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. (Scroll down to see Part I.) I’ve left off names to protect the individuals and work being done in the community.
SC: What are some other cultural differences we should be aware of?
GT: Besides don’t hold the Qur’an? (laughter)
The relationship between men and women is very different. In America, I have male friends and will hug them. The Muslim men and women do not have the same social groups. I do all my work with women for that reason. The only time I will touch a male is if he extends his hand to shake. Otherwise, men don’t touch other women and women don’t touch men outside of marriage.
Muslims don’t eat pork or anything that touches pork. I typically bring American food to a gathering so they can experience cupcakes, for example. I’ve learn to love their Mediterranean diet especially dolmas (rice and meat stuffed in grape leaves). I’m looking forward to Ramadan (Holy Month). After they fast from food and water, they host the Iftar meal to break the fast. It’s a huge feast and a way to honor them and open the door to further relationship.
SC: I remember when I attended the baby shower for your Muslim friend, S. I had to substitute turkey for the ham sandwiches. I kept calling them ham sandwiches even though they were not! When you prayed at the baby shower they kept talking. What was that about?
GT: None of S’s friends know English so they didn’t know we were praying. Also, Muslims live in a wilder culture. Americans listen and wait for another to talk. But at a Muslim gathering, everyone talks at once, and it can get loud! When I prayed, they did not understand it was a sacred time. For them prayer is a specific time, specific posture, and specific things to say. My friend S, who was honored at the baby shower, was shushing them!
SC: Have you visited a mosque?
GT: I’ve taken groups to a mosque and recommend others visit one. We told the leaders we were learning their culture, and they were more than pleased to show us around. One time we arrived at prayer time. The manager of the mosque allowed our team to stand in back and watch. We silently prayed the Holy Spirit would come and everyone would have dreams of Jesus! I would error on the side of caution in unknown instances. Know what you are getting into before you commit to the practices of other religions.
SC: How do we bring the Gospel to the Muslim people?
GT: A friend of mine told me to think of it through relationship. The first contact with a Muslim allows a toe in the door. Each time you connect, you gain another toe, a knee, and another foot through the door. The average time to see a Muslim come to faith is six years. So when you commit to a relationship, know you are in it for the long haul.
I’ve come to know the women through cooking together. If we are cooking bread, I will bring up Jesus in the conversation and tell them He said He is the Bread of Life. Muslims love to talk about religion more so than Americans. I’ve asked them questions about the prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an. They’ve asked questions about Jesus. They know about Jesus but do not know Him as the Son of God who died on the cross for their sins.
We want to bring the Gospel to them. I am no more worthy of God’s grace than they are! I did not know a single Muslim until I moved into the apartment complex, but God has given me a heart for them!
SC: Has President Trump’s policies affected your work?
GT: There has been a slow down in the number of refugees coming into Nashville. Short-term or day-to-day the policies have not affected anyone at the complex. All the refugees and immigrants live there legally. The long-term effects are yet to come. The residents, however, do support a vetting process because all of them had to wait years to arrive in America.
SC: Share some practical things the reader can do to build relationships with our Muslim neighbors.
GT: Most people are surprised that Muslims are conservative, family-oriented, and hospitable. So many times I’ve been at one of their homes and they invited me to stay and eat. Most internationals are never engaged with an American in a meaningful way. When I invited them to my apartment, they wanted a tour of every room! So initiate the relationship by inviting them to your home or accepting in invitation to come to theirs.
I believe the only hope for a refugee is for the church to love them with the Gospel. Anyone can be nice, but God wants Muslims to be in heaven, too.
SC: What are some things you enjoy about following Jesus?
GT: Amazingly, God invites us to join Him in reaching the world. He calls us to be part of something bigger than we are. I think every human being innately wants to be part of a bigger cause. That’s what the global church is about. It’s such an honor for me to be part of His plan and share the Gospel. If the Gospel is not part of our contact with Muslims, there will be no eternal impact.
SC: What are some hardships you’ve encountered in following Jesus?
GT: To be candid, I’m in a season of hardship right now. I’m learning He uses suffering, wounds, and pain to strip us of everything that is not Him. It’s for our joy ultimately, but I’m learning to trust Him in the midst of it. Suffering has to be of God because it is not something I would desire! In that suffering is a mysterious purpose. I’ve also found out there is always a cost and a sacrifice for standing in God’s corner. We don’t know what that means until we are in the season of suffering. Of course, without the cross there was no resurrection! During this season of suffering, however, God is speaking to me through His word and in that time with Him there is great joy.
I hope you have enjoyed this Q&A! You can follow more of Grace’s work by searching #stonebrooklife.
I’d love to pray for your relationship with a Muslim friend or neighbor. Leave a comment if you desire to do so. I will commit to pray for you and your friend the next two weeks. Please do not include names.