Helping Muslims to Feel at Home in Moscow

Immigrants and migrant workers are coming to Moscow these days in the hundreds of thousands. They are often treated as second-class citizens. They have no place or means to go from the crowded dorms they live in for entertainment or even to celebrate their own holidays.

Navruz is major holiday in Central Asia to mark the coming of spring, planting time and new life. One Russian Baptist church saw this as a unique opportunity to reach out to Tajik migrant workers in their neighborhood. This church had never done anything like this before so they recruited some Tajik believers and other volunteers to help them decorate, cook and come up with a program to make the Tajik migrants feel at home.

They didn’t know how many to expect or if Tajiks from a Muslim background would even step into a Baptist church with a large cross. Some of the volunteers dressed up in colorful Tajik costumes and stood outside in the snow to welcome anyone who came. They also learned how to say “welcome” in Tajik.

One group of Tajik men stood hesitantly on the sidewalk near the church apparently trying to make up their mind about whether or not they would go inside. Finally one young Tajik – braver than the rest – stuck his head in the door. As soon as he heard the Tajik music coming from inside, he gestured to the rest to come on in.

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About 150 Tajiks ended up coming. (Other churches across the city also hosted events for Central Asians.) There was just enough of the traditional Tajik dish (osh) for everyone, and everyone who came received a copy of the New Testament and a Jesus film in their own language. The next Sunday 13 of the guests came back to attend the newly started Tajik service. Two of them accepted Christ.

God is bringing the nations to many of our communities these days. Celebrating our freedom around the fourth of July this week we may be reminded that many of our ancestors came to this land as immigrants and strangers to the culture and language. With a little creativity there is no lack of opportunities for us to make disciples of all nations in our own home church! We can begin to bridge cultural gaps when we invite them to celebrate our own holidays with us – or perhaps even better, when we take part in theirs.


Guaranteed Forgiveness?

Zafar just bought a ticket to return back home for a three-month visit last week. He is the mullah of the unofficial mosque in a local bazaar. He is very friendly and sells nuts & fruit. When I first met him a year and a half ago, he politely but adamantly refused to accept a calendar decorated with Scriptures. He has a good reputation and his kiosk is always busy with customers. The one slow day is Monday.

This Monday I called him and told him that I’d like to take him out for tea as a goodbye before he leaves. When I got there, his coworker took over and he led me to a halal cafe. We enjoyed the lagman, bread and tea. After eating, I asked him, “How do you receive forgiveness in Islam?” He told me that if a sinner comes to God and sincerely asks for forgiveness, he will receive it.

“Always? Guaranteed?” I asked.

He mentioned four sins that were unforgivable, including marriage infidelity and disrespecting your parents. I had just memorized James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” This was a great opportunity to use it.

Then, I shared how the Injil guarantees forgiveness for true believers of Isa (Acts 10:42-43). He listened carefully as I described Jesus as “The One Sent Down From Above” (i.e. Son of Man), whose perfect origins meant He could be the Perfect, Holy Sacrifice. I told the story of the paralytic in Mark 2 and how Jesus used that to demonstrate His power to heal and forgive.

Shortly afterward, Zafar had to leave. I gave him some small gifts for his family, but most importantly, he took the Magdalena DVD in his language. As I was taking the metro home from that lunch, Zafar tried to call me 5 times to say, “Thanks.”

I wish I could say that he fell down in tears & repentance and wept as Jesus came into his life, but he didn’t (yet). And looking back on it, there a number of things that he said that I should have followed up on but I didn’t. Most obviously was the question of whether there is any hope for people who commit the unforgivable sins. I often wonder why I only think of these points after a conversation has ended. Does that ever happen to you?

It has taken me a year and a half, and many prayers, to get to this point with Zafar. I have chickened out at times when I could have pushed the relationship along, but I didn’t. All I know is that Zafar is returning home – hopefully carrying the DVD – and hopefully with a better understanding of who I believe Jesus to be. Please take a minute right now to pray for Zafar.

Photo courtesy of http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A2%D0%B0%D0%B4%D0%B6%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B8


Far From Home: Muslims in Russia

Check out this short, new video with great photography about Muslims in Russia:

Far From Home: Muslims in Russia

Then, please take a minute to pray for the needs you hear about and the faces you see in the video.

Photo courtesy of :

http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2011/07/05/russian-muslims-ask-moscow-to-lobby-saudis-for-increased-haj-quota-to-mecca/


How Moscow Ranks in the World

Moscow has some of the longest traffic jams in the world!

Metro newspaper in Moscow recently published an article with some interesting facts about Moscow. According to the article, Moscow:

. . . is the largest city in Europe. (Eleven-and-a-half million is the official statistic.)

. . .  is the most expensive city in Europe for foreigners. It is the 4th most expensive city in the world.

. . . residents spend the longest time in traffic jams. (Two-and-a-half  hours is the average traffic jam.)

. . . has the busiest subway in Europe (6.43 million passengers/day).

. . . has the largest number of billionaires in the world. The 79 richest are worth a combined $375 billion.

. . . has the largest concentration of police in the world (946 per 100,000).

. . . scored 70th place (out of 140 cities) for quality of life.

. . . ranked 201st out of 215 cities for sanitary and health conditions.

 

The article can be found here (in Russian).


Unexplained Obedience

Image Courtesy of http://www.moveoneinc.com/blog/videos/enmoscow-metro/

As I waited to board the metro, I noticed a Krygyz man standing near me. I felt the Father prompt me to give him some money.

“Lord, this isn’t culturally appropriate,” I mentally argued. “We don’t give out money. I’m a woman; I shouldn’t initiate contact with a man.”

Again, the Father prompted me to give the man a small amount of money. “Lord, if this is really You, then have this man board the metro car with me.”

As the train pulled up, I noticed that the man boarded alongside me. Once again, I felt the tug of the Father speaking to my heart.

The metro car was loud. In order to speak with the man, I would have to yell. He was sitting, and I was standing. Still unsure, I prayed, “Lord, if this is really You, have one of the people sitting beside him get up and leave. Then I’ll be able to sit beside him.”

At the next stop, both people got off, leaving the seat beside the man empty. I sat down, and yet another time, I heard the Lord speaking. I looked across the aisle and noticed an fierce-looking man staring directly at me. I didn’t want to give the money to the Kyrgyz man while this other man glared at me. “Lord, if this is really YOU, then please have this man get off at the next stop.”

At the next stop, the fierce-looking man stepped off, and I was left sitting next to the Kyrgyz man. Now I knew I had to obey!

I leaned over to the Central Asian man and said, “I don’t usually do this, but the Father has told me to give you this money. God sees you and loves you.” The surprised man took the money and quietly put it into his pocket. After a little more chatting, the man exited the metro car.

I don’t know why the Lord wanted me to give the man that money, but sometimes it’s just important to obey — whether we understand or not.


170,000 Muslims Celebrate on Moscow’s Streets

 

 

Police estimated that 170,000 Muslims filled streets in Moscow, as they celebrated Eid-al-Adha — a holiday commemorating the obedient willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his promised son and God’s provision of the substitutionary ram.

You can read more about it here: http://rt.com/news/russian-muslims-kurban-bairam-647/


I Might Have Avoided Her

Photo courtesy of Rulon Oboev

While at a food distribution for the homeless, I met a Kyrgyz man who asked for a film about Isa. I gave him that and some portions of Scripture. Shortly after that, we met a woman and gave her a Magdalena film. If I had known who she was, I probably would have avoided her . . .

She berated the homeless men for not working and took one aside, telling him she might have work for him. The Kyrgyz man looked toward the woman and advised, “You can’t trust ones like her.” His intuition was right on. I found out later that she was involved in human trafficking.

In His wisdom, God kept me ignorant and made sure she received an opportunity to hear truth. Pray that this woman will watch the film and be transformed from a woman who uses others to a woman who reaches out to serve others with His love.


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