Tag Archives: bazaar

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


Why We Stay in Moscow

Today, I went into a fitness center to renew a membership.  The manager was sitting off in a corner, smoking a cigarette, mad as a hornet that we were rude enough to intrude on her day.
“Excuse me,” I asked, “We’d like to extend a membership.”
“Can’t help you.  Cash register’s broken,” she snarled without making eye contact.
“When will it be fixed?” I asked.
“Maybe today.  Maybe not,” came out in the middle of a smoke cloud.  Again, no eye contact. Service with a scowl. I walked out of there, kind of disgusted with people in Moscow.  But then I remembered Shahid.
Shahid was pushing a “borrowed” shopping cart through the bazaar, offering to haul people’s purchases.  As this Uzbek Muslim man wearing a prayer cap walked past me, we made eye contact.

Thousands of unreached are in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Before he could finish asking me, “Do you need a cart?,” I squeezed in an “Asalam Aleykum!” This means “peace to you” in Arabic.  Shahid stopped in his tracks as he doesn’t hear that very often from a Russian-looking face.  He told me his story. He had finished studying for nine years in a madrassa.  At the beginning of Ramadan, he shamed the Muslim owner of the bazaar into letting him use a vacant room for their tradition of ritual prayers.
“Now,”  he proudly told me, “seventy of us gather for prayers five times/day.” He is the prayer leader.  As I offered to give him a Magdalena film in Uzbek, two Dagestanis jumped in and rudely demanded that he not take the film.  Shahid, however, followed me out of the bazaar to the Metro.  It was clear he wanted to talk.  He ended up eagerly taking the film.
I have been praying for him since.  Two days ago, I returned to that bazaar and called him.  We met and talked near the Metro entrance.  I pulled out my pocket Bible and read Hebrews 11:6 to him.  He listened intently.  I think his Russian was good enough to understand what I said.
He stared at the Book and then asked me quietly, “Can you get me one of those in Uzbek?” We stood there and prayed, hands open up to God, as people churned around us entering and leaving the Metro.  Shahid did not care. Neither did I.

This is why we are here.   And this is what you were made for, as well.

Blocked from Entering

One day I went by the mosque up at Prospect Mira with my husband and children. I loved that the closer I came to the mosque, the more I felt as if I were in Central Asia. Women were dressed in their brightly colored, native dresses. Men gathered around tables of “naan” (Central Asian round bread) and Muslim hats, scarves and prayer mats. It was like a mini Central Asian bazaar right in Moscow. I was happy to be mingling with these dear people.

Then we approached the mosque. A tall, metal fence surrounded it. My husband and his male friend walked through the gate, not noticing that my friend and I stopped cold. A large picture adorned the entrance to the gate, which featured a woman covered from head to toe in a long skirt, long-sleeved shirt and head scarf – the required dress for any female to enter the mosque. (Click on the pic for a larger view. Maybe you can spot the sign at the gate.)

I was wearing a long skirt and a long-sleeved shirt, but since I didn’t have the proper headscarf, I was left behind. Staring at the metal gates, I felt unworthy and as if they were staring in disapproval at me. My friend and I decided to prayerwalk around the exterior of the mosque instead, and as we did so, I felt so grateful that we have a God that doesn’t require us to come before Him in our own perfection before He will listen to us. We come as we are – sinners in need of a Saviour – and He not only accepts us as we are but He also cleanses us and gives us the righteousness of Jesus.

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