Sometimes getting the gospel to an unreached people requires a trek through the African bush. Sometimes it’s necessary to wind down the Amazon River to find a tribe deep in the jungle. And then sometimes, God sovereignly places the unreached under one of the most iconic, most visited sites in the world.
Approximately seven million people visit the Eiffel Tower each year to gaze at Gustave Eiffel’s marvel of engineering. During the day, the tower stands as an iconic symbol that looms far above the surrounding modern and ancient architecture. Once the sun sets in Paris, the tower takes on new life as twenty thousand light bulbs illuminate it every hour with an impressive light show. The effect is mesmerizing, and I can’t help but feel drawn to the luminous glow as this metallic monument pierces darkness.
“Be confident that God will water the gospel seed he sent you to sow.”
At the base of the tower, large groups of men sell keychains, hats, and selfie sticks to tourists. They line the sidewalks with their makeshift stands or walk around with their wares. They speak French, English, Italian, Korean—anything to help them make a sale. The men are lost in the crowd of tourists who are unaware this group of West African men—most of them Muslim—are from a Senegalese people still classified as unreached.
How to Engage Vendors on Your Short-Term Trip
As Christians, we can never underestimate our role as Christ’s ambassadors in the world, nor be surprised by how opportunities to share the gospel arise. Wherever we go—to the market, a sporting event, a short-term trip to a global city like Paris—we may offer the first chance people have to hear of God’s love for lost humanity.
Here are a few tips to engage people as you go. Most of these apply specifically to vendors in a European country, but they may spark discussion and ideas for how you can be intentional with anyone you meet.
No Amount of Time Is Too Short
West Africans in Paris and around Europe are so marginalized that any interest shown in them may hit a tender spot and cause them to open up. Don’t be put off if they abruptly end the conversation to make a sale or sprint away to avoid chastisement from the police. Your time with them will likely be short, so quickly share how the gospel changed your life. Even a five-minute interaction is time well spent. Be confident that God will water the gospel seed he sent you to sow.
Be Aware of Cultural Differences
Although West Africans in Paris and around Europe have grown accustomed to Western culture, most come from home cultures more conservative than ours. They will be forgiving of actions deemed abhorrent in their home countries—immodest dress, women speaking to men—but keep in mind your goal is to stand out as followers of Christ, not blend in with Western society.
“You are on mission wherever you are, and the field is ready for harvest (Luke 10:2).”
Consider approaching them in mixed gender groups and choosing clothing that errs on the conservative side. Dressing and speaking to them in a manner that’s more akin to their culture is a good first step to breaking down barriers to the gospel. When in doubt, ask your host missionaries about other cultural dos and don’ts of the people you engage.
Tactfully Keep the Focus on the One Who Matters Most
The West Africans I’ve met in Paris love to speak about God and engage in spiritual conversations. They will often say that Christians and Muslims are on the same journey, heading toward the same destination. They will be more concerned about respecting you and keeping the peace than they are in discussing differing beliefs.
Even so, keep your focus on Christ. Remind them that Jesus said he was the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and proceed to lovingly share his story with them. Be careful not to disparage the Qur’an or Muhammad. If Muslims bring up their holy book or prophet, point them back to the New Testament (Injil, for Muslims) and the person of Christ.
The next time you find yourself in a large city, remember Christ has given us the Great Commission to reach the nations with the gospel. You are on mission wherever you are, and the field is ready for harvest (Luke 10:2). Share the news of the glorious gospel of Christ, and people will be drawn to its luminous glow as you pierce the darkness with his mesmerizing light.
Carson West and his family lived in Africa before moving to Paris to work among an unreached people group. They have served with IMB for nearly three years.