"Excuse me, I must pray now," she says as the call to prayer echoes throughout the neighborhood. Graciously, she removes herself from the small concrete-floored, plywood-walled room where we are visiting. Sweat drips down our faces as we listen, the asbestos roof allowing no relief from the sweltering heat.
Powo*, a kind and generous mother of five, is my friend. As a faithful Muslim she prays five times a day and fasts during the month of Ramadan. Because she is the eldest in the family, all of her extended family will visit her during the holiday of Idul Fitri (the holiday that closes the fasting month) to kneel before her and seek her blessing.
"Eat more, eat more," she implores as she rejoins my family and me.
"Oh, we've eaten so much already," we playfully protest as we hold our stomachs.
Though quite poor, she has provided a multitude of snacks along with sweet tea and a warm soft drink--far more than we could possibly consume. Without words, she opens up a small bag of salty dried peas and places it in front of me. I politely take a few small bites and she is happy. Such are the rules of hospitality in her culture.
Powo is, in many ways, just like all of us--she values her family and friends, works hard to provide for her children, and wants to please God in the best way she knows. Perhaps if we began to really look at people, instead of the labels they wear, the fear, suspicion, and ill will would start to melt away.
Paul wrote, "Perfect love expels all fear" (1 John 4:18, NLT) while Jesus told us to pray for and love those that we don't want to pray for and love (Matthew 5:44). We love first, that fear might fade, not vice versa. We pray first, that we might begin to see people as God sees them--people that He knows and loves.
"Are you sure you've had enough to eat?" she asks, handing me a large plastic bag filled with more snacks and pastries.
"Yes, you've been more than generous. Thank you so much."
God is always faithful to open doors of opportunity in front of me. Sometimes I'm less than courageous about walking through them.
What can God do through someone like me? Am I really the right person for this? I wonder.
Still, as we walk down the street away from Powo's home, I think about the thousands upon thousands of people who live all around us. How will they know that God loves them? Where will they see Jesus? Who will love them and pray for them?
Tomorrow at 4:00 A.M. the call to prayer will sound throughout the neighborhood and my prayer will be simple--"Here I am. Send me" (Isaiah 6:8b, NLT).
*Not her real name.
Steve and his family are missionaries in a creative access country on the Asia-Pacific Region. Full names have been withheld to protect the identities and ministries of those serving in this area.
Holiness Today, January/February 2010