I had an interesting opportunity last Sunday to share the good news of Jesus Christ--in a rather unexpected way. God truly does work in mysterious ways.
Let me back up and tell the events which occurred in chronological order. Due to some of the situations being covered by my confidentiality agreement with my company, please forgive me for some vague statements below.
About four years ago, our Service team (which goes to repair defective or damaged product in the field) noticed that some of our products were having failures at the bonding line. Some of this was probably our fault, some our customers' fault: regardless of fault, though, we knew we needed a fix. The engineers in Service--some from Spain and some from Denmark--developed a rail which, when added to the product, would allow the bondlines to be more forgiving. Because it increased how "forgiving" the bondlines were, someone called it a "grace rail". Who named it--and whether they were Christians who understood the theological impact of grace or not--has been lost to our company's history. But the name "grace rail" stuck, and has been used ever since.
Now let's fast forward to early 2011. A new product (let's call it Product G) was developed by R&D, and a structural designer chose a particular set of design criteria which had never before been done in our company, one which caused an excessive release of energy along the bondline. This being a new invention, it was not known. Now typically, our preference is to make the first product and send it for structural testing, awaiting the results before we begin mass manufacturing. But in the case of Product G, the customer paid us to take the risk of starting production before testing was complete.
By January 2012, we had several hundred very large parts made to the original design, with product spread throughout America, China, and India. And it was then, of course, that our test part failed structural testing. After analysis, it was found that the Grace Rail would work to retrofit onto the blades and remove the energy build-up. So my team of engineers around the world--being responsible for launching new products and solutions--ran a project to place the Grace Rail all across the Product G line. It worked well, and by end of Q1 everyone from our company and our customer was satisfied--and the retrofitted blade passed all required testing.
Now fast forward again, to last weekend.
For the past two weeks I have had most of my direct reports here in the States, including guys from Poland and China. We are taking them to several traditional local things (BBQ in my backyard, baseball game, etc.), and one of the things I invited them to was church. The Chinese guys were very interested--one had never attended a religious service of any sort, and the other's grandmother had been an illegal Christian in Mao's China so he was interested to see what church was like.
So there we are, last Sunday, driving to my church with two people who know nothing about Christianity but are interested. Still, how to broach the subject? How to sum up Jesus for someone who has never even heard a single quote from Scripture, never heard of Moses or David or Solomon or Mary?
It turns out, God had started planning this some four years ago, with whichever nameless employee named their new design a "grace" rail.
As we pulled into the parking lot, we passed the church sign--"Grace Church". One of the two Chinese engineers commented, "Ah, Grace church? Like grace rail? What does this word, 'Grace', mean?"
Wow. What a silver platter, eh? And this time I did not miss it (in the past, I've been handed evangelism opportunities on silver platters before and missed out...).
I explained about grace, about man needing forgiveness from God, about Jesus dying for our sins. They were very engaged during church, paid close attention, and came out with a list of follow-up questions. Over Italian food, I was able to share with two Chinese people about the fall of man, the redemption offered by Christ, and the free gift of God. Both listened well and were very engaged. One found it interesting culturally, and perhaps that seed will one day grow. The other was extremely eager, said he felt so much peace in the church, and is going to look for a church to attend when he returns home to China this weekend.
What an amazing God we serve, who can move in minor, usually unnoticed events--things as mundane as the naming of a composite rail, or a mistake by a Dane in designing yet another product--so that on April 22, 2012, two Chinese people were introduced to the Gospel of His Son.