Walking alongside students’ needs time, prayer, and miracles! But what if, after all the prayers, there are no miracles – when is it time to move on with life? Larry shares two stories from his student ministry in Germany.
Spiritual opposition makes me think of bad coffee in a smart café. Alex* had asked me to meet his father to discuss Alex’s recent interest in Christianity. Originally from a middle class, nominally Muslim family from the Middle East, Alex had long given up on Islam. He had come to Leipzig to study, and during his studies become dissatisfied with what atheism offered. He started coming to Leipzig English Church (LEC). We’d met a few times to read the Bible and talk; he was clearly attracted to Jesus.
“I paid for his education, he now owes obedience. If he converts and gets baptised we will cut him off.”
And so, I found myself sitting in a smart café, sipping bad coffee, praying for God to work a miracle in Alex’s life. His father, though polite towards me, made it very clear that he would not tolerate Alex following the Lord Jesus: “I paid for his education, he now owes obedience. If he converts and gets baptised we will cut him off.” Reasoning with him was like debating a stone wall.
Just weeks later Alex cut contact with me and almost everyone at church.
Jack* had been converted through a sermon on Leviticus. He came from an East German family, grew up an atheist, but had turned to Islam two years prior. He had just broken off an engagement to a Muslim girl in Egypt, and for some reason decided to go to church. He liked speaking English, so he came to us.
He was the type of young man that makes Tigger look sedated and inactive. He devoured Christian books, read the Bible with me and a couple of other men in the church, and was all go for the Lord. Then, after a frustrating season, he left LEC. We found out he was now attending a Roman Catholic congregation. Not long later he moved to an Austrian monastery run by a Catholic sect.
Keep on praying …
I wrote to Jack a few times, seeking to assure him of our love for him, and explain the problems of Catholicism. He refused to be convinced. Alex left in 2018, Jack in 2019. Not exactly the type of fruit we were praying for from our ministry.
For a while we kept praying for them, but as the months progressed, they slipped further down our prayer lists. We moved on. There were other people to invest in; Sinead and I became parents to Zoe in September 2020; our life took on new rhythms.
… and don’t give up
We were in England in June 2021 for parental leave when a friend in church texted us, “It’s a miracle!” Nonplussed, we responded: “What’s a miracle!?”
“Haven’t you heard? Alex and Jack have come back to the Lord Jesus!”
Jack had returned to Leipzig to say goodbye to family and friends before moving to South America to study Catholic theology. He’d met up with a friend from LEC and they’d stayed up late into the night talking about the gospel. In the morning Jack cancelled his plans for Brazil. The next Sunday he was back in LEC.
God invests in our prodigals
Alex said, “I woke up one morning and felt God was calling me to go to church. I checked when the services were and off I went.”
“I woke up one morning and felt God was calling me to go to church.”
When I first met Alex he was more interested in YouTube psychologist, Jordan Peterson, and philosophy than in taking the Lord Jesus on His terms. This time he’s hungry for Christ. He’s apprehensive of the future and what his family will do, but he trusts Jesus. We baptised him last Sunday.
“We sow the seed, God makes it grow, in His own good time.”
God is better at bringing prodigals home than we give Him credit for. We sow the seed, He makes it grow, in His own good time. Alex and Jack’s stories encourage us to keep praying for others still fleeing the Father’s love.
Larry and Sinead Norman serve at Leipzig English Church, Germany.