In the movie, Coming to America, Eddie Murphy plays a prince from a fictitious African country. He comes to America to find a bride. Not wanting her to marry him for his immense wealth, he disguises himself as a poor fast-food restaurant employee. While at a basketball game, a subject of his kingdom recognizes him, comes up and kisses his hand, and says that meeting him is the highlight of his life. His new girlfriend cannot understand why the man is so excited to see Murphy’s character.
I’m not a wealthy prince, but I had a similar experience this week. I was traveling through JFK International Airport on my way to teach at a Bible college in Zambia. I was looking for a sit-down restaurant since I had a long layover. The airport was packed, and I saw an information desk with a young fellow manning it. I was going to ask him to recommend a good place to eat. As I approached him, before I said a word, he saw me and excitedly yelled out, “I know you!”
I was sure he was mistaken. I am not famous in any way. I had never seen him before in my life and have never lived in New York City. But then he started telling me who I am. He said, “You work for GES. You were in the Army. You are on YouTube. You and your daughter go to different countries and teach. You work with Bob Wilkin. I watch your videos and listen to you on the podcasts all the time. I love Zane Hodges.” He then showed me his phone and a long list of these videos and podcasts from GES. Then he said that there are a lot of celebrities in New York City, but he was more excited to meet me than any celebrity in the country. He went on and on about how GES gets the gospel right. He said that through GES he knew that he had eternal life and that he could never lose it.
It was surreal. I have never experienced anything like that. It was a very unlikely place to meet a complete stranger who knew these things about me. I told him that he had made my year and that he was an encouragement to me. My daughter Kathryn was traveling with me. I went and got her because he wanted to meet her as well. When we returned, a lady who worked with him told us that we wouldn’t believe how excited he was to meet us and that he couldn’t stop talking about it. He had also called another employee to the desk and asked if I would explain the gospel of eternal life to him.
We had some GES books that we were taking to Zambia. We gave him a book by Zane and a commentary on the book of Hebrews. I didn’t think Zane would mind, so I signed the book for the young man.
What can we say about such an event? Eddie Murphy’s character in the movie was well-known in his country. He was a future king. He was enormously wealthy. We can understand why a subject of his kingdom would be thrilled to meet him. I am not any of those things. But all of us who proclaim the message of grace have something much more valuable—the message of living water that springs up into eternal life. That message brings assurance. It was great seeing that God uses unknown people like us to spread that message. We may be small and relegated to the sidelines in the Evangelical world, but we simply never know how God will use us.
I hope this man is an encouragement to all of us. How many more are there? As a group, we are doing the work of the Lord. He wants us to put out the message we are putting out. That message is being heard in all kinds of places and by all kinds of people. We may not be famous, but there are people out there who know what we are doing and who we are.