Ben is from a protestant family in East Africa. He grew up in London and is familiar with Scripture. Adam* is from a country in South Asia that prohibits Christianity. He moved to London as a university student. Until this year, he had never read a Bible. But he has vivid spiritual dreams that punctuate his sleep.
These two men had little in common until they met James Smith, an IMB Journeyman, on the street in Camden Town and began talking about Jesus. James has spent the last two years — the entire pandemic — sharing the gospel in the parks of London. He met Adam and Ben, and now they all three share in the joy of Christ.
A walk in the park
James knew God had called him to share Christ with people, but he was looking for God to show him where. He eventually sensed God calling him to London. When he arrived, he was excited to be in a city where he could meet people from all over the world. Unfortunately, the one thing James didn’t expect was COVID-19.
Almost upon his arrival, London was shut down. It looked like ministry would be shut down too. The first serious quarantine left James feeling a bit perplexed. Why would God call him as a missionary during a pandemic?
But then James went to the park. To engage people in conversation, he approached them and asked if he could pray for them. The shutdowns and mandated quarantines worked in his favor. People were lonely, bored, disconnected and willing to talk. Many turned him down, but many others were delighted to see a friendly face and have a conversation.
Two of those park-walkers were Adam and Ben.
“It’s a really neat story of God doing two things in two different guys,” said James. “They just needed someone to connect the dots for them with the gospel.”
Finding community amid isolation
The pandemic hit Ben hard. He moved from his East African birthplace as a kid and was raised Protestant. But like all believers, he’d had seasons of faithfulness. During COVID, his church went online. That, coupled with other issues in the church, left him feeling disconnected, and he fell away from any real fellowship.
“He was doing stuff on his own,” James said. “But without community, he was just sort of floating.”
“I used to walk in Regent’s Park daily,” Ben said. “One random day, this guy walked towards me and asked me if he could pray for me. That has never happened before. He prayed for me — in public.”
Ben was amazed at James’s boldness and grateful for the opportunity to connect.
“We went for a walk and started talking about my background. When he realized I was a Christian, he asked me what I needed. Was it fellowship? Someone to go deep into the Word with? And he was willing,” Ben shared. “We became friends, and it was so nice to have someone to talk to about this stuff and answer my questions.”
They started studying God’s Word together and have now formed a small group of new believers.
“People like Ben are out there — Christians who have fallen out of the church. They need someone to get out of the boat, go get them and bring them back in,” James said.
Biblical truths come to life
James met Adam one day in the park as well. He was originally from South Asia and a practicing Muslim. God had been preparing him to follow Jesus through spiritual dreams he didn’t yet understand.
“I was just walking in the park one day and met James. He asked if he could pray for me, and I shared with him my dreams and asked if he could help me understand them,” Adam said.
In Adam’s dream, he was walking in a desert. A Christian woman he had met was on one side reading a book. Across the desert was a group of people. They were asking Adam what the woman was doing. He responded that she was reading the Bible. The people in the crowd said that they were needy, and he must tell them about the message from the Bible. As he walked back to them, a voice came from heaven and said to him “I want to give you a new heart and a new spirit.”
Adam had never read the Bible and didn’t understand the dream. But James immediately recognized Ezekiel 36:26 and explained what it meant to have a new heart and a new spirit.
Encouraged, Adam agreed to study the Bible with James.
“I was reading and praying every day,” Adam said.
Adam had to go back home over the summer, and while he was there, he continued to read.
“I saw the darkness of my country, and I prayed to receive Christ,” Adam said.
“When he came back to London, he was a born-again believer, ready to reach people I’ll never be able to reach,” James said.
Adam shared his new faith with his brother and is now doing Bible study with him via Zoom. They are studying Mark’s Gospel.
“He’s getting closer to faith,” Adam said. “I was playing before and now I am living intentionally. I know God has plans for me and is showing me ways to go and share this good news with those people who don’t know.”
Adam is from a people group that has only 50 known believers and now he is eager to share Christ among his own people.
“Jesus Christ changed my life. I want everyone to have Jesus in their hearts,” Adam said.
Adam and Ben are just two examples of people who were ready to hear the gospel when James reached out. They represent how God is often working when we can’t see it, and when we are bold, we get to be a part of the work.
“I’ve met a ton of people in the park, and been turned away a lot,” said James. “But broad gospel sharing is like fishing. When you get one, you’re like ‘yes!’”
Pray for James as he finishes his Journeyman term and continues to discern what is next.
Pray for Adam and Ben as they grow in their faith and continue with their small group without James.
Pray for many more in London to hear and respond to the gospel.
*Names changed for security