A brief overview:
Desperate to find teenagers to come to our youth event while in Seattle, I convinced a very reluctant 14 year old to ride with me to “Youth Explosion ’94.” What I didn’t realize at the time was that this new friend of mine was an immigrant from East Africa who was also a Muslim. Remarkably, he continued coming to youth group over the next several years even while he continued going to the mosque on Fridays. He ended up bringing more friends to our church than any other teenager in our group. Even though he never crossed the line of faith to follow Jesus while I was there, some of his friends did.
I had to ask him why he continued to come and invite his friends over all these years. He mentioned, he knew his friends would be cared for because he had been. He went on to explain that most people don’t befriend immigrants with dark skin, especially those who are Muslim. When I asked, why he came that first night. With a smile across his face, he responded: “I thought you were kidnapping me.”
I wouldn’t recommend kidnapping a Muslim, but I would recommend befriending one.
Rather than debate, we should serve, love, listen, and share. Proximity leads to influence.
After sharing that story along with a few other comments about how we should love people with whom we disagree – including Muslims (during my book tour I was surprised how many people felt we shouldn’t love Muslims since we are at war with them and they are out to get us), I was shocked to discover a group of Muslims were in our gathering that day! After meeting them, I couldn’t help but think through everything I had shared in my talk hoping I hadn’t said anything more ridiculous than usual.
The Muslim guests were a very kind couple along with their youngest daughter. They had come at the special request of their oldest daughter who had chosen to follow Christ in our community last year. (I told her story in my book as well). Since it was her birthday, this was her special birthday request. I was so relieved to hear they enjoyed their experience.
I wonder what their experience would have been like in most churches across the U.S.? I am so grateful to be a part of a community which welcomes anyone – no matter where they may be in their spiritual journey.
Please pray for my friend whose parents and sister came to church. She is requesting asylum since she is now a follower of Christ and is supposed to return to her country and reapply for a new visa. I had the privilege of praying with her and her family for a miracle as she meets with immigration officials. I can only imagine how powerful it would be for them if God answers our prayers and moves our government to let her stay!
(In Jan. 2010, Maryam was granted religious asylum and has been able to stay in the USA).