I had lived in Central Asia less than a year, and I was driving a group of people home from a Bible study one evening, after dark. Suddenly, out of nowhere (it seemed) a traffic policeman stepped toward me and waved me down with his red wand (it looked a bit like a stunted “light saber” from Star Wars).
One of my passengers, Olga, was an interpreter. She asked if I needed her help, but I declined, saying, “It will help me to improve my abilities in Russian.” It is funny that I often had the opportunity to “improve my Russian” with these traffic police.
The policeman tried his best to explain what I had done wrong, but I just couldn’t understand him. As well, I assumed that I had done nothing wrong and he was just trying to extort from me (that is not uncommon in Central Asia). He continued to explain and even drew and illustration. About a year later I understood what I had done wrong at that intersection, but for that evening, I was clueless.
I kept trying to understand him, but still thought he was lying to me. So I asked if I could be excused for a moment. I went back to my car and grabbed a Russian copy of the book, The Cross and the Switchblade to give to him as a gift (hey, it IS Asia, right?). The interpreter, Olga, followed me, asking, “How is your language lesson coming?”
I handed the policeman the book and told him it was a gift. He thumbed through it while Olga tried to assess the situation by asking him questions. He didn’t seem to be listening to her, and I was not able to follow her, either, with my infantile language level. After a few minutes he asked her a question.
“This book mentions ‘God’ in it…is this he (pointing to me) a holy man?”
Immediately the policeman handed back to me my documents and said, “I can’t take money from a holy man. Drive safely and good night!”
And with that, I continued to drive my passengers home.
And I prayed for that policeman and his family for the following two weeks.
1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4