Certainly I did not consider myself an expert. My fine motor skills simply were not that refined. But after spending an afternoon with four new friends playing Jenga, I began feeling at least moderately adept at the stacking game. Advancing my game play, however, was just an added bonus. The real blessing came from the opportunity to build relationship and share the Gospel with the four 20-somethings huddled around the tower of wooden blocks with me in the small coffee shop. Songs from Westlife and Celine Dion’s Titanic theme played on an endless loop from the laptop computer they brought with them.
It’s my turn and I carefully pull a block out from the tower near the bottom. As I do, I’m asking my new friends about their family, brothers, sisters, parents; and they tell a bit of their story. Rock’s turn follows. Ramping up the difficulty level, he places the pulled out block standing vertically on the top of the tower instead of flat. Rock sticks to the basics in questions though, he wants to know my age and weight. Paige’s turn comes, and she quietly pulls a piece out, avoiding the difficulty Rock started by simply stacking hers flat next to his vertical piece. She talks of friends as she plays and her enjoyment from taking pictures. Tina, more extroverted as she plays, shares her likes of music and dance. This causes a pause in the game as they turn to the laptop to share pictures of them with friends, dancing or singing Karaoke, joking with one another as to who their boyfriend and girlfriend are in a given picture. Returning their attention back to the game, Justin wrestles a wooden block out, and places it on the top of the tower. Justin wants to move ahead in life, to be a success, and make a good deal of money. He wants to know my thoughts on career advice and tentatively suggests that I could help him find a good job.
My turn again, and the tower is already starting to get a bit wobbly. Examining the blocks, I segue from Justin’s topic to talk about how I gauge success in life as not about money but about relationship. On the surface, they agree, or at least wouldn’t dare contradict. When I go on to share about how the most important relationship in my life is my relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the confusion on their faces is unanimous. Carefully pulling at a piece of the tower, I begin to share my testimony with equal care. Their struggle to understand remains greater than my struggle to get the wooden block out without toppling the tower. Trying to relate my story to anything they have heard before, they want to know if I am Catholic. Not my favorite question to answer. Explaining how my beliefs differ from the empty ritualism and syncretism among Catholics in this country can be as precarious as the leaning stack of wood in front of me. Taking a positive approach, I stress to them my relationship with Jesus Christ as my Lord, my Savior, and my best friend. Knowing that they still don’t get it, I began telling them point by point of God’s love for all people. I tell them of our universal problem in falling short of God’s love through our own sin. Pausing to explain sin more, they each accede that no one is perfect. Moving on, I try to explain the consequences, the eternal separation that comes as a result of our sin. Failure from sin is not something that can be fixed as easily as a stack of blocks; we can’t pick up the pieces ourselves. We need help. Finally removing my block without a fall, they all smile. But my smile is from the joy that comes in knowing Jesus, my help. I tell them how Jesus, God’s Son, came to pay the penalty the punishment for our sin. By accepting that gift, inviting Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, He has restored my relationship with God.
My new friends can see my happiness as I place the block I have removed on top of Rock’s to form a “T” like a cap at the height of the tower. I have achieved my goal at this point. They know that I am talking about something different from what they have, even if they don’t understand it yet. For now their situation is not unlike the tower at the center of our attention. With God’s help, I’ve successfully pulled out a block or two that had served as foundation to their worldview, challenged some of their assumptions, and given them something new to think about.
In the coming days, I will try to reconnect with my new friends and gauge their attraction to God. Have they read the literature that I gave them? Have they thought more about what they want most from life? Are they willing to turn from their sin and follow God wholeheartedly? Praying for them even now, I ask God to finish building the tower that was started. A tower based on following Him. Cause an initial polite interest to transform into a Holy Spirit fed hunger that makes them yearn to know more, understand more, so that they will take the same step of faith.
Until that time, I have more new friends to make. I am surrounded by more than 80 million people who are running headlong into a Christ-less eternity. As God has called me, I will continue to make friends and share the Gospel. Drinking Vietnamese coffee for Jesus. Singing Karaoke for Jesus. Stacking Jenga blocks for Jesus . . . .
- Please pray for Justin, Rock, TIna and Paige to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
- Please pray for more opportunities to meet those who will have an interest in the Gospel.
- Please pray for the peoples of Vietnam as a whole to come to the understanding that the only sure foundation in life is Jesus Christ.
- Please pray that God will raise up more laborers in the harvest field of Vietnam, that His truth will multiply through new Believers, growing disciples and many new indigenous churches.