Spending as many hours as we do in Jews for Jesus distributing literature and proclaiming the gospel, we are afforded many opportunities to talk to people about Jesus. When we are out on the streets, we never know whom the Lord is going to bring across our paths. Most of the time we find ourselves talking to little Jewish grandmothers out shopping, businessmen and women on their lunch breaks, commuters hurrying to get their trains on time or travelers about to catch a flight. But occasionally the Lord opens the door for us to communicate to someone who is better known, even famous. He gave me that kind of opportunity one day while I was on campaign in New York City.
Handing out broadside tracts one evening at a corner of Times Square, I noticed a crowd gathering across the street. Flashbulbs were popping and people were shouting, so I knew that something was happening. It seemed like a great opportunity to distribute a large quantity of broadsides, so I hurried over. There in the midst of all the commotion was the cause of it—Mohammed Ali, who was signing autographs!
The Lord brought to mind a show I had seen on Christian television about George Foreman, who had fought Mohammed Ali. After that fight Foreman had become a believer in Jesus, and at the time of the interview was pastoring a small church in the South. He spoke of Ali and said that he had witnessed to him. He was praying that Ali would come to know Jesus.
As I stood there looking at the former heavyweight champion, I vividly remembered George Foreman’s words. Ali looked tired, overweight and merely a shell of the man he used to be. I felt I had to tell him that Jesus loved him.
I tried to make my way through the crowd to talk to him, but I was unable to get through. I decided I would get one of my co-workers, who was nearby. Together we could broadside the large crowd, and maybe get the opportunity to talk to Ali after all.
By the time my co-worker Jeanne and I got back to the crowd, it had grown to somewhere between 250 and 300 people. Everyone wanted Mohammed Ali’s autograph, but there was one problem. No one had any paper—that is, no one except us. We had hundreds of tracts. Suddenly everyone was clamoring to get our literature. It was quite an experience to see people pushing through the crowd with our broadsides in hand and getting Mohammed Ali to sign them. We were sure those tracts would not get thrown away!
At last I was able to make it through the crowd to Ali. He was expressionless, and didn’t say a word. I put my hand on his shoulder and said, Ali, Jesus loves you. You need Jesus. Listen to Foreman.” He looked at me briefly and continued to sign autographs, but I knew he had heard me. My partner Jeanne gave Ali a tract. She also gave one to one of Ali’s bodyguards, saying, “Make sure Ali reads this.” We distributed more broadsides and then made our way back to the Jews for Jesus office.
Since that evening I have thought much about the incidents surrounding our witness to Mohammed Ali. God had prepared me in advance by allowing me to see that television show about George Foreman. Because of it, I had known that Ali had already received a witness about Jesus and that many others who also had seen that show must be praying for him. That had encouraged me to water the seeds that had already been planted.
I was also struck by my observation of the man himself—a colossus I used to watch fight, who could “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” Ali is probably the greatest heavyweight fighter who ever lived. He used to call himself “the greatest.” He isn’t so great any more. To me he looked sick, expressionless and empty. I was saddened to see him in such bad condition. As the crowd chanted, “Ali, Ali, Ali, “they were exalting a mortal man with many problems—problems that only Yeshua can heal.
The Lord used that night in my life. He not only gave me the opportunity to water some gospel seeds, he showed me the mortality of even the great. Kings will come and kings will go. Great ones will arise, and great ones will fall; but the Lord our God shall reign forever and ever. His greatness is eternal!