i am dreaming and praying about starting a house church in a grocery store. no really...i am. and one of the founding members of this house church will be a muslim from ethiopia who is discouraged with his life in south africa and ready to move to america...minnesota of all places...at the drop of a hat...if only i would pay for his visa...and his passport...oh and his plane ticket.
this man is ali.
and he is becoming very special to me and i think me to him as well...he has recently taken to calling me brother [he always asks where my other brother is danmike (not his real name)]. and in a way...i think we are becoming like that...although there is much to learn about each other.
ali owns the small grocery shop...called a spaza in south africa...and he has [i think] appropriately called it the "good hope shop." he is a muslim who, on the first of september, began observing ramadan, an islamic month dedicated to fasting and prayer. every day for the whole month, muslims fast from morning to evening. they begin at 5am and end at incremental times beginning at 6:30pm...then 6:31pm...then 6:32pm...etc. during this fasting period, they do not eat or drink anything...not even water. but in the evening, when the light of the sun has disappeared, they are free to eat whatever they wish.
so today during my visit with ali, we talked about ramadan. i asked him bluntly why he does it, what is means to him, what he thinks about eating only at night, and what he thinks it does for him spiritually. in his broken english...i believe he honestly answered my inquiries. i learned a lot about what muslims believe and why they practice this month of ramadan. and in a way...i felt slightly optimistic about this dream for a house church to be planted here...because in the midst of this new friend's answers about his beliefs...there is something in his answers...something in the way he talks about his beliefs...that says...
"i'm not really sure if i believe it."
...and at the same time there is something in the way he asks me about this man Jesus...that hunger in his eyes when I tell him about Him...that says...
"tell me more."
and this gives me hope...and i believe...that some day this good hope shop will really and truly be a good hope shop...a shop that doesn't only sell...but also gives away...and i will pray to that end.
ali is beginning to open up with me...and that encourages me. today i told him about my experience getting mugged this weekend and his face became grim. i told him it was okay...that i was okay...but he remained sullen. he told me about how just weeks ago, his shop was burglarized...men broke through his door...robbed him of his money and sook significan amounts of food and goods from the shelves. as he was telling me this he began to cry and he shared about how he has felt unsafe since the xenophobic outbreaks happened in masi...he told me of his discouragement with the problems of crime and violence against the innocent in masi...he shared with me of his saddness of living and working in a shack that would be suitable only for livestock and sheep back in ethiopia.
and he cried.
and all i could think to do was to listen...because in reality...i know nothing about the troubles and difficulties ali is facing. and i know very little about being victimized like he has been...over and over again. and i know nothing about the fear that races through you when your life is placed in jeopardy...first by the violence and hunger that rages in your own country...and then by the threat that comes from being an outsider seeking peace in another country.
i know nothing about any of these things
but God knows everything about them...and about him...and that comes as such a relief to me. this truth reminds me that He will guide my tongue...as long as i am listening...and he will do the life-changing...if the soil is good.
i think ali is good soil...he just might not know it yet.
i pray he will