A baby born and abandoned on the streets in South Asia encounters his Heavenly Father who loves him. Photo by Ellyn Schellenberg.

Meeting Jesus in the Holy Land

One moment of obedience led to two men choosing to follow Jesus — despite the possible cost to their livelihoods.

In 2021, James* (Europe), felt an urgency in his heart. He’d just walked past a religious landmark in northern Israel and heard God say to him: “Go preach the gospel of repentance and grace.”

He kept walking — and immediately began wrestling internally. Turning back, he approached a guard, Alain*, outside the gate. “I told him that his service to the false god inside this site was in vain. I explained about Jesus and told him the gospel,” James remembered. “He was literally hanging on every word, very open. He didn’t argue; he just listened, even though it was a blunt conversation.” At the end, they exchanged phone numbers.

Two weeks later, Alain called James and asked for a French Bible. James agreed to bring it to where Alain would be on duty at a different location.

But when James got in his car, his engine started acting up. He prayed: “Lord, You sent me to Alain. I want to take him Your Word, but I need my car, and it isn’t working. I’m going to try again and trust You will bring me to him without any problems.” He got back in his car and began driving.

Halfway there, his engine started making noise again. James pulled over, and at that moment, Alain, who was late for work, walked by, allowing James to give Alain the Bible that was covered so others wouldn’t see it. Alain went to work, and James drove home — without incident. It was as if the engine troubles had gone away.

A few weeks later, Alain asked to speak with James and share his story. From a French-speaking part of Africa, he was raised by a mother who followed Jesus. His father, who died when Alain and his brothers were young, had been a pastor.

Alain's community was very poor, and he didn’t have a lot of money or opportunities. He became depressed, and one day, his brothers said to him, “Look at your situation! How can the God our mother worships allow His children to suffer like this?” They invited him to go to Israel and guard the shrine for their religion, an offshoot of Islam. Alain agreed, thinking it could give him a better future.

Upon arrival, the shrine’s leaders took his passport and required him to follow their religion, worshipping in the shrine of the religion’s leader and praying to an idol. One day, while on his knees, he cried out to God: “Lord, I forsook You, and I’m not even allowed to speak of You. Send me someone to let me know You exist and You see me.”

Later that day, God sent James to Alain.

James invited Alain to a weekly men’s Bible study with another teammate, Simeon* (Latin America) and men from a local drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre. After a few weeks, Alain, afraid of being discovered and deported by the shrine’s leaders, stopped attending. But after prayer, he returned to the group, and Alain began to experience miracles at his job. Every time he was required to pray in the shrine, something distracted those watching him or took him away before he had to go in.

Alain shares Jesus

In December 2022, James returned to Europe but remained in contact with Alain via text. Simeon continued to meet with Alain until he left to visit his home country a few months later. Then, Alain was sent to a different site in another city. Over the phone, both James and Simeon tried to encourage Alain in his faith.

In April 2023, Simeon’s schedule changed, and he offered to meet again with Alain in his new city. They met in the religious house, despite the security cameras all around. Alain was renewed and encouraged in his faith, and a few weeks later, when another guard spoke with him privately of his questions about faith, he called Simeon. The first time Simeon met Walter*, Walter was busy. Simeon prayed quickly for him and wondered if anything would come of it, or even if Walter really wanted to meet. A few days later, Alain called him; both men were being sent to Simeon’s city for a work meeting and wanted to know if Simeon was available that night. Simeon immediately invited them to his house.

Walter’s journey

Though from a different area of Africa, Walter’s story was similar to Alain’s. Raised Catholic, as an adult he joined a different religion because of a family member who promised him spiritual renewal and freedom, as well as financial opportunities. “But,” he said, “Of all these years in this religion, I know nothing about it. No one has instructed me. I came as a volunteer in Israel because I thought this would be a spiritual experience that would strengthen me in my beliefs, that coming to the Holy Land would be something extraordinary.

“I was disappointed, and I feel trapped and empty. There’s no spiritual instruction whatsoever. I go to work, go home and sleep. I feel like I am being used, and I have nothing inside of me; I haven’t received anything like what I expected to receive. And I know others in our group feel the same emptiness.”

Simeon, who had been raised Catholic, shared his testimony with Walter and Alain, talking about salvation, the need for a Saviour and other things Walter would identify with as a former Catholic. “Walter’s eyes went wide open,” Simeon remembered. “He was like, ‘Give me more.’ He was totally absorbed in our conversation.”

At the end, Walter said, “I think you have opened my eyes. This is something I’ve never heard before.” Simeon gave Walter a Bible, saying, “I’ve given you a lot of information and it could be overwhelming. If you want to study the Bible, I can visit you every week.”

Walter was shocked. “Would you do that? Would you sacrifice your time like that?”

“Of course! This is why I am here; it’s what the Lord has called me to do,” Simeon responded.

“Yes, I want to. Please!”

The following week, the three men met and Simeon asked Walter, "After our conversation last week, what is on your mind?”

Walter answered, “I had so many thoughts this week. This conversation kept me meditating and thinking about things like my future, my feelings and beliefs and more. I had believed Jesus was just one of many manifestations of God, just like my religion teaches. But I cannot believe that anymore,” Walter stated.

“What do you believe now?” Simeon asked.

Walter declared, “I believe Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour.”

Recalling that moment, Simeon said: “Walter is transformed. I can see it in his eyes and way of thinking, even though it’s only been a short time. He is hungry to study the Bible and pray together.”

Walter was sent back to his original city in Israel, close to Simeon, where he continues to study the Bible. Pray for him as he grows in his faith in Jesus while working in an environment closed to his beliefs. Alain plans to return to his home country soon. Pray that he will continue to grow in his new relationship with Christ and that he will be equipped and discipled. Pray God will use these two men to share about Jesus with those around them.

*names changed

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