The story below was written by “T. ” She is a member of CFC who has been a part of several short term disciple trips and has developed a heart for the Muslim people.
To linger at the well in modern-day Samaria. To sit down and share a glass of water with Muslims. Is it something you would consider?
A team sent out not only considered it. We went and embraced it. Just as Jesus sat down at the well in Sychar and connected with the Samaritan woman (John 4), a group of us entered into the lives of whom many consider “enemies” and returned unscathed from a notorious town in Michigan. Dearborn – a sort of modern-day Samaria. Home to America’s single-most concentration of more than 32,000 Arab Muslims.
We immersed ourselves in their culture. We went not just to challenge their worldview, but to come alongside Muslim men and women in the midst of their everyday lives. We went not just to teach English but to listen to their stories and learn more about them as individuals created in the image of God. We went not just to impact their lives for the better, but to live out before them the incarnate message of God’s truth. We went to share the love and grace of Christ, in hopes that they might someday call on Jesus as their Savior. We went that they might receive the wellspring of eternal life.
My journey to “Samaria” began three years ago. I was on a plane coming back to the states from Europe and sat next to a Muslim from Iran. Like many Christians, I didn’t really understand Muslims, their culture, or religion. In fact, I was afraid of them and not particularly interested in befriending them. But through prayer, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I overcame these obstacles. An eight hour redemptive conversation with “Ahmed” moved me from fear to compassion. It was a bridging flight over an oceanic divide.
Since my encounter with “Ahmed”, I’ve been exposed to the plight of the Muslim peoples. I’ve talked with missionaries at length who have served in Turkey, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Yemen, India and Iran. I’ve listened to their stories and marvel at their faith. And I’ve sensed with deep conviction a “calling” to join God on mission as he speaks directly to Muslims’ hearts through faithful followers of Christ. I praise God that he has given me his heart to stop throwing up defenses and shielding myself from those I don’t know and find difficult to understand, and start sharing the hope of Christ.
Regretfully, many Christians have responded to Muslims without the compassion that characterized Jesus. Many Christians assume it’s too difficult or nearly impossible to adequately and effectively share the gospel with Muslims. But, we should never underestimate the power of God’s Word.
Because God’s Word is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it can penetrate hardened hearts and minds like a determined dandelion cutting its way through concrete. The gospel can bring Muslims to terms with Christ as the incarnate God. Though diametrically opposed to the Islamic faith, the beauty of God is that he became flesh, walked among us, ate with us, shared life with us, and taught us his ways. A God who came to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10).
Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that she didn’t know what she worshipped. Muslims worship Allah, who according to the Qur’an has no son. Islam denies that Jesus is the Son of God. While “Allah” simply means god semantically, their god is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Christians serve the God of the Bible – the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to this earth as God in the flesh. Jesus is the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Muslims who hear or read of Jesus Christ in the gospels – his forgiveness of sins, his miracles, his teachings, his death, and resurrection – can begin to understand that Christ was much more than a prophet. He is Immanuel – God with us. The evidence of the Scripture’s power and authority is displayed in the lives of willing and obedient followers of Christ. Perhaps Christians have to go to the Muslim countries and communities to unlock the dams that keep out the flowing streams of God’s truth. In order for God’s life-giving water to flow between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, they had to break through the gender, ethical, moral, religious, social and political barriers of their day – the same barriers we must break through today in order for God’s life-giving stream to flow to all Muslims.
During the last two years, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to travel to Dearborn to spend a few days engaging the local Muslim women. I have found them to be endearingly human with similar dreams, hopes, and desires. And every one of them has the same spiritual needs – the need for truth, the need for a Savior, a Redeemer, the only One who can reconcile a sinner to their Maker.
For most Muslims, Allah is the transcendent other, the incomparable, ultimate reality – all-knowing, but unknowable. Allah is like no one and no thing on earth. Islam is a dark religion – one that has deceived millions. While a Muslim’s life is ordered around their prayers, fasting, and submitting to the rules of Islam, a Christian’s life is centered on and around the person and deity of Jesus Christ.
It requires a passionate and radical commitment to Christ to linger at the well and introduce Muslims to the Living Water without manipulation or coercion, but out of a genuine concern for their souls. To effectively minister to a people group who see reality from a radically different perspective, it requires gentle patience and authentic understanding – a response characteristic of Christ and his kingdom.
It was the first day, and I was praying for an opportunity to establish a redemptive relationship with at least one Muslim. I was hoping to connect beyond the surface and shallow greetings. While waiting inside the building for the women to show up for English class, I noticed a drifting sea of black chadors making their way across the street. A beautiful, hidden mystery stood concealed from the rest of the world. “Fatimah” greeted me with a smile that stretched from ear to ear. I remembered her from last year. How could I forget her winning smile and vibrant personality, her painted almond eyes and her insatiable thirst to know the God of Christianity. For the first time, as soon as her feet stepped across the threshold, she tore off her scarf and let down her hair. A small step away from the chains of Islam and toward the freedom of Christ. She reached for the back of my head and we exchanged sweet kisses on the either cheek. The rest of the women filed in and I couldn’t help but offer praise to the most high God, knowing they were receiving a life-saving message, not just an English class to survive life in the states.
As the ladies lined the walls of the classroom, I prayed silently, blinking back a lake of tears. I asked the Holy Spirit to stir these precious hearts. I prayed that they would wrestle with the truth of God’s Word, presented in love. I knew that Jesus’ teachings would challenge virtually every aspect of their lives. And I knew that many would regretfully reject him with vehemence. The beauty is…we have a choice. We may choose to turn away from the Savior of the world or choose to receive him with our hearts. But I found many of these Muslim women attracted to the Jesus presented in the Bible. Many recalled the biblical stories presented in previous classes. They were engaging and asked some provocative questions. I’m sure some of them were finding relief and comfort while others were anxious and unnerved. Jesus, nevertheless, represents the Living Water they thirst for. I pray that nothing else quenches their thirst until they drink up the Water of Life.
Muslims have helped me understand the teachings of Jesus Christ more completely. I’ve been challenged to dive deeper into Scripture, to dust off neglected passages and refine my understanding of the One who came, lived, died, rose, and ascended to the right hand of the Father, interceding on my behalf.
He came to seek and to save what was lost. He is still seeking and pursuing those in desperate need of a Savior. That God would send his only Son to die a hideous death is nearly incomprehensible. Yet blessing comes to each of us who call on the name of Jesus for salvation, as a direct result of his suffering and rejection.
My brief encounter and engagement with the Muslim women of Dearborn during the last two years has been the start of a long journey. My heart is deeply burdened to show these women how they, too, can experience the true love and grace they have never known enslaved to Islam, how they can live a life of joy and freedom as servants, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We left behind a smattering of good seeds. It’s the Lord who does the growing; and I trust that one day we will see the harvest. It may be invisible for a while, but the fruit will come.
There are seasons of drought and flooding, but his salvation is eternal. He is worth it. Muslims must hear it. And we must be willing to share it.
What barriers do you need to overcome to allow the Living Water to gush forth from you in your modern-day Samaria?