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How to turn a stranger into a friend (without faking it)

Apr 13, 2015 | Hobbe Smit

Who would have thought meeting total strangers was fun?

Yet, one of my favourite aspects of university life is the ability to connect with total strangers and have an open, honest conversation about tough questions in life.

Students are open to exploring not just academic disciplines but the greater questions in life; questions of origin, meaning, and destiny.

Personally I find it refreshing to retreat from the humdrum of life and reflect on what it’s all about. My friend, Doug has that same perspective, so recently, we decided to try to spark some conversations with students at our local university.

Take the initiative to meet new people

As we wandered around the student centre we chanced upon a couple of guys. We met Bahij, originally from Algeria and Aarib, originally from Libya. We thought that they would be devout Muslims but it turns out that they were more of the type to party hard and save prayer for Fridays (maybe).

We took an interest in their perspective on God and the meaning of life which built a feeling of mutual trust. We parted ways after a good conversation and an exchange of phone numbers.

Share and enjoy life together

Not long after, Bahij and Aarib invited Doug and me to join them at a new local Mediterranean restaurant. It turned out to be the local hookah-smoking establishment. Who knew that smoking apple-mint-flavoured tobacco in a water pipe was a thing?!

I wasn’t sure what I had got myself into but I tried a few puffs out of curiosity and felt the level of camaraderie increase. Although Doug couldn’t join us, I found myself engaging them both, but especially Aarib, in conversation about the differences between following Jesus and following the Qu’ran.

Once again we left on good terms.

Talk about your friend Jesus

In the months following I had the opportunity to go to a football game with them both before Bahij drifted away from our friendship. Meanwhile I could see Aarib not just growing to trust me but becoming curious as to who Jesus is in my life.

Aarib’s curiosity led him to accept my invitation to attend church with me.

We had a great day together, enjoying the service, after-service coffee and a hike. Being able to enjoy things that are a part of my regular life was another way we deepened our friendship. Aarib was very touched that we would drive out of our way to bring him to church, then on a hike, and back home.

Invest. Even if it is for just a season.

Just before Aarib left the country at the end of his exchange year in Canada, I had the privilege of buying him lunch and giving him a copy of The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. He gratefully accepted the gift and gave me a heartfelt man-hug as we said farewell.

We continue to touch base online once in a while, but my hope and prayer is that I will see him again, whether in this life or the next, and be able to welcome him as a fellow brother of Jesus.

I am praying that another believer will be able to step into his life and encourage him to continue developing his curiosity in Jesus and begin seeking after God.

Summary:

Easy steps to building trust with a new friend

  1. Identify one of your acquaintances, co-workers, or classmates with whom you could seek to build trust.
  2. Pray for God to soften their heart to your friendship and for God to deepen your interest in their life and your love for them.
  3. Take the initiative to ask if you could spend time together doing something that interests them. Do they like a certain sports team? Enjoy concerts? Want to see the latest movie? Have a favourite restaurant?
  4. Ask great questions and listen! Share about your own relationship with Jesus.
  5. Repeat.
  6. Pray that God would develop a mutual friendship. Ask God to give you discernment to know how to help them become curious in Jesus and to give you courage to share boldly about your relationship with Jesus.

About the Author

Hobbe Smit

Hobbe Smit is an occasional writer for Power to Change and is on staff with them at McMaster University (since 2010), where he is also a part-time student. He enjoys spending time in Hamilton, Ontario with his wife Heather and their daughter. He also enjoys board games, reading, and computer games.

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