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Breaking chains

A Mission Society MK in the Middle East recounts a story of Muslims and Christians coming together

It was one of those days when getting up was harder than anything. On an early morning in February, my parents and I got ready to visit a church in Village A*. We live in a Muslim area, and this church in Village A is a Protestant Christian church. We simply went with the idea of awakening the church leaders to the neighboring villages – that church members might rise up and go visit their neighbors and see how they might help the people and churches of those communities. Once we got to the church in Village A, we decided to go with the church leaders and visit a nearby village, Village B*, where residents live in poverty.

The local Protestant church in Village B (about the size of a room, built with mud and bricks) was facing extreme persecution, not only from the Muslims in the village, but also from the Coptic Orthodox church that sat next to it. As the leaders of the church in Village B talked to us, they shared about the countless times their church had been burned. “They come around throwing glass bottles at our doors. They want to murder us,” said one of the leaders. Fear was in his eyes and voice. Anxiety dwelled around the church’s gate. Love did not prevail.

As we walked through Village B, we noticed at least a dozen street children following us. In the midst of the stench of the donkeys that lined the streets in this poor community, I began to pray, “God, bring Your kingdom to this place.” The street kids wanted food; I got out the box of snacks we had, only to find it snatched within a split second. Hungry kids, hurting children, thirsty for love more than for water. My heart was breaking.

These children were Muslim. Their family members looked with eyes of curiosity at us. The dozen kids became 30. They gathered around us as we began to tell a story outside the church’s gates. I then began to ask each one their name and their favorite color. Their faces widened with smiles. For once, someone cared.

When it came time for us to enter the Protestant Christian church, the [Muslim] kids could not enter the gate. It was as if a wall of imaginary barbed wire were there, placed in the minds of these needy, thirsty souls by the one who has come to steal, kill, and destroy.

The Christians came in, and the Muslims stayed out. The leaders got together, while the young adults gathered around the Christian children to sing songs and perform a short skit. It was then that a Coptic Orthodox girl (whose mother had allowed her to come only to receive the snack and then to return home immediately) pulled me aside and pointed to the Muslim kids staring widely from the gate. “Why are you being nice to them? Mama says we should hate them because they want to kill us.” It is painful to hear of a parent encouraging a child to hate but it was especially so since these were Christians. I began to speak the only words my mouth could utter, “Jesus said love your enemies.” I began to get sick because of the church’s atmosphere. There were kids outside who were hungry for love, but unable to come in because of a man-made gate. I prayed “God, break the walls.” He said “My child, My love has no bounds. Go and love them.” As I stepped out, they all came to hug me. I hugged them back and we continued our silly conversations. One of the church leaders saw me, came to me and whispered in my ears, “You are being disobedient, now come inside before we get shot.”

Right at this moment, somehow the village mayor heard of our arrival to the city. Perhaps some of the street children’s family members thought we were a threat to the environment and spread the word that we were visiting. As I was standing with the children and the terrified church leader, the mayor himself was coming down the street.

He came near the church. Then he stepped in the church! This Muslim mayor sat down with my parents and the local Christian church leaders. They drank tea, talked of peace and compromise, of love and tolerance. Every ear heard; every eye saw – their own Muslim mayor had stepped in the church!  I could hear the breaking of chains. The chains of fear in the hearts of the church leaders and the chains of oppression and blindness the enemy had placed for years was all gone, dead.

Then the street children came in the church! They sat on the steps, and our young adult team performed a skit about not lying or cheating and loving our enemies. All the children received a snack and juice. The day was memorable. As I was departing, a girl gave me a kiss on the cheek and said, “Love you, Mama.”

It did not stop there. We got news of growth in the church. The leaders are no longer fearful; their own mayor is on their side. God is victorious always and forever!

Three months later, my soul was discouraged. I had had a rough day at school, and my faith was almost running on empty. It was a Wednesday night, however, and that was the night I usually went to church for a prayer meeting. To go to church, I first had to drive to the bus station, then take a bus to the metro station, then ride the subway to the right stop, and then walk to church. The whole process took two hours due to the traffic. I was already exhausted and was seriously considering skipping, but I pushed myself anyway. On the bus I was simply thinking and softly praying, “God, use me for Your glory.” It was a five second prayer.

I got off the bus and got on the subway. I had about eight more stops to go. Time passed, and my feelings of tiredness only grew. On the fourth stop, a woman walked in. I noticed two things about her. Like me, she was not covered (meaning she was not a Muslim). Second, she was crying. I found myself standing up and approaching her, “What’s wrong?” She mumbled, “I have lost some money.” (It was an amount equivalent to $25.) I did not know how to react. This woman was crying her eyes out for losing such a small amount of money. Even in my university, students walk around with much more than that in their wallets. I said, “Can I ask you something? Are you a Christian? Can I pray for you?” She said yes.

Instantly, all the women gathered around us. I got scared. Here were all these Muslim women who have never heard a Christian pray, who must wash their hands, face, and feet before praying. These were women who recite prayers while bowing down, hoping Allah will have mercy on them. They did not know what it was like to call on a God of love who sees us as sons and daughters. They grew in curiously to see what would happen next. My heart beat faster and faster. I was not used to praying in Arabic. (From age 12 to 19 I lived in America, so English is much easier for me than Arabic.) Here were women who only knew the word “hello” in English. I knew I had to pray in Arabic. I placed a hand on this woman’s shoulders and opened my mouth saying, “God, I trust you.” Words of Arabic, Bible verses in Arabic were flowing out of me. I opened my eyes during the prayer to see every woman’s eyes wide open in deep questioning. After saying “amen,” I began to speak with the lady.

She was going to the same church I was heading to. Not only that, but she was from “Village A,” which is the same village my parents and I had visited earlier. She explained to me how she felt God was calling her to be a teacher in the city and gain some experience, then go and be His light in her village. I could not believe myself. This woman had a heart especially for hurting girls, and she was passionate about being His light to her village. Her road was hard, however, as she was fired from her teaching job and had no money whatsoever. We continued our heart- to-heart conversation, exchanged numbers, and prayed together. God was so obviously there, and I was speechless the whole ride back home.

God is powerful. He has no bounds. When we are faithless, He is faithful. If we just acknowledge that He is in control, He will surely come.

*Pseudonyms and stock photo used for security purposes.