Periodically, I want to present ordinary people who are following Jesus but choosing a path different from mine or yours. This is the first of such kind! I interviewed a young lady named Grace Taylor who is intentionally living in a Muslim community. Because the interview was long and rich, I’ve split it into two parts. Check back next Friday, May 26, for Part II. I’ve left off names to protect the individuals and work being done in the community.
SC: Grace, tell us a little about yourself.
GT: Sure, I grew up in a Christian home. My family was in ministry my whole life so I was very familiar with church and the truth of who Jesus is. When I was 7 years old, my mom introduced me to Jesus through a Gospel tract for children. At the end of the tract was a multiple choice. I had to either write my name by “I am perfect” or write “sinner.” My pen immediately moved to “I am perfect,” but I could not print my name. I was young and a good kid but at that moment I knew I was a sinner and needed to be saved. Even though I was raised by Christian parents, I had to make my own decision to follow Jesus.
It was in college that I started to grow spiritually and see fruit from the Gospel. After college, I was led to a ministry called Mobilizing Students. I, as well as several other young adults, intentionally moved into a Refugee Resettlement Complex (RRC) in the Nashville, TN area. 80% of those who live here are refugees, 10% are immigrants and the other 10% are Americans like me. Very few apartment complexes provide housing for refugees and immigrants because of the cultural differences. In my complex, women will slaughter chickens and pluck the feathers outside by the mailbox. That night they will grill the chicken poolside! In addition to the language and cultural barriers, hygiene standards contrast with American’s.
SC: What do you do in your work?
GT: Our team of 8-10 people from Mobilizing Students live immersed in the RRC. We study, train and do outreach with other Christians or church partners in the complex. I mainly do life with the female refugees. It’s a huge bridge for them to know I live there. For example, there is a Syrian grandma who lives in the complex and cannot speak English. Whenever I see her I’ll call to her, “Jaddati, Habibti” (Grandma, my love)! She is only 4’9” and is adorable. She has not had much education and can’t read Arabic, so using a google translation app doesn’t help. I just sit with her and pull out a book to read.
SC: Could you help us understand the life of a refugee?
GT: Sure, a refugee is fleeing a country because of war, famine, natural disaster, or religious persecution. These people didn’t just wake up and decide to flee their country. Rather, their government is bombing their homes or gassing them or there is mass starvation. For that reason, you can’t be a refugee from say, Germany. Only specific countries are considered for refugee status, and it can take several years for a refugee to legally come to the United States.
SC: What have you found most surprising about your work with Muslims?
GT: Their hospitality! I did not expect this harsh culture to be so hospitable. I’ve been enriched because of it. When I moved into the Stonebrook apartment (RRC), I had never met a Muslim except from what I had seen on TV. I was intimidated by them. I have since found they will treat you like royalty. I feel sorry for people who will never experience this kind of hospitality because of fear.
I have had to develop a new worldview during this time. Muslims come from a shame and honor culture, while here in the U.S. we live under a guilt/innocence culture. Sub-Saharan Africans live under an animistic or spirit-driven culture of fear and power. All three are very different. (You should read 3D Gospel, it’s only 70 pages and further defines the three cultures.) I learned that within this shame and honor culture it’s okay if you are guilty as long as you save face and are honored for it. Most of the world lives under this type of culture. It helped me understand why they do the things they do and that it is very important to honor our Muslim neighbor. Accepting a Muslim’s invitation to his home honors him, shows him he is worthy to spend time with, and helps open the way for further communications.
In America if someone knocks on my door, I see it as an interruption. But when I spend time with Muslims, I am showing them honor. I’ll spend hours in their home whether it is productive (in an American sense) or not.
I’ve learned that in the past 20 years the fastest growing church is in Iran! The second fastest growing church is in Afghanistan. Of course, all of these are underground churches. In order for something to be called a movement, 10,000 people need to come to faith. We are seeing this movement among the Muslim people. There is so much evidence that God is at work among them!
I do have a story about the cultural differences. I was over visiting a Somali friend and she showed me her Qur’an. I said, “Oh wow, it’s beautiful!” When I reached to hold the book, she started shouting, “No, no!” I quickly gave it back to her. I was very embarrassed, and we awkwardly moved our conversation to other things. I learned that my hands were unclean and needed to be cleaned a certain way to handle the Qur’an. There are lots of awkward moments like that.
Oh yes, God is appearing to them by tens of thousands in dreams.
SC: Do you have any personal experience with those who have had dreams?
GT: One 12-year-old girl had a dream of Jesus. She knows who Jesus is. In the dream, the girl had torn clothes, no shoes, no money, and a dirty hijab. The Man in White (Jesus) asked her, “H, Why are you dirty?” She said, “I don’t know, but I cannot get myself clean.” Then He made her clean. Her hands were clean and her hijab turned to white. He gave her money and a new pair shoes for her feet. I had been watching the Jesus movie with H. When it came to the part in the show where the crowd was yelling to crucify Jesus, she said those same people had appeared in her dream and tried to kill her. As they moved forward to attack her, Jesus held them back and told her to run. Then she woke up. If that’s not the gospel!
Another Kurdish woman was having many dreams of Jesus and randomly drove by our church. She called the church so she could talk to someone about her dreams. I and others have been meeting with her since October to help her understand how they relate to Jesus.
Muslims pay attention to dreams more than Americans do because they believe dreams come from God. I think that’s why God is using dreams to draw them to Him.
I hope you’ll return next Friday, May 26 for Part II of this interview! In the meantime, you can search #stonebrooklife to see some of the work being done in this community. I’d love to hear your comments! Scroll to the top or bottom of this post to do so.