Building a Bridge of Trust with a Muslim Neighbor
In her book Forming Intentional Disciples, Sherry Weddell wrote about the five stages of conversion. The theory is that when people come to know Christ and commit their lives to Him, it is not usually something that happens in an instant, but involves a journey. The journey begins with “initial trust,” which is when a person is able to trust or has a positive association with Jesus Christ, the Church, a Christian believer, or something identifiably Christian. A bridge of trust is needed.
“Initial trust” can help a person move to the stage of “spiritual curiosity,” which can lead to “spiritual openness,” followed by “spiritual seeking,” and finally “intentional discipleship.” In many ways, knowing these stages helps us feel free to walk with any person at the stage they are at, and allow the Holy Spirit to use us to help them move towards the next stage. God sends different people at different stages of a person’s journey. Sometimes we come in at the beginning, and sometimes at the end.
Last month, my team, along with some local Catholic youth, organized a two day “Jesus Club” for students at a poor Catholic school. The students were not all Christians, but all got permission from their parents to attend the Jesus Club. It was a lot of fun! We played games, sang songs, had a giant “Jesus is my Superhero” poster, gave talks, and led them into beautiful times of prayer.
Halfway through the first day, the father of one of the students came by the school to pick his daughter up. He was evidently a Muslim, wearing the traditional cap and long white shirt over loose white pants. “I have to go to work, so I won’t be able to pick her up in the evening.” He seemed reluctant to take her away and his daughter looked really woebegone at having to miss the rest of the day’s activities.
I was tired, distracted by having to coordinate the summer club, and half inclined to just say, “Fine, take her and go.” But something stopped me. “Where do you live?” I asked him. The place he named was further than any of the volunteers lived. I hesitated. But then the Holy Spirit gave me a little nudge, and I pushed my tiredness away. What were all my words about the love of Jesus worth if I wasn’t willing to go the extra mile (literally)? I told him, “I can bring her home.” “Are you sure?” he asked, his brow lightening perceptibly. “Yes, I have a vehicle. I can bring her, no problem.”
His daughter took active part in all the activities for the rest of the day. At the end of the day, after we cleared up, I dropped her home. The next day her dad came to pick her up in the evening at the end of the summer club. He shook my hand warmly and thanked me.
He hung around and then started talking to another one of our volunteers. “This summer club is different from other programmes I’ve sent my daughter to,” he said. “Others don’t care about our children. Once they kept them standing in the sun all day, and didn’t even give them water. But you people are different. I can see that you actually care about the children. We don’t always trust our daughters to anyone, but I would send her to anything you organize.”
He gave us his number and told us, “If you are ever in my area and need some help, please call me. I will be happy to help you in any way possible.”
In a world where so much mistrust exists between the followers of different religions, there usually isn’t even a place to begin a relationship. But on that day, a bridge of trust was built.