Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Calling

When God calls you to do something different than what you have always done, you will know it.  You won't have to wonder what God wants; He will make that perfectly clear.  God is not trying to trick us into doing something we don't want to do.  The Qaran says Allah is the greatest schemer, always getting the best of humans.  This is total nonsense.  God is not in the business of trying to trick anyone.  He wants our love and loyalty.  He respects us and adores us.  We are his children, and one doesn't treat children that way.

When God asked us to begin ministering to Muslims, I thought I was crazy.  I had never met a Muslim, and I didn't know where to look for a Muslim.  I didn't know where there was a Mosque, and frankly, I didn't really care to find one.  All we knew to do was pray and read about Islam.  Two months after we were called to this ministry, a Muslim girl entered our lives.  We were shocked, but we understood that God was working.  That was about two years ago, and we have met over five hundred Muslims.  We have had Muslim students, taught Muslim classes, had young Muslim men live with us, and met Muslims in the Mosques.  I would never have thought this possible for two country people in small town America.  When God gives us a mission, He provides what we need to do what He asks.  It's as simple as that.

God doesn't ask us to give up everything we have to follow him.  He just asks for what we are unwilling to give.  This is just an opinion of mine, but I do have a story to back it up.  Before we went to the Gulf to teach, we were looking at pictures online of the place we were going.  A pic came up that startled both of us.  We saw a woman in Muslim dress with the strangest looking burka we had ever seen.  I told my husband that that was the scariest thing I had ever seen, and that I sure wouldn't want to try to meet her.  God was simply preparing us for what was coming.

When we reached the Gulf, we were given an assignment to try to accomplish while there.  We were to find Bedu people and try to meet them, see if they spoke any English, and possibly tell them about Jesus.  We said that sounded ok but how would we know when we found Bedu.  Our contact took out photos and, (you can probably guess what's coming next) there they were, the women with the bizarre masks that we didn't want to meet, much less tell about Jesus. (What if they kill me?)  As I said before, God wants what we are not willing to give.

We had no idea how or where to meet these strange looking people, but we started praying and looking.  About two weeks later, we met our first Bedu.  He spoke no English, but tried to talk to us.  Through a translater, we learned that he was inviting us to his house.  We ventured out and within a month, we met around five hundred Bedu men and women.  We became friends with one family in particular, and even got to tell them about Jesus.  God is awesome!!!  

You don't have to know how to do what God asks of you.  You just have to be willing to obey.  God is not trying to make your life miserable, he is trying to give you the most wonderful and rewarding life imaginable.  He is trying to give you a little piece of heaven on earth.  Just trust him and go for it!!  I promise you won't be sorry.  It may be scary if you stop to think about what you are doing, so don't worry about it.  That is God's job.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Living on Gulf Time

When I wake up in the middle of the night, an e-mail is usually on its way from the Gulf.  When traveling to the Gulf, you are sure to have your days and nights mixed up.  Night there is day here, and vice-versa.

Life in the Gulf is not based on clock time as much as prayer time.  Rush hour is a half hour before and after evening prayer time.

Life is slower there.  No one gets in too much of a hurry to do anything.  The tasks of praying and eating are definitely more important than working and taking care of business.

Most people go off to work around seven in the morning.  About noon, everything shuts down for afternoon meals and naps.  If you want to buy food, gas, etc. from noon to six-thirty, good luck!  If you visit a home in the afternoon, by two o'clock they will show you a bed or show you the door.

As soon as six oclock evening prayer time is over, things get hopping again.  Shops and coffee shops re-open, evening social circles meet, and many people return to work until about eleven.

There is no such thing as over-staying your welcome in a Bedu home.  The important thing is not to insult your host by leaving before you eat.  Oh, and after you eat, then you visit and eat again.  After that, you drink Shai, eat again, and then near eleven, maybe say goodbye.  If you don't call or see friends for two or three days, they will think something is wrong.

In the Gulf, time spent socializing is considered time well spent.  And I think I would agree that relationships with others is what matters most in the end.  So maybe we should take a cue from our friends, the Muslims, and try taking some time out of our busy lives to nuture our fragile relationships with family, friends, and neighbors.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Past Meets Future

Where in the world can you see people eating goat brains and rice with one hand while holding a mobile in the other hand?

Where in the world do men work as geologists, accountants, and businessmen during the day, and then go home to wives who have twelve or more children, no education, and cover their faces?

Where in the world do people have air-conditioned homes with modern conveniences, but choose to lease them out and live in a palm branch tent in the backyard?

Where in the world can you live in an apartment in the city and have goats as your next-door neighbors?  (They are actually pretty good neighbors, for what that's worth.)

Where in the world do men and women go to jobs in the technology industry wearing clothes right out of the first century?

In the Gulf, that's where.  This place is a socialogist's dream-come-true.  A place where past and present don't just meet, but where they collide and sometimes cause an explosion.

In 1970, our country had ten kilometers of paved roads, two schools, and one hospital.  It was a third world, living in the past, civilization.  In 2011, there are schools in almost every village and town, modern hospitals all across the country, and paved roads between all large towns.  Amazing progress, amazingly fast!  How did this happen?  A new leader and oil exploration, exploitation, and exportation, with profits being put into developing the country.

This super-fast progress is good, but it causes some amazing phonomena.  One of the most important is the opening up of the culture to influences from the western world.  With internet and social networks, the people can now see and talk to westerners and watch their TV shows, movies, and news.  However, the western views they are seeing and hearing are skewed.  You have probablly tuned in to some form of western media lately.  Think about what these people are seeing.  It is the only way they have of knowing what the western world is like.

The time seems perfect for an enlightening of Gulf minds, but to do this, we must go to the people and show them who we really are.  Their culture is changing rapidly, they are more open to change than ever before, and the fields are ripe for harvest.  We just need workers willing to be a part of the great gathering of souls.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Weddings in the Gulf

Bedu weddings are a sight to behold.  I am still overwhelmed that we had the opportunity to experience that.  An air conditioned tent full of women and children, the married women with their brightest dresses and their masks, and the wedding party (unmarried) letting it all hang out.  Loud music, dancing, uncovered heads and body parts and the like.  Food and drink everywhere, and everyone partaking...camel and rice for the main course.  Absolutely nothing religious about it.  Just a huge party and then the poor groom has to come in to get his bride in front of all of these women.  Locked in a honeymoon room for five days with the door opened only to give the couple food, the couple then emerges "married".  Strange customs these Muslim people have. 

The Muslim religion is like the Bedu wedding, an outward show of nothing inside.  In Islam, if you pray, fast, give, pray, do Hagg, pray, help others, pray, etc., etc., etc., then you are ok with God.  What is in a Muslims heart doesn't seem to have anything to do with the well being of their soul.  In Christianity, the opposite seems to be true.  What is on the inside is what counts, you must "believe" in Jesus, "trust" in his grace, "love" God and others.  What you do is unimportant, it's your "faith" that determines your destiny. 

The Holy Book says "faith without works is dead".  We need to strike a bargain with the Muslims.  We'll trade some of our faith in Christ for some of their good works.  How will anyone know you "believe" if you don't do something out of the ordinary? How will they know you "trust" if you never step out and take a chance?  How will they know you "love" if you never do anything to show them?

In the last few days, we have been considering the fact that since we returned from the Gulf, we haven't done anything of value to God.  We want to show friends how to make a difference, but we are not making a difference ourselves.  We began to try to think of non-believers we know that we could show God's love to, decided we might ought to pray about who we should love on, and then realized that one of our friends from the Gulf who lives nearby texted us today practically begging to see us and talk about Jesus.  What were we thinking?  We don't need to pray about who to love, God has made that perfectly clear.  He is just waiting for us to do what he told us to do.  We are so stupid sometimes.

Well, bits of advice if you are ever invited to a Bedu wedding...don't take photos...wear pants under your dress; you'll be sitting on the floor...try the camel; it's good...wear shoes that are easy to pick out of a crowd; there will be hundreds of them at the door of the tent...don't plan to get home early; Bedu love to party...relax; chances are good that you will live to tell about your experience.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hospitality in the Gulf

When we traveled to the Gulf to teach English, we didn't know what else we would be asked to do.  When we arrived there, our contact told us to meet people, get invited to their homes, and go do life with them.  When you are new at this kind of thing, this is no small task.  We are not exactly the social types, if you know what I mean. 

I know in the Qaran, Mohammed told Muslims to take care of the wayfarers, the sons of the road, the foreigners.  I guess they take their book seriously, because just about everyone we met would invite us to their homes.  It was much easier than we thought it would be. 

We were never invited without food being involved, and usually it involved multiple courses such as dates and coffee, juice, fruit, rice and chicken or meat, dessert, chai, and of course Mountain Dew.  The Gulf Arabs are the most hospitable people I have ever met. 

Would any Americans you know do the same for a Muslim visiting here?  Maybe we shouldn't because they might be terrorists or they might try to convert us to Islam.  Or maybe Jesus wouldn't have eaten with lost people like them.  He would have probably told them to go back where they came from and leave him and his country alone.  Don't you think so?

People in the Gulf love to visit with family, friends, and foreigners.  They want to know all about America and our lives here.  This was a great opportunity to be salt and light.  We loved on their children of which they have many, and listened to anything they wanted to talk about, including Islam and the Qaran, thus earning the right to be heard.  If you ask enough questions and really listen to people's answers, they eventually began to trust you, and are willing to ask questions of you and really listen to your answers as well. 

Is this a strange custom found only with Muslims in the Gulf, or are people everywhere the same?  Could we use these sneaky, underhanded methods to witness to our neighbors in America?  If we really became friends with lost people, and really listened to them and cared about them and their families,  would it earn us the right to be heard when we want to tell them about Jesus?

I think it would be worth a try.  People everywhere have many of the same needs.  They all need someone that cares about them and they all need Jesus.  Maybe we should go out and get an invite into someone's home and just do something crazy!  It might mean we could change our communities in a positive way. 

Just remember, like in the Gulf, preaching gets you sent home, but being a friend gets you an invite and lots of rice and goat.  Yum!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Women in the Gulf

Since one of us SB's is a man and one is a women, we managed to learn a lot about both genders in the Gulf.  As a woman, I really didn't think I would get to meet and share with many people.  In the Gulf culture, women do not make eye contact with men in public except to possibly do business.  Sometimes exceptions occur in shops when a woman is shopping and only men work there, or vice versa.  The women didn't invite people to their homes; men did.  Since the men generally spend a large part of their time praying in the Mosque, I assumed that they would be the ones willing to discuss religion and the Qaran.  As things turned out,  I was mistaken.

A Visit to our Friends Home or Bedu Hospitality

We visited our new friends as least once a week and most of the time it was twice.  As we drove up to the house, the expat servant/cook came running out to meet us.  He directed us to the Madulas.  We took off our shoes and as we entered he brought us coffee and dates while we waited for our friends.  On this particular evening,  the women went into the inner house to eat while the men stayed in the Madulas.  While the men were discussing camels, weather, and video games, two of the female cousins from next door told me I looked like a local woman.  I had worn my Gulf clothes.  I said thanks and then the conversation went something like this:

"So, are you Muslim?"
"No, I'm a follower of Isa (Jesus).  I follow him because..."
"You want to be Muslim, yes?"
"No, I follow Isa, but I have been reading the Holy Qaran because..."
"You read the Qaran?  That's great!  So you want to know Islam.  You will be Muslim?"
"No,  I follow Isa because He is the way to Heaven.  It says in the Injil (New Testament) that..."
"I have the Qaran on my phone.  You want to listen?"
"Well, ok, and I have something on my phone about what I believe.  Would you like to listen?"

Next thing I knew, all the women in the room were listening to the wonderful story of Jesus in Arabic, their heart language.  Awesome!  Everywhere I went, the women were very open about religion, but I did find that they knew almost nothing about what they believe or what the Qaran actually says.  They just know that Islam is "good" and they must defend it at all costs.

So, we ate rice and chicken with our hands.  When we finished, it was time for perfume and incense.  The perfume is sprayed on clothes, each fragrance in turn sprayed in a different place.  Then the incense is used to "smoke" your clothes and body, sometimes being placed under the dress so the smoke comes out through the fabric.  It is a strange sight to behold, and a little scary too.

As was the norm, as we left to go home for the evening, our friends gave us dates, perfume, and cloth.  We said goodbye, rubbed noses, and headed for home eager to return the next time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Families in the Gulf are a little different than families in the West.  Our Bedu family that we made friends with there have 10 children, 2 grandchildren, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, and Mom and Dad, a total of 16 people living in one large house.  With three one year olds, there is never a dull moment there.  It took me several visits to figure out which baby belonged to which mother, since whichever woman was holding a baby when it cried fed it.  Crazy confusing, but what can I say?  They have really tight knit families.  Then there was the father's brother who lived next door.  Well, he lived next door part of the time and across town the rest of the time.  He has two wives and many children.  Each wife has a similiar home, and by law the husband has to treat each wife the same, and spend the same amount of money on each family.  Some men in the Gulf have as many as four wives, and when you see them walking down the street, the wives follow their husband in a row like little ducks.  There is definitely a pecking order among the wives.  The first wife is the oldest, and each additional wife is younger than the last.  The last wife is usually young enough to be the man's daughter.  There seems to be a severe injustice here, but there is a positive to all of this madness.  If we can share Jesus with a man with several wives and many children, he will surely share with his whole family.  In the Gulf, people don't do things individually, but as families.

Another interesting and alarming custom in the Gulf is the practice of marrying first cousins.  Most young people don't get to know anyone of the opposite sex while growing up except their cousins.  It is taboo for men and women to talk or even look at each other unless they are married or related.  Would you want to marry someone you didn't even know?  Most people wouldn't, so the ancient custom is still alive and well.
As far as we could tell, there weren't any more problems with this custom than with our customs in the West.  We didn't see or hear of children born out of wedlock, and there didn't seem to be any higher incidence of birth defects.  Who knows?

Families in the Gulf have a love and support for each other that is seldom seen in the West.  There are few or no orphans because the extended family takes them and there are no nursing homes to speak of.  Families there just take care of their own.  We became a part of the Bedu family and they took care of us just like their own, feeding us, giving us clothes, and making sure we were well. 

We must all choose what to think and how to feel about these strange people and their strange customs.  We can choose to be disgusted and do nothing but criticize, or we can choose not to judge their lifestyle choices, but instead, to reach out to them with the good news of Jesus and how he is the sure way to heaven.  It's always your choice to either love and serve others right where they are, or just stay away from them because you don't like what they do.

Until next time,