LONDON – Aug. 6, 2012 – While strolling through the streets of London, Ian Draper encountered a man who comes from a Muslim background.
“What do you think about Jesus?” Draper, a Union University sophomore, asked him.
The man replied that he thought Jesus was a great prophet worthy of admiration and respect, but that Jesus wasn’t God.
“He kept trying to, in certain ways, bring the conversation away from the subject of Jesus, to start talking about his faith,” Draper said. “But in a very polite and kind way, I kept trying to reel him back in.”
Draper gave the man a gospel tract, wrote his name down and continued to pray for him after their encounter, just one of the many that Draper experienced during a mission trip to the city July 24-Aug. 4 during the Olympics.
Draper, of Chicago, was part of a team of volunteers from the Illinois Baptist State Association who worked in London in partnership with More Than Gold, a Christian organization seeking to enable churches in the United Kingdom to engage with the 2012 Olympics, according to its website.
“I’ve never been out of the country before,” Draper said. “I liked the concept they had behind London. It was the whole world coming together to this one place for one purpose. It’s literally a way to share the gospel to the nations by just being in that one place.”
Draper and some of his teammates worked with King’s Cross Baptist Church in London. The church has a small café open each day to welcome people off the street to watch the Olympics on TV, in an attempt to engage them in conversations about the gospel. Draper handed out flyers advertising the café and also helped take surveys, asking people what the purpose of life is and trying to steer the conversation to Jesus.
“The people here have been very open to chatting,” Draper said. “We’ve been talking to a lot of smokers, and we’ve noticed that that’s helped a lot, because they really don’t have an excuse to say that they’ve got to be somewhere.”
One man Draper encountered was a Jamaican man named Patrick. Patrick went to church in Jamaica as a child but hasn’t been a practicing Christian for many years, Draper said. Draper talked to him about Jesus and conducted a survey with him before they parted ways.
A little bit later, others from his team also encountered Patrick and invited him to the church’s café. Patrick came and stayed for a few hours.
“I can see God starting something,” Draper said. “It was just a real God moment.”
Draper said God called him to the ministry during high school, and during his first year at Union he felt a passionate desire to work in an urban environment. The London trip gave him an opportunity to explore options about urban ministry.
“I know wherever I go it’s where God’s going to lead me, not where I want to go,” he said. “London was a city I had thought about before, and now I finally get a chance to see what it’s like.”
After a few days in London, Draper said he began to feel a strong desire to work in the city for a longer period of time in the future.
“I love how international it is,” he said. “You’re walking down the street and you can see so many different ethnicities. There’s that diversity that I really like.
“I had never been open to international missions before until this trip, and God’s really opening my eyes,” he continued. “When I think about my future, London doesn’t look like a bad option.”
Note: Tim Ellsworth is on assignment with Baptist Press at the Games of the XXX Olympiad.