A comment in church about my hair on a recent Sabbath led me to a woman mourning the loss of her son three days later.
Let me explain.
On Sabbath a professor from Zaoksky University offered a captivating sermon, complete with a PowerPoint presentation that intertwined scientific data with hard-hitting Bible texts. I sat astonished in the front row, not realizing that the sermon had stretched to 3:00 p.m.
As people rose to leave, I heard a voice behind me say, “Andy, your hair is too long.” Not sure I’d heard correctly, I turned around and saw the wife of one of the church elders addressing me. She repeated her observation. “Do you like your hair so long?” she asked. “It needs to be cut.”
I was surprised. While I had been sitting captivated by the sermon, the elder’s wife had been sitting behind me, apparently captivated by my hair.
Fresh from reading Paul’s advice in Romans to avoid being a stumbling block to fellow believers, I resolved to get a haircut. It had been six weeks since my last visit to the barber.
On Tuesday, before my morning walk, I made a beeline for a hairdressing salon near my apartment building. As I exited, I realized it would take a bit of a walk to get to the place where I normally start my morning walk. I had been thinking about trying out a new walking route, and at that moment I decided to go for it.
A light rain was falling. The sky was gray and overcast. A sharp chill filled the air.
With 30 minutes available for the brisk walk, I charged forward with an eye on my watch. As I reached the 15-minute mark and prepared to turn around, an elderly woman bundled in a shawl caught my attention. She stood by a bus stop, apparently lost. I looked at her. She looked at me. Then she spoke.
“Do you know this neighborhood?” she asked. She explained that she had to find a public health office to get a document.
I had no idea where the office was located and suggested that we ask people sitting at the bus stop. Then the story spilled out. The woman, with tears in her eyes, her voice choking, said she needed the document in connection with the death of her son. He was 47.
“I don’t know what I’ll do without him,” she said. “When I needed to change 1,000 rubles, he would go out and bring me change.”
After speaking a few minutes about her son, the woman saw a man approaching, huddled under an umbrella, and asked him for directions. He shrugged and suggested that the office might be “over there.”
The woman looked back at me. “My son is gone,” she said. “Do you think there’s a chance that he’ll ever visit me again?”
I assured her that if he was dead and buried, he would not be visiting her again. She told me that he was deep down in the ground. I encouraged her to share her sorrow with God.
As she tottered off, I wondered whether she wanted company as she searched for the office. I caught up with her and asked. “No, no, son, I’ll be fine,” she said.
During my 15-minute walk back home, I thought about the circumstances that led to that encounter. I would not have been given the opportunity to comfort the woman if I had not tried out the new walking route. I would not have considered the new route if I had not stopped by the barber. I would not have considered a haircut if the elder’s wife had not spoken about my hair.
Here’s how Paul put it: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
What I learned: Jesus can take absolutely any situation and turn it into an opportunity to share Him.
Andrew Mc Chesney is a journalist in Russia. This article was published June 9, 2011.

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