It is always interesting to see God answer my prayers in specific ways. I can go out shopping or filling the tasks of the day and be around many people who are wandering in spiritual darkness. Often I never speak to them and actually have very little contact with them. It is always remarkable what happens when I go out praying for Gospel conversations. I am ashamed to admit that I am often so rushed or distracted that I forget to pray and consider the eternity of those around me and how it would bring such glory to my Savior if they too were praising His name.
A few days ago my friend and I were exploring some unique artisan shops. These shops are sort of a home base for many artisans who ship their creations all over the country for tourists. You can walk into a shop and find the shop empty, but then you will hear the sounds of the skilled artist working away on the next item to display. Such was the case of the man in the figurine store. We walked into the dark store filled literally from top to bottom with clay figurines. The clay people and animals were doing all sorts or activities from riding a donkey or camel to talking on a mobile phone to faceless women making bread. Entire scenes made from clay were displayed everywhere: children in a school, farmers planting a garden, people drinking tea, women carrying babies on their backs, etc. There were hundreds of them each one representing an element of the culture around us here in this North African nation.
One particular statue stood out to us. The statue was of three men who dressed obviously in traditional clothing specific to this country. The peculiar thing about this statue was the necklaces these three men were wearing. The man on the far left wore a silver necklace with a crescent moon, the man on the right wore the star of David, and the man in the center with his arms around the other two wore a silver cross a little bigger that the other two symbols. This statue was available in many sizes and colors tucked all over the store.
The shop is very unique no doubt. Many Muslims believe that having statues or images in your home would be wrong. However, here in this country many common people will frame photos of their families and hang them on the wall. So, though this belief exists it is not widely followed. While we were in the shop many people came and went. A few women wearing head coverings bought a few small pieces.
My friend and I were so intrigued by this interesting statue that we decided we must wait until the shop cleared out so we could talk to the artist. As we waited we decided to ask the artist what the idea behind the statue was. He looked back and forth between my friend and I. He gave us a vague answer so we pressed more by asking him if he believed there were Christians here in this country. The man answered quickly with an “of course there are.” We noted his animated response. This is not the typical response here. Most people deny this fact or even say that is impossible.
My friend went on to ask the artist if he had ever read the Bible. At this point the man looked straight into my friends eyes. (It is quite uncommon for a man to look directly into a woman’s eyes here.) He appeared a bit nervous but he answered us by saying that he could not read the Bible because he did not have one. He went on to tell us that he does watch Christian satellite television from Egypt and Lebanon. We asked him about some specific programming and he confirmed that he frequently watched many preachers we also enjoy listening to. When my friend shared that she too watched these shows the artist loosened up and went on to tell us that he does not pray or fast as the Muslims do.
We talked for a few minutes more and his son who is somewhere around mid-twenties came into the room and showed obvious agreement to his father’s ideas. Our final question for the artist was a purposefully repeated question. We asked him again if he read the Bible. He smartly asked my friend if she read the Bible. We all laughed. My friend confirmed that she did and promised to bring him his own copy of The Word of God as soon as possible. The artist and his son very excitedly handed over a business card to us and asked us to call before we came so he could be ready for us. (Possibly to clear out his shop.)
As I walked to the car that evening I quietly thanked God for letting us have the privilege of engaging in a simple yet very meaningful conversation. I confessed my sin of going about so many days without relying on God through prayer and perhaps missing out on so much because of my selfishness.
As for the artist and his son receiving a Bible… it was hand delivered by a small group of three courageous and loving North African believers today.