Looking up in the court yard is the same today as it was that day. Clothes drying after being hand washed. Children playing, Muslims in various types of traditional modest dress.
Some with colorful and layered wraps and heads barely covered with a scarf, others dressed quite Western with a head covering you would expect in a fashion magazine and still others in the dark black bui bui or burka we see in many pictures depicting Muslims in our Western media.
Some stare, some dare to greet me as they glance around. The night watchman smiles broadly and greets me enthusiastically. But, no angry Somali’s here today.
I enter the children’s little apartment. Their parents are there and I am served a breakfast of Wat. I am told I HAVE to return for lunch after taking the girls shopping for uniforms and shoes. Their parents consist of their birth mother and their new father. A quick bit of the history of this situation. The mother left Christianity and her husband, a former Imam, and returned to Islam during intense persecution and the new “father” I will call Mohamed, married her. My dear friend Imam, since he was a Christian Evangelist was considered a dead man thus freeing her to marry.
These people are now my friends. I know this sounds strange but it is true. They are the legal guardians of Imam’s children and I was asked by my brother Imam to be responsible for their education and he expected me to find a way, in spite of everything, to keep them from Islam and bring them to Christ. My brother Imam passed away from complications from TB over a year ago.
Imam’s request is a situation that is certainly beyond my ability. As I have shared many times, I am not accountable for the results, just accountable to be obedient. Not obedience to Imam, but rather to share my faith. So with all my Western ignorance, lack of training and limited experience, I frequently enter situations that I have zero clue how things are going to go. In fact, most of the time, I don’t even know what to expect.
So I pray, I go through open Muslim doors and I love, laugh and more than anything answer questions and make myself available. Muslims try to explain to me that they are misunderstood. They tell me how they are not terrorist and that they are good people. I listen and explain to them that I am fully aware that the vast majority of Muslims want nothing more out of life than to provide for their families, watch their children grow up and live a healthy, peaceful life.
I am also sure that those I am talking with may be very committed to Islam, but neither they, nor their Imam’s, want anything to do with the radical Islam they see in groups like Al Shabbat or ISIS. Sometimes they tell me that the news we get is lies about Muslims killing Christians. I inform them that I am certain there are lies in all the media, but that since I have had three friends murdered by Muslims, two beaten half to death and myself surrounded and threatened more than once that I am sure they are aware that there are, in fact, murdering terrorist among their people.
That usually brings about a silence and then a change of subject. The next time it comes up I can add my new believer brother Rashan to the list as just surviving a machete attack by his Muslim roommate and almost losing an ear. But today the subject was a bit different.
After shopping, I returned with the girls to the Islamic area . Security in the area is heightened around here. The terrorist Al Shabbat has been cutting off heads and making it public, so things are hot for all people of Ethiopian and Somali decent. Soon we are pulled over by undercover police. They come out of nowhere. At least that is how it seems to a guy holding two sleeping beauties in the back seat. They are just about to yank us out of the car when they see the children with me, a Mzungu, in the back seat. They apologize and say they did not see the children.
We pull into the apartment area. We soon find ourselves showing off pink shoes that light up and eating Tipsy, with pili pili. I am encouraged to scold the girls for not eating enough. Then the men enter. They demand the TV be turned on. They seem agitated. It seems they want to talk about something. It is the French terrorist attack.
Now this is a bit awkward for me on two fronts. First I know little about it beyond that fact that some Muslim men killed a satirical magazine company’s staff in Paris. Second, I don’t get the same news in Africa you guys get. So I kind of have to compare the politically correct Western media, the far right “all Muslims are terrorist” online crowd and then I have my choice of EBC, Ethiopian TV or Al Jazeera. I am always reminded of the lyrics in a song by the Eagles, Don Henley. There are three sides to every story darling, there’s yours, there’s mine and there’s the cold hard truth.
So what is a brother to do here? I don’t pretend to even remember all that I said next but this is what I intended. I am being shown excellent hospitality and I am always welcome. Not only that, but there are people that attend these casual gatherings and say things defending Islam and then they call me privately and want to talk of Jesus. Some of the conversations are quite surprising.
One must understand a man defending Islam in front of his friends with great bravado, is not a man that you can eliminate from being a man intensely seeking to know about Jesus from a sincere and yearning heart. Now these men know I am a Christian Missionary. There was a confrontation months ago where I had to get very blunt about the girls going to the Christian school of my choice or I would not be paying. I am there with a Christian from an Islamic nation, so everyone there knows I am actively working with people coming from Islam and coming to Jesus. But they don’t want to go discuss it openly.
It’s kind of a, don’t ask, don’t tell thing. If they don’t ask they don’t have to answer as to how they tolerate me. Because of my being perceived as “living” with Imam and the girls, (I only visited frequently and stayed overnight), I get a pass on many things. Due to my friendship with Imam and his children and my current involvement in their lives, they call me Babu, grandfather, I am in many ways a family member. Back to the story.
The men get a bit animated. They tell me of their love for Mohamed and that these people at this magazine have slandered and blasphemed Mohamed and they ask me what people expect to happen? As you might imagine this is not a conversation I have planned for.
He continues, we are commanded to protect the name of Allah and his Prophet. I share that I can try to shed some light on the secular West if they like, but since I am not part of the secular West I might not be giving them the total picture as a secular person from the West might give. They sit in silence. You see I am a Christian that follows Jesus, not a Western Christian.
That means to me, I insult no one intentionally as all men are created in the image of God. I also cannot relate to Muslims, killing someone for speaking against me or Allah or Yahweh, as Jesus, my Master had taught me to love even my enemies. He says God will protect His own name and for you and me to have nothing to do with vengeance. But if they want I will try to explain it a little. They nod.
I ramble on about the value that Westerners place on freedom of religion and freedom of speech. I explain how in the West, they strive to allow people that they disagree with, strongly, to be able to speak their mind. I share how this is how Islam, Christianity, Hindi and other faiths as well as over 30000 Christian denominations can live in the same land and function together while still engaging in an ongoing dialogue about their faiths.
You could hear a pin drop. I continued. I don’t want to put words in your mouths, but I am well aware that these values are not important to a person following Islam. Free speech, freedom of religion are allowed in many ways and at some times in some places. But we all know that when Islam holds sway over an entire people, like a nation, free speech and other religions are not going to be tolerated.
But to the West this is a, near sacred right, to criticize and even denigrate another person’s opinion or even their faith. They believe every individual has the right to express themselves openly in almost any manner as long as it does not infringe on another’s rights. Or at least that is the theory.
Please understand, they denigrate Christianity all the time. Just this past month they have attacked our bible, our Messiah and our church publicly and often. Many believe that open persecution is on the way for Christians in America. America is NOT a Christian nation.
It is a secular humanist society with a growing distaste for Western Christianity. They have begun to limit Christians practicing our faith in public, even arresting men for sharing their faith in public. Something we are commanded to do. But for true Christians we turn the other cheek, we pray for those who persecute us and bless those who curse us. In fact, I and all my fellowships have already forgiven the Muslims that killed our sister over two years ago and we are now praying for the very publishers in America that are denigrating God’s Word. Now, not all Christians follow Christ teachings but our people do.
There was a long pause. Everyone starred at the news. I stood and said I was going to be late for an appointment. I should go. I kissed the children and warmly wished all the men well and thanked the women for cooking. The most outspoken among them followed me out and I hugged him.
He asked me if we could meet privately this week soon. I told him I would be glad to. Now personally, I think he wants to borrow money. But you never know. Pray for me as I walk among these people. We are sent as sheep TO the wolves. We go in peace with the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Again, I feel woefully ill equipped. However, I go in peace with the Love of Jesus and the willingness to confront the evils of Islam while using the wonderful opportunities that the Quran presents us in presenting Jesus in a wonderful light.
It calls him the word of God, and tells of His miracles and His resurrection. It is so favorable towards Jesus, Isa, that it has caused many Muslims to seek Christians for questions about this wonderful Isa. The Holy Spirit is at work. Mohamed is dead and admitted that he had no idea of his fate. Jesus rose again and sits and is in heaven with the Father. Muslims want to know more. I am happy to tell them about our King. Please pray for me.