|My friend, Ryan Pennington runs a very cool organization in Amarillo, Texas, called the Refugee Learning Project. They serve refugees by helping them learn English. They offer 1-on-1 training and mentorship for refugee leaders and foster relationships between refugee families and local residents.
Ryan recently shared the steps that led to a pivotal training event at a local elementary school and some of the good results. I was encouraged by this and think you will be too:
Let’s recap the relational progression that led to yesterday’s Somali culture training at Mesa Verde Elementary School.
1. I walk into a mosque and meet Dr. Salad (suh LAHD).
2. I begin to meet weekly with Dr. Salad over the course of two years, learning the Somali language and culture and becoming deep friends in the process.
3. Dr. Salad introduces me to many others in the Somali community. I’m able to listen to their felt needs.
4. After listening, we offer conversation and literacy classes geared toward Somali people.
5. Becky, a retired school teacher, attends our program and becomes a literacy mentor for a Somali woman whose kids attend Mesa Verde Elementary School.
6. Becky’s heart changes and she becomes a liaison to local schools so they can learn what she’s learned through her friendship.
7. Mesa Verde invites us to offer a culture training to their staff. Becky & Dr. Salad share their knowledge with the staff.
8. Several staff ask to get involved as mentors with Refugee Language Projectso they can help their students’ mothers learn to read and write. And now other schools have asked us to come train them!
Ryan summarizes, “Wow. Do you see what relationships can accomplish? Two key relationships opened the door to systemic change in our city.” I say if this can happen in Amarillo, it could probably happen in my town and yours!
St. Augustine allegedly said, “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”
Whether or not Augustine actually penned these words, they pack a heavy punch. I’ve been wondering about hope, anger and courage relative to Muslims.
I hope to see hundreds of millions of Muslims dancing in freedom and Jesus-ordained life before their creator. On the way to that, I hope that we have hundreds of thousands of grace-infused conversations. I hope God works in such a wonderful way that Muslims are no longer the enemy, either personally or of the state.
I’m angry that so many Muslims are oppressed by the enemy of our souls, by evil governments, and by other Muslims who believe differently than they do. I’m angry every time a Muslim perpetrates evil using Islam as a covering for his political ambition or in an honest, but misguided attempt to please God. I’m angry for every Muslim in my country who is falsely judged.
And, “Courage,” I pray, “Father, please more courage.” Courage to step up awkwardly and say hello. Courage to stand up when mis-information and fear is spread on Facebook or around the dinner table. Courage to live among Muslims in a city where in a week of looking hard, I might not find one who’s ever known a friend who followed Jesus.
Of course the challenge is to hope for the things of God, isn’t it? To be angry and courageous in ways that please and honor him. What’s your hope? What makes you angry? What courage do you need? May grace abound in and through you today.
I’m feeling Thanksgivingly these days. Living in southern Colorado in 2019 and typing on an Apple computer give me a pretty high baseline for gratitude!
When we think of Muslims, thankfulness might not be the first thing to come to mind. Much is said and some things are actually happening which generate concern. Not to challenge any particular bit of that, but maybe to very slightly balance the equation, here are three things for which we can be grateful to Muslims.
- Optical Advances: Back when smart people were still puzzling out if our eyes see by generating light or receiving it, a failed dam builder and civic administrator named Al-Haytham penned a seven volume treatise on optics. He also popularized an early form of camera and the scientific method. As I look at my MacBook through prescription glasses, I’m grateful for his contribution to the understanding of sight.
- Algebraic Achievements: Apparently who should bear the title, “Father of Algebra” is disputed. What is clear is that both the word and much of our fundamental understanding of algebra traces to Muslim scholar, Al-Khwarizmi. You may find being thankful for algebra a challenging task and I would not disagree. But I’m grateful for the algebraic underpinnings of every bridge you and I will cross today as well as Al-Khwarizmi’s contributions to algorithmic thinking that help get this email to you.
- Coffee Culture: Santriani Bohari says, “No, Muslims didn’t invent coffee itself, the plant has been around for ages. But it was Muslims of Yemen, and then Turkey, who popularized coffee in their societies, and later on, in the Western world.” Thank you, early adopters! She goes on to say, “Muslims used to drink coffee to help them stay awake during long nights of worship,” which roughly parallels the lattes our barista proffers before I preach on Sunday morning!
Thank you, God, for these people you’ve made and the contributions they’ve made to our world.