Monthly Archives: February 2017

“I thought we were all going to die!”

This week’s Muslim Connect comes from Catania, Sicily where I’m spending the week learning more about the refugee crisis, meeting fascinating people from all over the world and dreaming with some church friends from America about working here.

I want to share the super-abbreviated, but still gut-wrenching story one of our new Muslim friends told about his journey to Catania:

“I left Libya in a very small boat. The traffickers had packed 150 people onto it. After two days at sea, we were getting weak from our time in the boat when a nasty storm came up. During the long, stormy night, we lost more than half of our fellow passengers. We all thought we were going to die and everyone called out to God, asking him to save us.”

“When the storm finally calmed, we were shaken, pretty badly broken. We rationed our food and water, but they ran out. We remained at sea for two more days with nothing to eat or drink. We were adrift and people were dying all around me. When the Italian coast guard finally rescued us, only fifteen people remained alive in my boat.”

Can you even begin to comprehend what it must be like to witness 90% of the people who start a journey with you die before your eyes? I can’t, but I want to look Ibrahim and Sai-eed, Konay and Lamin in the eye and say, “You matter. You are not forgotten. You are a delight. God saved you. He loves you. He has great dreams for your life.”

 

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Five Surefire Ways to Start a Conversation with a Muslim

My wife’s amazing with big projects. She dives in, does the next thing and bit by bit gets it done. Jesus was like that with people: Chat with the next Samaritan, engage the next outsider, raise the next dead guy to life! We have a problem with Muslims and part of the solution is to meet some. You and me, chatting with the next Muslim, then more of us with the next few. It won’t solve the whole problem, but it counts. You might want to do this, but just don’t know how to break the ice. 

Whether you see Muslims at work, Walmart or waiting for kids at soccer practice, here’s how you can start a conversation with a Muslim.

  1. Smile, “Hi,” go from there. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. A kind, curious face precedes these next four. 
  2. If she has a name tag on, kindly ask, “How do you say your name?” Follow that with, where’s that name from? How long have you been here? Can you tell me what your name means?
  3. Leverage the context: If you’re in a grocery, comment on what you both are looking at. At soccer, commiserate over the weather, the officiating, kids these days!
  4. Hear “not-English” being spoken? Ask, “What language was that?” Can you teach me a word?”
  5. If all else fails, quietly ask, “Where are you from?” If you’re both guys, the old standby, “So, what do you do?” is good for starters.

Practice this. You will get better. It will feel awkward, but it gets easier. Remember, it will likely be odd for the Muslim you want to talk to. This doesn’t happen often. They may understandably be a little nervous. But Jesus loves it!

Please share this with your buds who might also like to try.

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I Bet My Friend Can Beat Up Your Fact

It had been a long weekend of speaking and I was wiped. So when the guy caught me in the aisle on Sunday evening to say, “I’m praying for you guys,” I was genuinely grateful. But he went on to say, “I’m praying for you because what you’re doing is really dangerous, you know, because the Muslims want to take over the world, destroy America and kill all the Christians. And even when they’re nice, it’s because they’re allowed to deceive infidels, so that’s what they’re doing. . .”

He talked so long my half-righteous anger swelled and then had time to subside. When he drew a breath, I was ready, “This stuff you’ve been telling me, do you find it to be true of your Muslim friends?”

“I, uh, don’t have any Muslim friends.” I would have bet the rent. 

A single friend neither proves nor disproves a statistic, a trend, or a political narrative. But it does provide a living, breathing data point. It puts a face on facts, both real and presumed. 

If you don’t have a Muslim friend, now’s the time to get one. Jon Huckins, in Relevant Magazine says making Muslim friends will, among other things, help cure our fear, expand our worldview, and build relational understanding. I might add, there may also be baklava! 

Next week I’ll give you five sure fire ways to start a conversation with a Muslim. Want to jump in right away? Here’s the one I used this morning, “How old’s your baby?” Killer, eh? You never would have thought of that, would you? Of course you would! You ask it all the time, just maybe not of Muslims. It works. She’s 18 months old. They’re from the Congo. Possibly the first people I’ve ever spoken to from the Congo. 

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What’s Wrong with the Muslims?

OK, first off, I apologize for the misleading headline. I’m not going to list what’s wrong with Muslims. You can find a bucketload of sites that will do that! Rather, I want to suggest it just doesn’t suit to say, “the Muslims.” I’m guilty, but this over-generalization hobbles our effort to understand, engage and love Muslims. 

Check me if I’m wrong on this, but there’s not a single thing we can truthfully say about Muslims that is not also untrue about some of them. Muslims tend to place a high value on global community and unity, but they are no monolith. We find almost as much diversity within the 1.5 billon people called “Muslim” as we would within a random collection of that many people. 

For instance: 

  • Muslims come in all colors, cultures and ethnicities. 
  • Most Muslims don’t speak Arabic.
  • India and Indonesia are the two most populous Muslim nations. 
  • Most Muslims know other Muslims who don’t do it right in their eyes. 

Muslims are every bit as diverse as are Christians, more so since culture and ethnicity play a greater role for many Muslims than they do for most Christians. We have progressives and fundamentals, liberals and conservatives, orthodox and heretics. . . and denominations out the wazoo! Muslims do too! You know Christians you wish would never come out in public. So do Muslims. 

Will you join me in thinking about Muslims in a more sophisticated way? I’m not saying get a PhD in Islamics or punch anyone who overgeneralizes. But as thoughtful followers of Jesus, let’s be mindful of at least some of the beautiful (and not so beautiful) diversity within “the Muslims!”

If this caused you to smile or say, “hmmmm,” please forward it to a friend, pastor or your Facebook buds. Thanks. 

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