A few years ago I met Robert, an unsaved Jewish man married to a Christian. He was born in Rio, but moved to her home city in the northeast of Brazil. However, he was having difficulties getting a job, so they decided to come back to Rio. Robert came first in order to start organizing their lives, while she and their daughter stayed with her parents.
It was in this context that I met Robert and we started to study the Bible together on a weekly basis. For three months he showed interest, but he became uncomfortable when we dealt with some hard issues like spiritualism and reincarnation. He believed in this stuff, and when I showed him what the Bible says about these things, it was a real struggle for him. Eventually Robert told me he wanted to discontinue our studies for a while because he wanted to focus on bringing his family back together, which was quite understandable.
For some time I did not hear from him. I lost his cell phone number, which was hand-written on a piece of paper rather than typed into a database. I felt bad about that, but as hard as I looked for that paper, I could not find it. I could only pray that God would take care of the situation.
Then one day as I was cleaning my files, I found the piece of paper that had been lost for so long. I quickly dialed the number, wondering if it was still his. Then I heard his voice! "Robert," I said, "this is Sergio Danon. Do you remember me?" He replied, "Of course! I’m so glad you called! I am a believer in Jesus for some time now. I have wanted to tell you about it, but I had no idea where I had your number written down! I want to return to our studies. I have so many questions, and you are the one who can help me because of your Jewish upbringing."
You have no idea how happy that made me, especially since I was going through a difficult time just then. God knew how I needed that encouragement. Since then, Robert and I have been studying the Bible together.
I think of the times it seemed like I was unable to help Robert, and how it seemed like my prayers for him were not answered. We live in such an "instant" society, and it is easy to want to apply the same expectation to the spiritual world. Whatever we ask of the Lord, we expect to see happen almost instantaneously. What happened to, "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him" (Psalm 37:7)? It is interesting because just before that verse David says (and I imagine him, perhaps trying to convince himself),
"Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass" (Psalm 37:3-5).
When my kids were small and we had a long car trip, they would always ask, like all kids do, "Are we there yet?" In order to give them a sense of time and distance, I would compare our itinerary to the human body, with the beginning of the trip being the feet and the arrival the head. So if we were about half way there, I would say we were in the belly. They really enjoyed that.
It is always good to know the beginning and the end of our trip. However, in God’s plans, only He really knows about the time and distance it will take us to reach our destination. Only He knows about each pit stop along the way.
Why did God allow both Robert and me to lose each other’s phone numbers? And why, after much prayer, did I only find it only after Robert had already become a believer? God had used other people and other situations to bring Robert to faith, and let me find it only when He knew my participation would be valuable to Robert and encouraging to me. At least, this is the way I understand it now (see 1 Corinthians 3:4-11).
I have no idea how involved you are in witnessing to someone, but God assures you as He does me, "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11).
It reminds me of my Jewish grandmother, who became a believer when she was 93 years old, almost four years before passing away. It’s never too late. But that is another story…
Sergio Danon leads our work in Rio de Janiero. Watch or read more about Sergio.