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Posts Tagged ‘Christian mission’

My first real encounter with a person from the Middle East was when we lived in Hannover, West Germany, in the 70s.  His name was Mustafa. I don’t remember what country he was from. We were a little afraid of him—I’m ashamed to say.

I had gone to the big Holiday Inn Airport hotel in Hannover and registered with them as “clergy” because I had read an article about how people traveling sometimes sought help at hotels. One night the hotel called because they had an employee that was distraught, and they were afraid he might be suicidal.  I drove to the hotel and met Mustafa.  We talked. He wasn’t really suicidal, but he was distraught and pretty isolated in Germany.  We met several times. He came once to our apartment for dinner and even brought Sherrylee a red silk robe from his country—a very nice gift!  But I have to admit that we were only cautiously friends.

lufthansa-boeing-737-hijacked-to-somaliaThe 70s were scary times—maybe more so than today.  We had only lived a few miles from the Olympic Village in Munich when the Israeli athletes were kidnapped and murdered. Airplane hijackings occurred frequently, some ending in grenades being rolled down the aisles of the planes. The Red Army Faction, known to us in Germany more as the Baader-Meinhof Group, were kidnapping people, bombing establishment sites, and assassinating well-known figures.  Wanted posters were everywhere.  I even had the German Bundespolizei call me for an interview once because after driving back from a youth rally, one of the young Germans with us had seen a VW van with lots of anti-government slogans painted all over it, and so he reported it to the police.

Those were scary days in some ways, but our fears of swarthy people were mostly from movies, and only somewhat from reality.  When I think about it, it reminds me of the first time I ever flew into Germany in 1968. At the airport in Munich, German soldiers with rifles stood at the entry to the airport as we deboarded, and my heart leaped into my throat because they appeared to me to look like all the enemy German soldiers I had seen in the WWII films that I had grown up on in the 50s.  It was a silly, but visceral response—and I think that’s where our apprehension about Mustafa came from as well.

Wednesday was our last day to teach English to refugees at the Omonia church in Athens, Greece. The farewell was similar to many we have experienced—a few tears, lots of hugs, and group pictures. Selfies with our students were new– and exchanging IM addresses.

And new was that virtually all of those that we were leaving were Middle Easterners! Most were Muslims from Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Some were Christian background, Persians or Kurds.  All were refugees. Some needed clothes or medicine or diapers for their babies; others needed papers—they had no official nationality because their papers and/or passports were lost, stolen, or destroyed.

I hesitate to tell you what some of them had seen. One young man said that he had been in a store in his city when a man in a truck drove up and started warning people about planes coming to bomb their homes.  While the man was warning the people, a rocket hit his truck and totally disintegrated it and the man.  “Poof” was the word the sixteen-year-old Syrian boy used to describe what he had witnessed.  What would that do to you?

Then there was the family of five from Iraq who came to Sherrylee’s class every day. Even though he was horrified at the destruction of their country by the military actions of the West, and even though he had worked with American forces during our occupation—or maybe because of his cooperation—he and his wife and children had had to flee.there-is-no-fear-in-love

How can people who have seen and experienced such horrible things be saved?

Two are being baptized in the name of Jesus today—it is eight hours later in Athens, so maybe they are already celebrating.  Sherrylee and I are home—glad to be here, but now our Facebook pages have Arabic writing in many of the posts which we have to use Google Translate to read.

John 3:16 may be the most publicized Bible verse in history and the first one that we and many of our children memorized.  I sometimes have the feeling that we are just beginning to learn what it means.

God so loved the world—not just the USA, not the West, but the world. And that’s why He sent us to every nation.

I’m just figuring out that Jesus was a swarthy, Middle Easterner too.

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jesus-teaches-in-the-synagogueThe young man had come home.  Here he was in his own synagogue, surrounded by the people who had seen him grow up.  Of course he was asked to do the Scripture reading from the Torah and to make brief comments afterwards. After all, he was one of them.

Some stories had spread in the small village about amazing things—unbelievable things—that he was supposed to have done. Lots of these kinds of stories circulated in those days. But here he was at home, where he belonged, in the synagogue, looking out for the need of his own! What a good son Joseph had.

The Scripture for this Sabbath was from the prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,   for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,   that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free,  and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.

What a great Scripture! This wonderful Good News is for the poor—that’s us! We are so poor. And we are captives to the Romans who oppress us. The Lord’s favor has not come yet. We know the Messiah will come and give us prosperity and freedom again, but at least this Scripture offers us future hope.

The young Nazarene sat down to deliver his comments. Well, he is still young.  But then he said, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” 

Well, I don’t know what that is supposed to mean! After all, this is Joseph’s son. We’ve known him since his family came back from Egypt years ago.  He is such a nice young man—and here at home, where he belongs, to take care of his own!  A strange message, but he’s one of us, and he will lose that youthful arrogance over time.

Then more pointedly, Jesus said,

But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown. Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 And many in Israel had leprosy in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.

Jesus said, It’s not about you! You don’t want to hear anything but what is about you. It’s not about you; it’s about the Syrians and the Lebanese, it’s about Iranians and Iraqis, North Africans and . . . Others. God sent his spokesmen to foreigners—because the hometown folks are chasing other things. Sure, they long for the Messiah, but they only want the one who will save THEM and who will bless THEM and who will free THEM!

The hometown folks became a mob. They hated hearing that God loved foreigners! And they hated the Messenger, so they tried to kill him.  Eventually they did.

But He still loves foreigners.

 

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