By Nancy Rempel*
*All names in this story are pseudonyms except for Billy Graham and the apostle Paul.
Maybe it’s all up to us to be persuasive and winsome enough. To be clever super-saints—Billy Graham and the apostle Paul all rolled into one—before we can lead someone to Christ. Maybe God waits for us to get the evangelistic ball rolling before blessing our sacrificial efforts. I hope not.
A shock of long, curly black hair framed Gulnaz’s face as we sat in a busy coffee shop. Amidst customers chattering and baristas hollering out orders, Gulnaz shared her spiritual journey.
Born into a prosperous Kurdish Muslim family in Iran, she married her university sweetheart—fellow-Kurd Afran—and gave birth to a son. They lived with her parents while completing their university degrees.
In contrast to the happiness inside their home, Iran was in tumult outside. An ancient Persian people rich in literature, art, and history, Iranians bristled under the version of Islam imposed on them by Arabs. Burdened under a strict interpretation of the Koran, every appeal for leniency was met with violent repression, imprisonment, or death.
The Kurdish minority had it worse. Members of an opposing sect of Islam and constantly fighting for a separate homeland, the Kurds are outcasts.
“On top of all that,” Gulnaz said, “you are an educated woman. Everything was wrong with you in Iran!” We laughed at the absurdity of it all.
Gulnaz leaned forward, a burning intensity in her eyes. “You know, I read a copy of the Koran in my language, Farsi. From cover to cover. When I finished, I closed it and decided there was nothing in this book for me. It damns me to hell and consigns women to be the possessions of men. There is no hope and no love in this book.”
I leaned back in my chair and pondered this unusual honesty and the path that led her there—the Koran itself.
Three weeks later, we sat in the same coffee shop. I told Gulnaz to close her eyes, then slid a Farsi-language Bible across the table. She gasped and snatched up the Bible, looking back and forth between me and the book, running her fingers over the gold-embossed Farsi title. She navigated to the table of contents and divided the books into sections with her pen as I dictated. I thought about the Persian Bible characters she would soon read about.
Because we never know whether we’ll get another chance with a person or even if we have another day to live, I shared the way of salvation with Gulnaz. I guided her to the Gospel of John and led her through Jesus’ promises to give eternal life to everyone who believes Him for it.
With native ease, John 3:16 flowed off her tongue in Farsi.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
As she read, it was like she was coming home, parking her heart. And the universe suddenly made sense to her.
Then I asked Gulnaz, “What condition does Jesus give for gaining eternal life?”
She took her time, sliding her finger under the verse as she re-read it. She looked up at me, “Believe in Jesus.”
“Do you have eternal life?” I wanted to know if Jesus’ promise had persuaded her. To hear her conclusion and not tell her what to believe. I wanted her to hear herself say it.
“Yes!” she said.
We gathered our things, left the coffee shop, and found a vacant picnic table on the street. “We should pray,” I said.
As cars and pedestrians passed in front of us, I explained that prayer is talking to God about our lives in the same way that we would talk to our earthly Father. We sat beside each other with the palms of our hands upraised toward God, encased in a miraculous, protected moment.
I went first, praying out loud, thanking God for my new sister in Christ. Tears bubbled up and spilled down Gulnaz’s cheeks. She brushed them away, apologizing.
Like a child murmuring unpolished words, she started talking to her heavenly Father. For the first time.
I walked home, relieved. Relieved for Gulnaz that she was out of the darkness and home safe.
Relieved to know God was clearly on the move and that I had kept up with Him.
Nancy and her husband, Don, served as missionaries in Pakistan and India for many years before relocating to Canada in 2017. They continue to share Christ with Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs in Kelowna, B.C.