"I'm going to knock your head off," said the drunken man after he spit in my face.
I had never been so afraid. Immediately, I pictured my head flying off my shoulders and rolling down the street in this big mid-western city. Perhaps street ministry, late at night, was not the exciting evangelistic outreach I thought it was before I became such a willing participant. But what did I know? I was 19 and full of innocent wonder.
Suddenly, I froze.
"That won't be necessary," said my best friend as he approached us from behind. "Why don't we go get some coffee and talk."
I breathed a sigh of relief. My friend was a martial arts expert. At one time, he was a state champion and featured in magazines and newspapers.
Then came the stare-down between my friend and the bully that seemed to last forever. Finally, my friend reached out his hand for the man to shake which, to my surprise, he did. We walked to a 24-hour restaurant and ordered the man a meal and some coffee. We listened to him sob his way through his life story, and we shared Jesus with him. After we explained salvation, he received Christ and apologized to me.
The encounter seemed surreal, but decades later I still remember it. I remember it because of my friend's courage and determination to share Jesus with an evil man who was bent on my demise. Yet, what I think I admired most was my friend's choice not to rely on his ability to physically defuse the situation. Instead, he placed his trust in the Lord and allowed God's love to guide him.
A few years later, my friend took his evangelistic endeavor to another country by teaming up with a missionary to Kenya, East Africa. There, he displayed his martial arts and many thought he had magical hands and feet. However, when he finished his testimony about how some thought he was powerfully gifted, he pointed them to the only power they would ever need.
It wasn't long before I moved away from that city, and my friend and I lost touch. I always wondered about him, though. I learned that after his missionary trek, he returned home to raise a family. But his fervent flame for others to know Jesus never died. Once a week, he returns to the same streets where I witnessed the greatest demonstration of a quiet confidence in Christ that I have ever seen . . . and where my love for God deepened because He spared my life.