I walked into a little tea shop, hoping to find some people I could talk to, and some tea as well I guess.
There’s a saying in Turkish that goes…
Gönül ne kahve ister, nede kahvehane Gönül sohbet ister, kahve bahane
People don’t really want coffee or coffee shops. People want to talk. The coffee’s an excuse.
I think there were only 2 or 3 guys in the little place when I came in. I asked for tea, and one guy started joking about how he thought for sure I was a foreigner as he saw me walking in and before I started talking. I told him that his assumption was correct, that I was a foreigner but that I had learned the language. Then I found out that these guys spoke another language I was trying to learn, a minority language in the country. When I started speaking this, their heart-language, their minds were fully blown. For those that haven’t experienced this kind of surprise, let me just say that there are few things in this world as fun as seeing people freaking out over someone speaking some minority language they don’t every expect them to learn. It’s a mixture of wonder, joy, delight, baffling surprise, and love. It’s like a child discovering a room bursting full of his favorite toys and candy. People love it.
More people came in… and the tiny room was pretty near full capacity with 8 or 9 people. Somehow, amidst all this wonderful conversation, we started talking about what they believe, what I believe, the Bible, etc. I don’t remember exactly how this happened. It’s always a bit of a surprise how these things unfold.
Very soon into the discussion, I talked about how Jesus gave his life for us. These guys were Muslims, so they believe that Jesus didn’t die. According to them, he was a great prophet who was born of a virgin, did many miracles, healed the sick, raised the dead, taugh people, but just before he about to get killed, someone else took his place and he was taken up into heaven. But I was telling these guys about how Jesus really did suffer and die on that cross, and then rose again from the dead. This of course, probably sounded totally ridiculous for them.
“Why would Jesus suffer that much for me? I could just sin, and sin, and sin, and he’d go give his life like that for me? Why would he do something like that?” one guy asked.
“Why did your mom sacrifice and suffer for you?” another guy shot back. “Why did your mom make such sacrifice for you?!” The answer that no one voiced rang clear through the air:
Love. Deep, unexplainable love.
“But didn’t they forcibly execute him? Didn’t they drag him to his death against his will?” another asked.
“No,” I explained, and talked about how Jesus willingly went and laid his life down. He could have called legions of angels to come to his rescue, but he didn’t even let his followers resist his arrest. Leading up to the even he even prayed that somehow he wouldn’t have to go through the painful death, but ultimately said that God’s will would be done. His death was a very delibrate act of courage.
“Could Jesus have done that courageous thing for (us) Muslims too?” one guy asked, with a sense of wonder and longing in his voice. He was clearly impacted by this idea. They’ve always known Jesus as the prophet for the westerners… but could he really have died to save them too?
“Yes!” I said. He died for anyone who would accept this.
They ordered more tea for me, and wanting to talk more and more. People voiced all kinds of opinions about sin, forgiveness, the Bible getting corrupted or not getting corrupted. Even when we tried to return to more ‘normal’ conversation topics, people kept on falling into their curiosity and asking more questions. One guy mentioned the impossibility of saying no to a certain sin, and I leaned in and told him about the power of God we hear about in Ephesians 1:19-20 and Romans 8:11, and how he could have that power to say no if he would just believe that Jesus died and rose again.
How sweet it is to see a room full of guys hearing about Jesus’ sacrifice for the first time, being uncontrollably intrigued by it, bringing it up in conversation over and over again, turning over the possibility and talking about it with wonder, surprise, and confusion. Ahh, his glory smells so sweet.
These guys didn’t know me very well, and probably didn’t even know if they could trust me or not. But that didn’t matter, because all they could think about was Jesus.
I had come as a guest among them. I had nothing to offer or attract the with other than a bit of respect I showed in learning their language. As is common in their culture, they treated me with heaps of welcome and respect, valuing my company and my words. They firmly refused to let me pay for the tea, insisting that it should be their treat.
I didn’t really need the teas I drank that cold day … but the conversation filled my deepest parts with a warmth, joy, and energy to walk out of that place praising God.
The message of the cross can get in anywhere, grip minds, and pull people into faith in Christ. There’s nothing like it on earth.
“All over the world this good news is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” - Colossians 1:6