David Bowers was influenced by Psalm 91 when he was on the train. Find out how he beleived in Jesus Christ in his journey.
I felt led to share this story on your website. In 1991, one day after the start of the Gulf War, I started a 7 month backpacking journey to Europe. I didn’t know a soul and chose Barcelona as my base city. I chose to stay there 3 months then travel by Eurail for another 3 months, then return to Spain for the rest of my time. After a month in Barcelona, I had found it tough to meet anyone locally. I had gone through a strange relationship with a local girl that only depressed me further. Only as a last resort did I want to turn to a local church because I wanted to see how hard it would be on my own. I knew that as a Christian it would be fairly easy to meet people at a local church, but I was determined not to go the easy route. As strange as this may sound, it is amazing what the good Lord is able to do through our own failings and strange ways of thinking!
On Wednesday of that week, I met a girl from the US at the youth hostel. She was a recovering alcoholic and had been traveling throughout Europe to visit the different AA groups. This time she was in Barcelona and had just arrived from France. Though I tended to avoid other Americans just because I hoped to focus on meeting locals, my recent discouragement led me to befriend her. She wanted help with the city and with someone who knew English since her time in France was quite difficult, she related. I showed her around Barcelona all that day. We talked about a lot of things, including spiritual things because of the ten steps in AA. I asked her about her “”higher power.”” She said she didn’t really believe in Jesus so much but thought there must be a Creator. We talked about this and I shared with her a little about my faith, but I’m not one to preach unless they want to hear about it. I told her that my simple prayer to God is that if he can use me in someone’s life that I am available. Well, after the whole day, we parted and decided to meet on Friday at the Arc Del Triumph at 3pm for coffee. I showed up on Friday, but she never arrived. I figured that she must had forgotten or left the city. I was meeting all kinds of people every day, so it was really no big deal. But a part of me wondered if something had happened to her. I said a little prayer for her safety and went on my way. The next day, Saturday, I decided to spend the day in the Parque de Ciutadella. It’s a beautiful park across the street from where I was staying with a large lake, palm trees, sculptures, birds, kids, elderly feeding the pigeons, and little vendors selling snacks and toys for the children. I spent almost the whole day reading and writing in my journal there quite often. But this day, I had planned on visiting one of the churches I had written down the first few days after my arrival to Barcelona. There were several churches in Barcelona and I wrote many of them down as possible places to visit. There were two close to where I stayed. But I didn’t find out about the closer one until later. Good thing, because this was obviously part of God’s plan! About 4 O’clock that Saturday afternoon, I realized that I better get down there to find out about services on Sunday. I had almost completely forgotten that I intended to find the church. So I hurriedly put my stuff together and began to walk down the street to the church about 8 blocks away.
I walked down the city streets, not really knowing where I was going but eventually found the church. It was an old church and the giant dungeon-like doors were beautiful and gave it great character. I walked up to these dungeon-like doors and knocked loudly. Suddenly, one of the giant doors opened and a man smiled at me. I spoke to him in Spanish and he responded in Spanish and asked me where I was from. I said the ‘Estados Unidos.’ Then he spoke in English because he was American too. He asked what state I was from and I said South Dakota. He smiled and exclaimed that he was from South Dakota as well! (To this day, I have never met another South Dakotan in Europe in three trips and over one year of overall time spent traveling from city to city.) This was strange enough in itself to peak my interest in the church. He invited me in and showed me around. They were remodeling and he told me that the church was shut down under Franco (since this was a Protestant evangelical church) and that now it was open again. And he said that people who were children when they first went to this church are now elderly and have been able to return for the first time since childhood. It was a very exciting time for them. He himself was a missionary and had come to help them replant the church. He was building a crib for his youngest daughter that day, so he didn’t have the time to spend with me, but he said there was a group in the back room meeting over something. He asked if I wanted to meet them. I was a little shy and almost turned him down, not wanting to bother them. But I decided it would be good to meet them. So he took me back to the room and we walked into a meeting of three people sitting around this small table. I looked and to my amazement and her complete surprise was this girl I had met! She jumped up screaming “”David!”” as her chair went flying behind her! She ran over to me and hugged me and asked “”How did you find me?”” She asked me this over and over again how I could have ever found her in this church. “How did you know I was here,” she asked! She was so taken by this she couldn’t stop asking me! I looked straight at her and said, “”This is clearly something God is doing in your life!”” I was as dumbfounded as she was! Everyone in that room, including the missionary, had to admit this was quite remarkable. Especially the fact I was from South Dakota, suddenly showing up at the door at that time when they were meeting, and then to find this girl in the middle of city of 6 million. Now the odds of that is so beyond my mathematical imaginations, I will say this was a miracle and brought together for a reason. I had found out from her that she didn’t make it on Friday for coffee was because of an emergency situation. She was actually at the hospital all that day with a lady from that church she was staying with who also was an alcoholic and part of AA. She had fallen off the wagon and went into a coma and had ended up in the hospital that day. It was a very serious situation and they were actually discussing this when I arrived at that moment. So she felt terrible that she couldn’t meet with me but was in this emergency situation. The women ended up ok, but the government of Spain or the city or whoever was threatening to take away this woman’s young son because she had done this and threatened the life of this boy. It was a sad time for them and they were talking about God and turning to him and giving this situation over to the Almighty!
None of us could believe all of this was happening. But it was pretty awesome. So many good things came out of that meeting that it was obvious to me the love and presence of the Lord. After this, she asked me about my faith! I told her that God loves her and that he offers complete forgiveness for everything she had ever done. She of course became a Christian within days of these events because she couldn’t deny the work of Jesus! My faith was strengthened as well even up to this day. Beyond this, this story became well known in the church and I was somewhat famous the next day. The group was vibrant and beautiful and I would love to return to see the people again some day. The other thing that happened from this is I met a tent-maker missionary at the church. (Tent-makers are missionaries that make their living by their own profession in a foreign country based on the Apostle Paul’s self-support). Part of my reason for going to Europe in the first place was to learn more about tent-making missions! All of these events were so encouraging to all of us involved, it was obvious the work of God in that place. As a result, I was invited to stay at the church for free! Since I was living on a backpacking budget, this was a great blessing. Also, my friend who is an artist whom I had made met in Barcelona, also became involved in this situation and we did some work around the church for them as compensation for staying there. My friend also heard the gospel through all of this. He had tried committing suicide and had been through a lot in his life, including alcohol addiction. After a week, the tent-maker missionary invited me to stay with him and his family out at their village. We also went on a retreat up into the mountains with them. It was very cold at night, like maybe 40 degrees and I had no blanket! I didn’t realize they wouldn’t have heat up there! It was still fun anyway and very beautiful. I ended up with the missionaries for 3 weeks with him, his wife, and three children. It was a great joy to stay there and God blessed it as well. The whole experience with that church was remarkable. I was asked to stay and help plant the church and this girl wanted to follow me all around Europe! But I had my own mission to follow and went on my way traveling Europe after that for 3 months straight. God did other remarkable things along the way similar to this and my faith was strengthened every step of the way. In Portugal my camera was stolen but another miracle occurred as I prayed and asked God for help to return my camera. I did not have the money to buy another camera and wanted mine back. So I pleaded to God for help. Believe it or not, 5 days later I had my camera back in an amazing story of intrigue and gospel sharing with a thief at 3am in a pool hall in Braga, Portugal! The Lord is amazing in his ways and able to do anything we ask, if we have faith. >From there I went on to other parts of Europe meeting many interesting people and learning great things about history and culture and art. In Belgium, another encouraging event happened to me encouraged by Psalm 91. I was unsure of where to stay at midnight coming into a strange city and I was very concerned and actually somewhat frightened due to the late hour and unknown circumstances. I prayed to God for guidance, and suddenly a man came out from a tunnel leading out into the city and walked straight up to me. He asked me, “Do you believe in the Bible?” I had to laugh at him! I told him how I had just finished reading Psalm 91 on the train. He then asked if I believe in Jesus Christ. I said that yes indeed, I believe very much. He was very surprised to hear someone say this because he himself walked the streets at night sharing the gospel with people as the Spirit led him. He said that many there did not believe and he was very encouraged to find someone who did! As a matter of fact, he asked me again because he wasn’t sure if I was telling the truth! Then he told me that normally he did not go into the train station but that he felt the Spirit had led him to go in there this evening! For me, he was an angel from God who helped me not to “fear the terror of night” (Psalm 91:5). I hoped to simply find a safe place to sleep for the night and was hoping to find a hostel open at this late hour, and I told him how he was an answer to prayer! He took me outside and pointed me down the street to a hostel only 3 blocks away which I found safely!
I don’t want anyone to think that I am somebody, but that the Lord is merciful and sees our goings and hears when we cry out to him. It is because of His love and grace, not because of our goodness. One more thing I learned through all of this, if I may share it, is that I don’t believe that the Lord needs us for any of his work. As it says in Zechariah, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty” (Zech. 4:6). I believe that God has shown me that he allows us to participate in his work as a privilege, but that we should not try to force his work. Our job is to love our neighbor and to pray and seek God. God will do the work in a person’s heart or circumstance. We are to share God’s love with others and tell them of his forgiveness through Jesus. We are not to judge them or try to change them or coerce them. Only the work of the Holy Spirit is able to do this. Our job is to simply love our neighbor and to trust the Lord as best we can in whatever situation. God loves us very much and this is what I learned through these experiences. And not only that, but God loves others far more than we can hope to ever love them and He is already at work in their lives far before we arrived. Let God do his work and do not interfere. I hope that this is an encouragement to anyone reading this. Many blessings.
David Bowers, Boulder, CO. 5/12/02.