By a worker in a secure location — In the primarily Muslim area where we live, the activities of Ramadan were in full swing. During Ramadan, which celebrates the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad, Muslims fast from food and water from sunrise to sunset — and then they eat the iftar meal (Arabic for “break fast”). Some people eat with family at home, but many gather together at the mosque. This is where our story begins.

Our friend invited us to a local mosque to learn about and experience iftar. When our group of four — two men and two women — arrived, we waited outside for the sun to set at 9:15 p.m. When we finally went in, my wife and her friend stopped at the section where the women would eat.

As the other gentleman and I entered the room where the men would eat, we looked for a place out of the way. Before we could choose a seat, someone began motioning to us from the front of the room. It was the imam — the teacher/leader of the mosque! What could I do? We sat down near him at the front of the mosque.

The imam began asking me basic questions in the language we’re learning. When he asked, “Are you Muslim?” I politely replied as clearly as I could, “No, I’m a follower of Jesus.” Little did I know, that was like pulling the safety bar down and locking it over my lap for a wild theme park ride.

The imam began speaking rapidly about many spiritual things, using metaphors and language that was well beyond my vocabulary. It was difficult to understand, but I believe the Holy Spirit helped me hear and comprehend a great deal. The imam would occasionally pause to see if I was following along with his teaching, at which point I would carefully respond with, “I understand,” so as not to unknowingly agree to a belief I did not hold.

A few minutes passed and I looked up to see a crowd of people had gathered around us. They were watching and listening intently to see what would happen. Now I was really stressed. The teacher finally reached the ending point in his presentation, in which he stated something that took me by surprise. He leaned forward with his palms facing up and said, “I love you.”

In that moment, I felt my own heart swell for him, and I responded, “Thank you. I love you, too.” I lacked further language to tell him how much I actually love him and how much Jesus loves him, but my hope is that this conversation was the beginning of many.

My wife, who was in the crowd that had gathered to watch, later said, “That was a big honor for you to be asked to come sit with the imam. It reminds me of what Jesus said about going to a banquet and sitting lower so you can be called up higher.”

Our hope and motivation for learning the language of the people here (a truly humbling task) is that we may have conversations like this on a deeper, more personal level. Our hope is that people will hear the Good News and receive it with humility. Our hope is that our new friends will come to a better understanding of their relationship to God and their need for Jesus. Our hope is that they will accept the invitation to sit at the table in God’s kingdom.

 

Read on …

Banner photo by Miansari66 [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons