After spending two days with Syrian Muslim children, Jennifer asks some probing questions.
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Day 2 of Kids Camp is in the books. One amusing occurrence was the thunderstorm that came through mid-morning. From our stand-point, as Chicagoans, this seemed like a normal (or at least possible) occurrence. The temperature was probably about 85 degrees, the air quite muggy. The sun was bright. Some clouds rolled in and things got a bit darker. And then the thunder started. Our Exodus Team (all from Chicagoland) smiled at each other and the Lebanese leaders, as if to say: “Oh dear, I wonder what we’ll do, now that a rain storm is coming through.” Every VBS wrestles with these dilemmas during the summer in Chicagoland: what if we plan outside activities, but it happens to be a stormy day? But our Lebanese friends looked at us in confusion. They eventually told us that they have literally never seen it rain during the month of June!
Gladly, the storm only lasted about 20 minutes, and while we are outside for the entire camp (9:00-3:00), we had enough coverings to manage for this time. We had fun with the kids, played some terrific games, performed a skit about Zacchaeus (we’ve decided to keep our day jobs, but the kids were amused), worked on a beautiful craft, and enjoyed a great lunch together. Most enjoyable about the time together, though, is the silliness and confusion and inquisitiveness of the children. The camp is intended for ages 8-12, though we’ve discovered as young as 6 in the mix and as old as 14. Coming to camp is something the kids love to do and whenever they have the opportunity, they are glad to come.
My ponderings today are about missiology, evangelism, and specifically ministering in a Muslim environment. I am primarily left with questions, not conclusions, and at times with conflicting thoughts that I am simply permitting to percolate for now. Perhaps you might percolate with me:
- There are a number of instructions that Christians claim to be the essence of God’s expectations of us:
- Micah 6:8 . . . but what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
- Matthew 28:19 . . . go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
- Mark 12:28-31 . . . And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asking him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
- I could go on . . . be kind, one to another . . . they will know you are My followers by your love for one another. . . . So . . . what is the essence of our faith in action? What, exactly, does God require of us?
- If I am not “preaching the Gospel in word,” is God displeased with me?
- If “Paul planted and Apollos watered” (I Corinthians 3:6-7), is there a role for me in simply preparing the soil? Or is this a cop-out?
- What does it look like to “evangelize” in the Muslim world? The “evangel” is the Gospel, the Good News: what does it look like to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to Muslim friends: in Lebanon, in Chicagoland, around the world?
- Is Allah our God, the One True God? That is, do Christians worship the same god as Muslims?
- Is it right to bring Muslim children to a camp where the Gospel will be shared with them? Or should those who minister to their community work first with their parents, out of respect for their authority in their children’s lives?
- Is it possible to be simultaneously Christian and Muslim?
- How long does it take to “become a Christian?” Does it take longer for a Muslim to “become a Christian” than a secular person?
- Do I believe that Jesus brought us Good News in 30 AD? Is this Good News for all people? What happens if all the people do not hear the Good News? What happens if all the people do not believe the Good News?
- Why do I believe the Good News? Is it primarily because it’s true, or primarily because I was raised to believe it is true.
- What would it be like to fundamentally change one’s world view. Is that something that could happen all at once, or would it take years?
As you might imagine, I could also go on with my questions. I’ll pause for now. Perhaps you will percolate with them. Some of these are difficult questions. Some might seem to have easy answers, but seem quite complex in my own ponderings. Some I feel I have answers to right now. Some I feel quite uncertain about.
When I feel uncertain about how and where and to what I am called, and when I feel unclear about what is next, I often focus on the step right in front of me. So, for now, I’ll head to bed and go see these beautiful Syrian children tomorrow, whose young lives have been deeply touched by violence and poverty. These two things I am absolutely convinced of:
- God loves these children as He loves me.
- He desires for there to be peace in the world, for all of His Creation — peace, shalom, salaam (in Arabic).