley without even a limp.
Our friend didn’t have any kind of power that was unavailable to my wife and I; all she had was love in her heart, love that was big enough to overcome hesitation and approach a total stranger in order to share the gospel and pray for one of God’s lost children. I don’t know what happened to this lady, but I can tell you that she personally experienced the love of God that day, simply because someone cared enough to strike up a conversation with a total stranger!
We are called to be God’s mouthpieces, His hands and feet on Earth; but we will never be able to fulfill His final command to us if we don’t ever take the initiative to strike up a conversation with someone we don’t know. I wish I could say that my conversation with my Russian friend also ended up in prayer, but it didn’t. It could have, however, because I made that first step: I engaged a stranger in conversation.
What about it? Why not look around and see where people might be feeling lonely or in pain. Why not swallow our shyness and initiate a conversation with that person? It will certainly make their day, and maybe, just maybe, it will lead to us being able to share our God with someone who might need to know that God cares!
In His love,
Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries