It had been a very warm day, and I was emotionally spent. It was my fourth day teaching at a college in Vanadzor, Armenia. I had been invited to teach a two week seminar at a local Christian College under conditions that were brutal. The temperature was approaching the low ninety’s, and there was no air conditioning nor any fans. And while the students were very attentive and eager to learn, eight hours with only a one half hour break was taking it’s toll on all of us. It was approaching evening as I walked back to the small apartment where I was staying, and needless to say, I just wanted to relax in my room. But as I approached the door, I found that it was locked and my host was no where to be found. It is here that an adventure began that would touch my life and heart forever.
Darkness had set in, and I had no place to go. So, I walked back down the eight flights of stairs that I had climbed to reach my flat and just stared out into a small park area wondering what do I do now?. There sitting on a park bench were three older ladies, who I knew that were locals and spoke no English. Immediately one of them waved for me to come over. That was my first meeting with Asia. Probably in her mid 70’s, with a big smile and friendly heart, she asked me in Russian what I was doing. I spoke enough Russian, to explain that I was locked out and my host wasn’t home. Immediately Asia got up and told me to follow her. As we climbed back up the eight flights of stairs in what was a vintage world war two apartment complex, we soon arrived at Asia’s apartment which surprisingly was across the hall from mine! That began a friendship that has now lasted almost 15 years.
Over this time span, Hebrews 13:1-2 has become somewhat a reality in my relationship with Asia. ” Keep on loving each other as brothers (and sisters). Do not forget to entertain strangers , for by so doing, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Was Asia an angel like the writer was talking about? I cannot say for sure, but she was one to me one scary night in a far distant country.
Asia has always had uncanny way of knowing when I show up to visit. She will tell others that her Pastor Chuck arrived yesterday or whenever without me ever letting her know that I was coming. I could cite so many other supernatural happenings through the years that sometimes do make me wonder about the angel thing; like her praying for me all night at times when I needed it the most. But that is not the focus of this article. You see, the day that I met Asia, that soft still voice of the Holy Spirit, spoke to me and said that I had been put in her life to ease her burden-To become a “Shoshben”to her. For almost 15 years, financially and otherwise, I have tried to fulfill that promise.
So what then is a “Shoshben?” In Eastern culture, a Shoshben was a friend of the Bride Groom.His responsibility was to handle all of the preliminaries that would take place before the marriage celebration. He made sure that invitations went out and the food was ordered. Besides helping with the ceremony, he would stand guard over the wedding celebration tent-where the groom would take his bride after the ceremony. He held a position of honor as the groom’s best friend.
John 3:29 explains it this way. “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom,waits and listens for him and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.” Thus,as John was preparing the way for Jesus, his words are likened to the role of the Shoshben. John was positioning the lost to receive the bridegroom who was coming-Jesus Christ. John held that position of Honor for Jesus. He was His Shoshben, so to speak.
A Shoshben then positions a person to receive Christ. Much like with the “Woman at the Well”, Jesus positioned her to receive the Words of the Father. Barimaeus, Zaccheus, Peter and John- all of these men plus many others, Jesus came along side of, and became a Shoshben, in front of them, to reveal the Father’s Plan through his example of caring love.
Look at it this way. Every time you take someone to lunch, a ball game, or spiritually intervene and show them the Father’s Love,you become a Shoshben in their life-preparing the way for the Messiah; positioning them for a personal encounter with Jesus Christ!
Relational Evangelism is very simple. We are the friend of the Bridegroom and have been given the most honored position of preparing people to Encounter Jesus Christ. But we must keep in mind that people don’t come to Jesus through osmosis or even acts of love. Through Word, deed, and action we are to pave the way for a Jesus encounter so that one day when Jesus becomes Lord, they will have already seen and met Him through you-the Shoshben, the very hands and feet of Jesus!