Hot day invites hospitality

17 Sep, 2014 | Israel
OM International
A construction worker takes a break in the shade.  Photo by Garrett
“I am Muslim, so no thank you. But do you want to come to my home and eat with us?” 

It was a sweltering afternoon in Israel, so the invitation was a welcome one. Walking from home to home, offering Christian love and literature, is no easy task in this hilly city. 

Mary* and Julia* accepted and followed the young Muslim woman to her family’s home. Though she did not accept the literature they had tried to give to her, they hoped to share from the Bible in some fashion with the rest of the family.

Dinner was still several hours away, as observant Muslims do not break the day-long fast until nightfall during the month of Ramadan. Mary and Julia couldn’t stay for the meal that evening, but they did have a chance to talk with the mother of the family.

Julia plainly stated, “We came from a different country to tell you about Jesus,” and they presented the family with a DVD of the Jesus film and a Bible. 

While they were eager to share the Gospel and discuss spiritual matters, the mother had other priorities. As Mary recalls, “The mom was more curious about what kind of food I liked because she was already thinking about what to prepare for us the next day.”

Arab hospitality

Mary returned for a second visit with Elizabeth,* her roommate. Julia could not come this time, as the OM Hope of Israel summer team had moved on to a different location. 

Both Mary and Elizabeth came to Israel for a six-week college internship in partnership with the OM team in the area. They lived in a majority Arab context and had many opportunities to serve the church and the community. 

They had joined up with the Hope of Israel summer team for an afternoon of door-to-door outreach and were glad to have the chance to follow up with this Muslim family. 

During their second visit to the family’s home, Mary and Elizabeth watched the mother cook traditional Arab dishes. She even gave them a recipe for bread dough, though her measurements were not very precise: a big spoon of this, a little spoon of that, a drinking glass full of these, and a kilo of flour (the one constant). 

“We talked about the World Cup, as that was the day after Brazil epically lost,” says Elizabeth. 

“Miserably lost,” corrects Mary.

They quickly discovered that most members of the family spoke very little English, but they tried to communicate using the translator on a smart phone! When conversation grew too exhausting, they turned on the television and watched Syrian soap operas together.

The father of the house

A few days later, the same family invited Mary and Elizabeth back for another evening of food and conversation. 

This time the father of the house was present. Since he works at a restaurant in a major city, he often has to spend several days a week away from his family.

Mary and Elizabeth quickly noticed the father’s gracious, loving air. “He kept picking up his kids randomly and kissing them and hugging them and sending them back on their way and showing obvious affection for his children… and they obviously loved him,” remembers Elizabeth.

Excitedly, he showed his guests around the home. He had big plans for expanding the house and making it nicer for his family. “He kept saying, ‘Slowly, slowly – lots of money, but little by little,’” recalls Mary.

With the children, Mary and Elizabeth talked about school and their favourite subjects. “The younger son got out his English book and he started reading me the stories in English,” says Elizabeth.
 
The daughter, who had originally invited them over for dinner, is eager to pursue photography, though she faces difficulty in finding a job in this field. “I want to do photography, but it’s going to be really hard,” she admitted.

As it turns out, the father was the best English speaker of the family. “He also liked to mix the two languages,” remembers Mary. This made for some interesting conversations! 

Mary and Elizabeth opened up the Arabic Bible they had given the family and encouraged the father to read a passage. He read all of John 17 out loud. They turned to John 3:16 next, and he read that as well.

“He really enjoyed talking about Muslims and Christians loving each other,” says Mary, “and how we really are just the same, and in heaven there will be Muslims and Christians and Jesus and no politics.” 

Worried that he didn’t fully understand the crucial differences between the two faiths, Mary insisted, “If Jesus didn’t die on the cross then Christians won’t be in heaven.” Unfortunately, a phone call interrupted this critical conversation, but Mary hopes that the father will continue thinking about what she said.

The first night they had taken a taxi back to their house, but when the father found out how much they had paid for the fare, he insisted on driving them home.

“The dad basically called us daughters,” says Mary.

While no member of the family made a profession of faith in Jesus, they now have a copy of the Scriptures in their language and have spent several evenings in conversation with believers. Please pray that they remember the things Mary and Elizabeth shared with them, and pray that God guides them to the truth as revealed in the Bible.

*Name changed

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