Crowds of women in black, white, and coloured headscarves avoided catching the eyes of men, while an Arabic menu provided a clue about the culture of all these tourists. There in the middle of Zell am See, Austria we found a colourful mix of open and closed, fearful yet curious, unfamiliar but friendly people from the Arab Gulf States.
Zell am See receives many tourists from the Arab Gulf because the summer is hot at home, and because the town resembles paradise as described in the Koran; green grass, waterfalls, mountains...and the snow that is still there even in summer. The town has translated a lot of their signs (menus, shops, tourist attractions) into Arabic as an act of hospitality towards the visitors.
This was the setting for the Salamu Aleikum outreach from July 16-July 24. It felt like a totally different world with different social norms, a different alphabet, and a different picture of God—and yet it was so near to home.
Our team of 20 came together from around the world—USA , Korea, Nepal, Mexico, South Africa, England, Finland, Holland, Switzerland, Germany and Austria—to share the Gospel with Muslims from the very heartland of Islam.
Every morning we met together to pray and to learn about their customs, historical background, the differences between the Koran and the Bible, and the role of Jesus in both religions. In our morning devotions we looked at how Gideon, Deborah, John the Baptist, and Jesus himself allowed God to use them.
Then we moved out to the popular tourist areas like the promenade by the lake in Zell am See, or to the Krimmler waterfalls, or to Kaprun. We gave out New Testaments, the JESUS film, and cards with links to download Christian literature.
Sometimes it led to a conversation, sometimes just a silent prayer of blessing, and sometimes they shared their concerns with us and we could introduce Jesus into the situation and pray with them.
It was wonderful that although the forecast called for rain, the weather stayed dry so that we could get into deeper discussions about the truth.
It was amazing the way a Saudi man reverently received an Incil (New Testament) with a kiss, and heartbreaking when a brother snatched Christian literature away from his sister.
As a team we experienced many different reactions from the people we encountered—rejection, acceptance, discussions, forgiveness, and unity in spite of our cultural differences.
We saw how quickly the practice of unity and prayer made a difference and when we continued to pray with one accord. The Arabs were more open to receive literature and get into conversation, and we experienced more boldness in speaking to new people.
If there is one thing the team learned from this outreach, it’s that God is at work in spite of our weakness. We are totally dependent on Him!
Pray for the participants of the Salamu Aleikum outreach to continue to reach out in their own contexts. Pray for a seed to be planted in those they spoke with, that the Lord would continue to grow his truth in their hearts.
Credit: OM International · © 2016 OM International