It’s been almost two weeks since I left my comfort zone to travel to a Muslim country. And I suppose, some would say this country is one of the ‘least of these’ in that it is still trying to creep into the post industrial age while trying to creep away from the Arab spring.
And before you say “You’re crazy or you’ll get killed or kidnapped”, the short of it is this, I was called to go. I admit, it was not easy to go and as the time drew nearer to getting on that plane, my feet grew cold and my heart quaked. Was this something I was supposed to do? Some Americans would go so far as to say, “why bother”? “You can’t reach ‘those people’! You know… ‘those people’…they have fanatical ideas and you can’t trust them anyway”.
Why WOULD someone go?
Could this journey be a misguided, self-centered scheme to fulfill a yearning for significance, I mused? Believe me; I debated it over and over and over again.
But the bottom line was and is… God has drawn me to this people, not to adventure, not to notoriety, but to a people who live in darkness and have a need to hear the truth. They are poor, hopeless, wandering, mostly directionless, and live in a culture that mixes religious beliefs with traditions and culture to the nth degree. That being said, they are outgoing, gregarious, effervescently hospitable people, who yearn for friendship and relationship with outsiders. They are open to sharing their homes, their dreams, their culture and their inner struggles with us. They search for hope and God is drawing them to Himself through unworthy vessels like me.
Take Ishmael for example, he is a wealthy businessman, open minded, already on a spiritual expedition for truth and in that search is readily willing to share what he has to help others. Five minutes next to him, side-by-side because there were ‘no other seats available’, we were dialoging on spiritual topics that some Americans do not want to explore and would run away screaming into the night. And let me just say, these same Americans have no need for God, do not want Him involved in their daily lives and are closed off to Him. Untrue of Ishmael, He listened intently to my story of how I became a Christ Follower and the biblical world view. He was outside his “cultural norm” and yet, he was willing and eager to hear what I had to say.
The Qur’an does speak about Jesus and the Book of Jesus which is the New Testament, called the Injeel. Further, Muslims believe that the Injeel was sent from God as stated, Qur’an 3: 2-4. In those brief moments, Ishmael and I formed an instantaneous and deep connection. I can honestly say, we are bonded for life. I will never forget him and will never cease to pray for him and his family. He touched me deeply and it is true, I will never be the same.
Ishmael is like so many others, he is a man of peace. God has prepared him to listen and with Gods intervention, he will eventually accept the truth. I am confident of that. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, or next month, or next year, but it will happen because the God who made the stars and the moon has a man named Ishmael on His holy radar and He wants to bless him with the gift of Himself.
Then, there is Massoud. He is a young man preparing for college. Raised in a remote area, now living in the city – such as it is. He has become a close friend to my family who lives here. Massoud looks out for their safety, helps with their language studies, and asks questions, questions and more questions. He listens as my son-in-law, patiently, but with the gleam of anticipation in his eyes, tells him about God and how he can know the God of Abraham in a much deeper and more personal way.
Massoud drops by almost every day. He is what Matthew 5: 3 calls “humble in spirit”. He feels God drawing him, so he comes just “to teach me Arabic”. He listens as I speak of the Father, of Christ and why I became a Christ follower. He has heard a bit of Isa al Masih from the Qur’an. For the Qur’an tells all good Muslims that they should read and believe the Injeel, Qur’an 2: 136 and Qur’an 57:27.
What is my hope for Massoud? My hope and prayer is that as Matthew 5: 3 says, the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of grace will be his. You must pray for Massoud too. For I know that you greatly desire this for him as well and for his people.
You may ask what about the trade school, the orphan boys and of the power tools that you carried about for hours in the Dubai airport? Thus far, I have been prevented from visiting the boys in the trade school. This was my mission and the purpose of my journey or so I thought. But God showed up and revealed, other plans, His perfect and holy plan. As Scripture says: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him. God has revealed those things to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches everything, especially the deep things of God” 1 Corinthians 2:9-10). Although I hope that I will be one who will see their faces when they receive this gift sent from loving people from America and not so far away.
Everyday Massoud and I work together on projects at the house. And every day, Massoud asks, “What will the old man teach me today?”
So, side-by-side, in relationship we work. It does not matter if the project is carpentry or plumbing or gardening, he shares his life and language with me and each day he hears something new from the Injeel. And each day he is a little bit closer, albeit an itsy bitsy, teeny tiny bit closer but closer still.
Will he embrace the gospel tomorrow, or next month, or next year, most likely not. But it will happen because God draws people like Massoud and when Christ Followers are willing to go and demonstrate God’s love, compassion and concern for their souls, lives are changed. Christ Followers can become friends to Muslims, Qur’an 5: 82. We go not for self, but to bring glory to God, pointing others Him and spiritual wholeness and perchance, to build bridges so that we will both say, “God! There is no God but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal. It is He who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and he sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus)” (Qur’an 3:2-3).
Allah a yebarreck feek alf (A thousand blessings to you)