“Oh hey, that’s Jackie Chan!” my buddy, Jason Chin, said, pointing at a picture on the wall.
Jason and I were in Russia doing ministry and speaking in Moscow, Syktyvkar, and St. Petersburg. On our last day of the trip, we stopped in a souvenir shop in St. Petersburg to pick up gifts for our families.
“Oh yes, he’s very famous. He shopped here,” the shop attendant, Dimitri*, proudly told us.
“Well, my friend, Shawn, here is very famous, too,” Jason replied. “When he prays for people, they get healed,”
I was a little embarrassed at this description. I’m definitely not famous. But, Jason moves in the prophetic. He has a healing ministry called Loves Says Go Academy, and these kinds of encounters are not out of the norm for him. He continued and told the shop keeper, “You have pain in your back.”
A look of surprise came over Dimitri’s face, “How do you know this?”
We explained that we’re followers of Jesus and He speaks to us. We invited him to sit while we prayed for him, and a skeptical Dimitri complied. He explained to us that his back pain was so severe that he hasn’t been able to bend over and touch his toes in many years and many of his activities have become limited due to the chronic pain. So, we laid hands on Dimitri and started to pray for Jesus to heal his back.
As we were praying, Dimitri suddenly looked at us and asked, “What is this heat? Why is my back so warm?”
Jason explained, “That’s God healing you.”
When we finished praying, Dimitri stood up, bent over and touched his toes! He was overcome and shouting words of exclamation and surprise that aren’t fit to print.
“Blank, blank, blank, I can’t believe this!” I haven’t been able to touch my toes in YEARS! This is a miracle! This can’t be really be happening!” he shouted. “Are you guys part of the David Blaine magic show?!”
We explained that no, this isn’t magic. It’s Jesus.
Dimitri called his coworkers and his store manager in to meet us and speak with us.
It’s worth noting at this point that what we were doing in this shop is illegal in Russia. Evangelism, or any “religious extremism” is outlawed, and if we had been caught, we would’ve been thrown in a Russian jail. You can’t even visit the country for ministry work without an invitation from a government official. Even then, any preaching you do must be inside a church. But when God sets a divine appointment, you can’t run from it.
With six or seven store employees gathered around us, we shared the gospel. Only one person, the store manager, responded to the invitation to accept Jesus. Dimitri wasn’t ready, but God definitely planted a seed that day.
For several months after this encounter, I discipled the store manager over Facebook Messenger. I discovered that I knew a pastor, whom I had met at our One Hope Warsaw event, who was from the manager’s hometown. I arranged an introduction, and passed the baton on to the pastor.
Jason and I were a little worried as we left the shop, considering what we had done was against the law, and neither of us liked the idea of sitting in a Russian prison. But God did a miracle that day, the gospel went forth, seeds were planted, and one man’s eternity was changed.
*The employee’s name was changed for this blog post