I was 19 years old and I had just finished my first full year as a college soccer player. I was in the best shape of my life and could still eat 10 tacos from Taco Bell. I was traveling with the Wheaton College soccer team on a mission trip to Russia and Poland. I was only a freshmen and hadn’t been a stand-out player in high school, so I was under no illusion that it would be different in college. I was just happy to be on the team and learned a lot from the guys around me who were really good.
We played against some pretty stiff competition in small towns and villages, and then would sit down with the teams and talk to them about Jesus. The Soviet flag was still flying but things had opened up for the Gospel and people were hungry for Jesus.
We stood in Red Square and handed out these cheeseball tracts that talked about everyone missing the goal in life. There was a poorly drawn picture of a soccer player cranking one wide left. That was the “you have sinned and need Jesus” part. Somehow the salvation message was wrapped up in scoring a goal... or Jesus making the save... I don’t know, except to say that I thought it was pure squeeze cheese.
The crazy thing was we were mobbed by people to get a hold of one of these tracts. I guess years of atheism and communist oppression had created quite a hole. I stood in the middle of about 100 people wearing a bright blue soccer warm-up and attempted to talk to and an old babushka lady. I gestured to the pictures in the tract and spoke loudly (because that’s how you speak a language you don’t know) that Jesus needed to make the save for her. I couldn’t have felt less prepared or more foolish.
It didn’t matter to Jesus though. As I stumbled through the pictures and tried to explain the truth of Jesus to this sweet Russian lady, I saw the tears start rolling down her cheeks. I couldn’t believe it. I am pretty sure I was making a mess of the Gospel but somehow the Lord was speaking to her heart.
When it comes to how I feel about telling others about Jesus, not a lot has changed in the last 24 years - except for the 10 tacos part. I still feel unprepared. My words and loud meanderings struggle to make sense of the eternal truth of Jesus loving us and giving Himself so that we could be with Him. I wish I could serve up aged cheese and fine wine, but it’s squeeze cheese on a Triscuit.
But Jesus likes it that way. He is still in the business of making all things new, of creating and transforming our simple efforts into something that is right on time and beautiful. He could easily write a message in the sky telling everyone to turn their hearts to Him, but He prefers you and your squeeze cheese.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.