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!