Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Ramadan Conversation

“Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.” Colossians 4:6

“I can’t wait to travel to my country for Ramadan. I love Ramadan,” Hanifa stated passionately. “What do you love about it, Hanifa?” I asked. “I love being in the malls after midnight. You know… all the lights, and crowds and shopping. It’s wonderful. Then I get to see all my family and we enjoy special foods that we eat just during Ramadan.” You’d think she was partying for the month; not fasting.

Young Maryam said excitedly, “Ramadan is coming!” It sounded like a kid counting how many more sleeps until Christmas when she can open her gifts. “My mom fasted yesterday,” she said proudly. Yes, I knew her mom was fasting before Ramadan because she announced it to me. She was making up for the days her period would take place. Even though she doesn’t have to fast during her period she will make up for those days before Ramadan starts.
“What will you do on summer school holidays?” I asked Ali. “Fast,” he replied dejectedly. That’s all? I was overcome with sadness and shock that a young child did not have anything fun to look forward to. After Ramadan last year, I asked some school girls what they did on their summer holidays. “We fasted. It was SOoo boring! You can’t do anything fun.”

We will hear all kinds of responses from our Muslim friends. They are proud of fasting. Some enjoy the month tremendously while others find it challenging if they have to go to school or jobs. Many Muslims will travel to their homelands where everyone will be fasting and they will enter into the cultural traditions and activities of Ramadan. Perhaps you wonder how you should respond to all the Ramadan talk. For many years I tried to speak into their fasting using Scripture. Most times my conversation was not gracious or effective but more of a theological lecture. It can be challenging having a spiritually fruitful conversation during Ramadan. Fruitful discussions about fasting arise at other times of the year but during Ramadan a strong spirit of works and traditions comes over them making it difficult for them to hear anything. I usually refrain from visiting them during Ramadan. Sometimes they actually ask me not to come during Ramadan. It is hard to schedule visits anyhow with their routines being changed. However I like to keep in touch by phoning them. Normally I do not break the fast with Muslim friends. Ramadan will pass and things will get back to normal. The temptation to make snide remarks or to joke or mock about their fasting constantly arises but to do such is not gracious nor effective. I once lost a Muslim friend over making a snide remark and regret that. Better to keep the mouth shut than make snide remarks and let the Holy Spirit reveal issues. I don’t want any ungracious speech to destroy a relationship.

Dear heavenly Father, please help me to be gracious with my Muslim friends when they talk about fasting. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Boundaries

“Set boundary lines…” Exodus 19:12a

Are you the type of woman who sees a need a mile away and rushes to take care of it? You do not waste any time gathering together whatever is required to meet the need and may even enlist people from your church to join you. You are tender hearted, generous, and kind. Some women can not say “yes” to a plea. That is not your problem. You can not say “no”. But…it does not take long until you feel used, over extended or perhaps trapped. Then resentfulness creeps in. You have not set realistic boundaries around your kind heart. As a result your Muslim friend will come to expect you to meet her every need of child care, transportation, errand shopping, being a bank, learning how to drive, getting a relative sponsored, etc. If this sounds like you then this post is meant for you. Setting boundaries is essential in Muslim ministry. They are for our well-being and will keep us going long term.

Monica, a Christian lady, asked me if I would be willing to meet a Muslim lady who was in a desperate situation. When she inquired what she should do about so many people needing her help I began to see something was not right about Monica's plea for help and declined to get involved. Monica desired to help every needy person but was not able to say no. There was a high level of guilt, compulsiveness, and pressure in responding to their needs. If only Monica could understand what her part should be or if she was being called by God to meet any part. 

The vast majority of Muslims I know are not demanding about their needs but occasionally there are certain ones who have too high expectations of me and an endless list of requests.  Sometimes I reason within myself that if I do not help them I will forfeit an opportunity to share spiritually with them. Some have material needs, while others are emotionally needy and lonely. Fortunately some churches offer good quality gently used clothing or furniture, food banks, and computer or English classes. Frequently there are immigration programs which do a superb job offering a myriad of services to meet the needs of Muslims who are newcomers. Many times Muslims can get help from the mosque or their community. So, the first thing we need to understand is that we do not have to meet every need personally. We can direct our friend’s attention to the services which are available. There will be occasions when we can personally get involved but we do not need to shoulder the entire responsibility alone. I ask God what my part should be. When we do get involved we should proceed wisely and implement boundaries; preferably before very much involvement takes place. It is difficult to implement boundaries after all the requests come. Think carefully about the part God wants you to play. If you do not know ask the Spirit to show you.  Boundaries bring a sense of order and peace and will keep us going long term in ministry. One reason there is a high attrition rate in ministry is because of burn out due to not implementing boundaries.

Yes, God will show us clearly who to help - when to help - and how much to help. There will be an accompanying spirit of freedom and joy – not guilt or pressure.

Dear heavenly Father, please help a sister reading this who is trying so hard to help a Muslim friend, to be free of guilt or pressure. Help her to clearly understand what her part is. In Jesus’ name, Amen.