KOH2RVA: Day 87

come inRemember Jeremy and Monica, the church planters who invited their Muslim neighbors over for dinner?  Well, they’re at it again.  Take a look at this letter I got from Jeremy yesterday:

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Meet Sasha:

This past month we connected with a young VCU student who, for the sake of confidentiality, we will call “Sasha.” Sasha is from a Catholic and Eastern Orthodox background. I would describe her as having a “casual respect for God, Jesus and the Bible,” but as having no understanding of who Christ is, or the message of the Bible! She connected with Monica at the VCU Gym and then we had her over for an evening, which turned into an 8-hour conversation!

We ate dinner, and Sasha immediately began asking us about what we believe as “followers of Jesus.” The conversation was an excellent opportunity for us to start to plant seeds about what it means to live by faith and to have a genuine relationship with Christ. After dinner, I went to a meeting and when I came back a few hours later, Sasha was STILL THERE with Monica and she had opened up about so many difficulties in her life and then she opened up to both of us asking for advice concerning her difficulties. So we shared some biblical counsel with her, and then the conversation went back to what it means to be a true follower of Jesus (and, surprisingly enough, SHE is the one who brought the conversation back to that issue too!).

We see her a few times a week at the campus (just interacted with her again last night!). Please be praying for Sasha as she has heard the gospel and is rethinking her own stance towards Christ. Please pray that she will come to a conviction concerning her need to submit and surrender her life to Christ, pray that we will have wisdom, discernment, humility and boldness in our interactions with her!

God is moving, it is SOOOO exciting! The doors are opening! Pray for MORE doors for the gospel to open up, and pray for those who are hearing the gospel, that they may put their faith in Him and that His love may SHINE into their lives!

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One of the things I love about Jeremy and Monica’s approach is the way they offer hospitality to strangers.  When they open the door of their home, they literally open doors of communication and understanding.  And I don’t get the feeling they’re being disingenuous about it—they’re not pretending to be nice in order to convert people to Christianity.  They genuinely love people, all kinds of people, even (or perhaps especially) people who don’t know Jesus.

I think we need to talk about this more on our year-long, every-member mission trip.  How can we practice the kind of radical hospitality that welcomes people into our homes, into our churches, and into our lives?  How can we share with them the hope that is in us, not simply so we can carve another notch on the spines of our Bibles, but because these are people God loves, and because he calls us to love them, too?

 

KOH2RVA: Day 84

hummusYesterday I wrote about Jeremy and Monica, and how they invited some Muslim acquaintances over for a meal. I promised to provide some tips today about how you could invite your Muslim neighbors over.

That may have been premature.

I wrote to some of my interfaith friends yesterday and asked if they could help me come up with a list of suggestions. One of them put me on to an organization called Peace Catalyst International, that promotes “Love Your Neighbor Dinners” between churches and mosques, but it didn’t say anything about what you might serve for dinner. Another friend promised to send me something by the end of the day, but it’s 7:30 on Saturday morning and I still don’t see anything in my inbox. It’s possible that he has more important things to do than contribute to my blog.

So, let me see what I can do on my own.

First of all, you might remember that both Christians and Muslims are “children of Abraham.” Christians trace their religious ancestry back to Abraham through Isaac, while Muslims trace theirs through Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar. Abraham was famous for his hospitality. When three strangers showed up in front of his tent one day, unannounced, he hurriedly prepared a meal for them (Gen. 18).

One of them turned out to be God.

Hinting at that event the writer of Hebrews says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2). And so, when that nice Muslim family moves in across the street get up (as Abraham did), go across the street, knock on the door, and invite them to dinner.

What should you serve? Well, faithful Muslims follow some fairly strict dietary guidelines. They don’t eat pork. They don’t drink alcohol. And so you wouldn’t want to invite your new neighbors over for beer and barbecue. But you could do this: you could get take-out from a nearby Middle Eastern restaurant. Just ask if the food is “halal”—the Muslim equivalent of “kosher.” Or you could make a vegetarian meal. My friend Ammar Amonnette, Imam at the Virginia Islamic Center, says “Fruits and vegetables of any kind are an easy way to offer hospitality.” Whatever you do, don’t let the risk of serving the wrong thing keep you from inviting your neighbors over. Just tell them, “I’m kind of new at this,” and ask for their help.  Soon they will be more than neighbors; they will be friends.

And heaven will have come a little closer to earth.

KOH2RVA: Day 83

hands-with-plantBack in September I had coffee with Jeremy and Monica, church planters who are working here in Richmond. They had visited First Baptist several times and appreciated our emphasis on reaching the city with the love of Christ. That’s what they’re trying to do, too. They are a delightful young couple who don’t look at all like you might expect “church planters” to look. It’s just one of the things I appreciate about them.

When we had coffee I asked them if they would be willing to partner with us on our year-long, every-member mission trip. I said, “We’re trying to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, and it sounds like you are, too. We can’t offer you money, but we can pray for you and encourage you.” They said that would be perfect, and when I left that meeting I had this wonderful feeling that in addition to all our members who were out there bringing heaven to earth we had Jeremy and Monica, too.

Here’s the latest update from them:

Some of you may have heard from us about an Egyptian Muslim family we came across last month. We were waiting to meet a friend at a festival, and this lady and her two sons sat next to us as a table. They started asking us about what we thought about Jesus, the Bible, the Koran, Mormons, Islam, culture, Egypt, American and global politics. This conversation went on for about an hour then they gave us their contact info and we invited them over for a meal.

Now, they were previously complaining that Americans never “hang out” for more than an hour, so we had them over for 4 hours and just enjoyed a wonderful meal while talking about many of the same issues at more length. Finally, the mother shared her frustration with “American Christians,” so we decided it was time to share the gospel with her and help her remove her focus from “American Christians” to the person of Jesus Christ. We unpacked many elements of what it means to be forgiven by the Lord through the work of Christ, we talked about the Trinity (as they had been asking about that!), and we talked about eternal life based on grace (not based on works).

At the end of the conversation one of the sons said, “In Egypt, we could never have these conversations without everyone getting angry and screaming at each other.” And they went on to say that they were very appreciative of being able to have those conversations here in our home with freedom, grace and charity. No one was yelling, no one was being rude, we were all just taking turns sharing and asking questions and LISTENING!

Please pray for Jeremy and Monica as they continue to build their friendship with this family, and consider their example of inviting your Muslim neighbors over for a meal, not so much to look for ways to convert them, but simply because this is what Jesus tells us to do—to love our neighbors. I believe that in the context of true friendship you will have plenty of opportunities to share your faith as well as to ask questions and listen, just as Jeremy and Monica did.

Interested? Look for tomorrow’s post: “How to have your Muslim neighbors over for dinner.”