Monday, June 19, 2006

489: The Lunch Club

I love how God has a way of introducing options in a way that can only be described as providential and soverign. It all started as I was walking on campus two weeks ago, and saw I a sign advertising a Muslim club. Seeing that sign was the spiritual equivalent of watching Santana Moss break out into the open. I wrote down the numbers on the sign and made plans to call them. I never got the chance, though, as I later found the building in which they hold activities, a discovery that would seem an "accident" if it weren't for God's guidance. That same day of discovering the then empty clubhouse was the same day that I encountered the Mahayana Buddhists, who had a place next door.

Yesterday, however, I knew that I needed to actually meet these guys so I headed back to their building. I walked up to the door and sort of poked my head inside. I looked straight ahead and saw nobody, panned my gaze to the left around the room in a counter clockwise motion, and finally stopped two feet from where I was standing where a short female student wearing her school uniform and a white head scarf, concealing everything from the neck up that was not her face. I was slightly startled, but asked her if this was the Muslim club. She excitedly asked me if I was Muslim, to which I said no, and something to the effect of that I wanted to visit. She invited me in to the room and went back to work cooking lunch.

Several more people came that day, including women with and without head scarves (but most with) and a few guys. The meal was served, which was delicious, and some conversation was had as well. I told them that I was a Christian and enjoyed talking with people from other religions about what made our religions similar and different. After the meal, it was time for noon time prayer. Carpets were arranged in the form of a pyramid facing Mecca. One of the older male students sat on the lone carpet at the tip, two followed him in the middle, and three women sat in the back (as is common throughout the Muslim). The women, most of whom were already dressed with supermodesty (floor length black skirts and head scarves), donned an extra layer of clothing, a loose skirt and large loose shawl. When wearing these, all that could be seen was their face and perhaps their hands. Essentially, they had donned berkahs. Having already washed their face, hands, and feet, they began their prayer, assuming different postures, from prostrate on the floor to bent over at the waste horizontal to the floor. The leader's softly murmed chant of Allah ackbar drifted from his lips and hovered in the air, absolutely and thouroughly haunting.

I came to the decision that I would, and must, return. That night, after my supervisor pointed out the biblical example of going to the devout first (Paul in the Synagogues, Paul at Mars Hill), I decided to adopt what I dubbed Pauline Religious Group evangelism: keep going back until they kick you out. So as not to be a total leech (seeing as I would score a free meal out of ministring to them at lunch time), I decided to bring some fruit and headed back today, same time, same place. I worked hard this time at getting people to write down their names so I could learn pronounciations, (and for that matter) remember them. Today I had a chance to meet another man, a man who is not a student, but enjoys fellowshipping with them. I had a chance to talk with him and ask him questions about Islam, such as, "When you pray to God, what do you say to him?" We talked about similarities between Islam and Christianity, a fact that he was first to acknowledge. We also briefly talked about some differences between them, about Thai and American religious culture. During the words, a connection began to grow, and he extended to me an invitation that I was planning to use, but overjoyed to know that it was their response: "You can come back anytime you like."

I had done a lot of prayer and Scripture reading before I went, praying that like Esther, I would have favor in their sight, reading in the Servant passages of Isaiah that "The coastlands will put their hope in Me, and they will look to My strength." (51:5b). I have about 5-6 more lunch times I can spend with the Muslims, perfect time to let relationships build and God willing - the gospel to go forth.


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