More than a decade ago, Liam Remington*, an IMB worker new to the mission field, found himself in a riverside town in the mountains. That same day, a young nomad named L.T.* came to the same town. Remington, a trained linguist, was hoping to conduct language surveys in the area. L.T. happened to be from the people group Remington was hoping to meet.
Remington and L.T. happened to meet on a street corner. It was a divine encounter. Remington was a willing witness and L.T. was a seeking soul. Remington didn’t immediately share the gospel and L.T. didn’t immediately believe, but an authentic friendship started that day.
Over the years, Remington consistently traveled to L.T.’s town to visit. He would often bring his wife and three kids, and many times they would stay with L.T. and his family in their home. Remington plunged ahead with his language projects, which included translating Bible stories and Bible translation. L.T. was always his favorite language speaker who gave feedback on the translations.
Remington and L.T. shared meals together, climbed mountains together, herded yak together, went on hospital visits together, chopped fodder together, and looked for mushrooms together. That initial divine encounter turned into a tight friendship.
Throughout their relationship, Remington was not only faithful to share the gospel, but he was also faithful to fast and pray for L.T. However, even though L.T. was seeking to know more about the gospel, he never seemed able or willing to fully put his faith in Jesus.
One year during a local holiday, Remington and his family spent nine days celebrating the holiday with L.T. and his family. While aspects of their nine days together were encouraging, ten-plus years of weariness set in, and Remington began to lose hope that L.T. would ever believe.
A year ago, L.T. went to Remington’s house to help the family pack for a season in the U.S. In the car on the way to the airport, L.T. told Remington that he would pray to Jesus for their safe travel. Remington didn’t think much about it until he got on the plane. Then somewhere over the Pacific Ocean he thought, “Wait a second, was that L.T.’s way of telling me he’s a believer?”
That is exactly what L.T. was saying. Through texts and emails with another IMB worker, L.T.’s faith in Jesus was confirmed. Remington had spent more than ten years sharing, praying and fasting for his friend, and he wasn’t even in the same country with L.T. to celebrate his decision to follow Jesus!
Remington returned after his time in the U.S. and was reunited with his friend who was now his brother in Christ. L.T. was baptized and the ceremony was conducted in his heart language. L.T. has already shared openly about Jesus with his family and friends. He has already been challenged by friends and the local religious community about his decision to follow Christ. His resolute answer thus far has been, “I’m a follower of Jesus. That is how it is.”
A divine encounter may not mean immediate fruit. A divine encounter may require a decade or more of friendship. It may also require more sharing, praying, fasting, crying and serving than anticipated.
A divine encounter may even bear fruit for a harvester other than yourself. Remington’s story encourages Christians to be willing and faithful, and to leave the timing up to our sovereign Father.
Colt Bonham, who wrote this article, serves with the IMB.