Monthly Archives: August 2019

Breeding Ground for Scorpions, Rats and Radicals

Please see the special note at the bottom of this week’s blog.

Imagine an idyllic Greek isle. What comes to mind? The picture in your head is probably a dead ringer for Samos Island: White, sandy beaches, towns so quaint you think they’re a Disney set and a sun that seems to kiss your happy face.

Well, at least that’s what Samos looked like until a couple of years ago. Now the population has swollen as asylum seekers continue to flood over the mile-wide straight from western Turkey.

In the spring of 2016, the European Union inked a deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants into Europe. Part of the deal included migrants staying where they land in Greece until their preliminary asylum interview, while another part allocated nearly $2 billion to Greece to care for them. The migrants are stuck on Samos. The money appears to be stuck somewhere else.

The result is a camp designed to hold 700 people now serves as a home of sorts for nearly 4000! Many more live in the woods adjacent to the camp, known locally as The Jungle. Food is scant. Healthcare hard to come by. Basic sanitation virtually non-existent. And the wait interminable.

As you might imagine, this creates a breeding ground for vermin, bugs and resentment. I wonder if it’s not an incubator for radicalism as well. Without justifying violence, it’s not hard to see how such might develop in situations like Samos today.

What can we do?

Throw up our hands in resignation? It’s tempting.

Tell them they should have stayed home? Some should have. Others left when their homes were blown out from under them.

Pray? Certainly a powerful, and in my case underused, response.

Go? I’m wondering about this. I don’t know, but maybe there are prayers to be prayed on site. Kids to be entertained. Pain to be absorbed and hope to be shared. Let me know what you think.

Though they may wonder, God has not forgotten them. Let’s not either.


Once a year I ask the Muslim Connect tribe to help this effort go forward by giving a financial gift. Muslim Connect has always been free and always will be. But this is your chance to say both “Thanks” and “Go get ‘em!” If you like what you’ve read, if you’ve been helped, I’d be grateful if you’d give. When you do, I’ll get you a copy of the brand new, “Ten Things Every Christians Should Know About Muslims” pdf. I’m crazy excited about how it looks and what it says. It’s designed to win hearts for Muslims and would look great on your church bulletin board.

Click here to help this message get farther in the coming year. Thank you.

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I’m In Love With This Idea!

Don’t you love the feeling of discovering something unexpected and good? Growing up in Indiana it was arrowheads in the field behind our house or mushrooms in the woods. On a walk last week here in Southern Colorado, I stumbled upon a beautiful pair of shed mule deer antlers.

I had that same feeling recently reading about a guy in Lancaster, PA who helps refugees host dinners in their homes. Bridge, the brainchild of Mustafa Nuur, himself a refugee from Somalia, is “a social enterprise business dedicated to introducing the cultures and stories of refugees through food and talk.”

Nuur says, “When you hear a refugee’s story, it’s going to be very difficult for you to hate them.” (Tweet this.)

What a brilliant idea! Nuur trains refugees from Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and elsewhere to host dinners for people who’d like to understand those cultures and traditions. He also arranges larger events designed to introduce the community to refugees. For these, he strongly encourages attendees to bring along someone who’s never met an immigrant.

Some of the benefits include:

  1. Refugees make a little money.
  2. The refugee’s culture, life and presence is validated.
  3. Bridges are built between refugees and their new community.
  4. Locals gain insight, appreciation and compassion that is otherwise unobtainable.
  5. Connections are made that can lead to ongoing interaction and benefit.

Could this happen in your community? Maybe somewhere nearby? I would love to see this idea proliferate around the US, Canada and beyond.

Toward that end, can I ask you three things?

  1. Pray for Mustafa and his efforts in Lancaster and other cities.
  2. Let me know if you’re aware of similar, refugee-hosted efforts.
  3. Reach out if you’d like someone to scheme with about launching this in your town. I don’t want to overestimate my practical help, but I will be your biggest cheerleader.

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Two Vital Attitudes

These have been some challenging days for Americans. Maybe even more challenging for you, if you’re from elsewhere. I want to think rightly about the violence in El Paso and Dayton, about the troubling situations in Hong Kong and Kashmir. About threats and woe and fear.

I want to be happy and at peace, but how can I if the bell does indeed toll for us all?

Into this sense of disquiet, my friend Brian’s words dropped recently:

I find that there is a true hunger, a deep longing among many people to relate to others quite different than ourselves. It begins with two vital attitudes:

1. An inquisitive learning posture that says, “I don’t know you, but I want to. I’m here to listen, to ask questions, to find out what makes you tick.”

2. A willingness to take a risk, to be vulnerable, to have an attitude of humility.  (Tweet these.)

I want those “two vital attitudes” in me. I want to find others who want them and encourage and equip them in their efforts.

There’s not much I can do to help protesters in Hong Kong, Christians and Muslims on edge in India, nor grieving families in Texas and Ohio. But I can cultivate those attitudes. I can be a little vulnerable and ask someone different from me what they think, how they’re doing.

This won’t usher in an age of utopia, but it’s what I can do, we can do. And God being who God is, the ripple effect of even a small effort is honestly incalculable. You in?


Thanks for reading this far. If you have a few seconds more, I’d like to ask you a favor. Yesterday, an insightful and influential website, The Denison Forum, published an article I wrote. It would be great if you could give it a little boost simply by clicking through to it. If you comment, I’d be over the moon! The Denison Forum might be a good way to get some of what we all think out to a wider world. 

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God at the Hajj

If you were going to slip away for a few days before school starts, where would you go? The beach? The mountains (I have guest rooms!). Maybe an amusement park? How about joining two million others for the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca called the Hajj? The weather forecast is clear if a little toasty.

This year nearly 8000 teams of helpers will oversee every aspect of the gathering which runs from August 9 to 14. I imagine the Hajj is an economic boon to Saudi Arabia, but the cost of cleaning up after the party might make it a wash.

One of the five pillars of Islam, the Hajj is a requirement for all Muslims who are physically and financially able. It involves a series of rituals and prayers, and for many Muslims is a highlight of their lives.

You know who else will be in Mecca next week, right? God. And this year I’m wondering what God might want to do for Muslims during the Hajj.

Give that a moment’s thought. What does God want for Muslims as they experience this event? Here are some guesses. I say guesses because I don’t want to be cavalier about knowing the mind of God and because God probably wouldn’t aliterate! (Tweet this.)

Safety: Crowd panic and other miscues have caused significant loss of life before. Let’s pray for protection for the pilgrims.

Surrender self-righteousness: One of the great traps of the Hajj is the mixed-up sense of having earned merit with God.

Serious conversations: As people gather from all over the world, I can see God encouraging conversations about justice, who He is and what He wants.

All of these fall under the broader category of “abundant life:” The freedom, hope, joy and peace that Jesus said he came to bring. Join me in praying for that abundant life for Muslim pilgrims in these coming days.

Share your thoughts about what God might want for Muslims on the Hajj in the comments below. 


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