The small waiting room was stuffy and hot. Mothers crowded in, some standing, some sitting as their little ones received a ballet lesson in the adjoining studio. One woman sat separate and alone in a corner, eyes looking downward as the others chatted noisily. This woman wore a hijab, the traditional head covering for Muslim women. She seemed invisible to the rest of the room.
The door opened awkwardly as one last woman arrived late. She looked around the overfull space and her eyes landed on the hijab-clad woman in the corner. With a smile, she walked over and sat in the only remaining vacant seat right beside her.
“Hello, my name is Susan,” she said to the Muslim woman. “I’m Haifa,” the woman replied, her face brightening with a beautiful smile. Others in the room stole glances their way as the two talked happily for the next forty minutes about ballet, school, and shopping.
A month later, Susan and Haifa spent a lovely afternoon at Susan’s house over hot tea and cookies. Their friendship is growing, and both are learning about each others' faith and culture.
Sometimes all it takes to begin a relationship with the Muslim you see in the grocery store, on the bus, in a taxi, in the house next door, is saying hello. This simple first step can seem the hardest in a post-9-11 world where the news reports terrorism and hatred, plots and fear. It can be intimidating to a busy lifestyle, already stretched to its limits on a daily basis.
Christians throughout our communities are discovering that on the other side of that first step, there is friendship and joy. You can discover it too. Your Muslim neighbor may live in the house right next door, or he might be the owner of the gas station you frequent each week.
In this two-part series, you will learn some practical ways to start the journey.
Connect Through Faith
Every Muslim deserves an authentic witness of Christ. Our journey to hello begins with faith. We must have faith that God is calling Muslims to know Him, and that He loves them. If your faith is flagging, ask God to increase it.
When you see a Muslim, pray for him or her. Ask God to bless Muslims with the greatest blessing of all, knowing Jesus Christ as their Savior. Pray for their jobs, their families. Ask God to bring them into contact with the Gospel. Ask God to prepare your heart, then seek the courage to say hello at the right time.
See Muslims as people rather than projects. They are people with dreams, goals, and intellect just like you. Ask God to open your eyes to their humanity and your shared common need for a Savior.
Let your love be sincere. Just be yourself and let your friendship and conversation flow out of an honest and loving heart that desires to show them what the love of Christ is really like. Many Muslims will find your authenticity unique and appealing.
Connect Through Food
Food is one of the most effective ways to connect. Food is believed to bring blessing and is considered a personal act of kindness. Bake a batch of cookies and take them to your neighbor's home, welcoming them to the neighborhood. Include the recipe so they can see how you made them. This could lead to shared cooking lessons down the road, where you teach them your favorites and they teach you theirs.
Take them freshly baked bread, even if you did not make it. Include some real butter and a jar of good jam. If you want to, add a bag of instant coffee and a carton of half and half or milk. Your generosity and attention to detail will not go unnoticed.
Carry extra snacks and drinks to sports games. It is not impolite to offer to share food with Muslim families at public events.
If you are a woman, invite your female neighbor for afternoon tea or coffee in your home. Serve cookies or cake. If you are not comfortable with cooking and baking, buy something to serve.
Men, invite your neighbor to a local shop for coffee, or a late afternoon sandwich. Muslim men are especially comfortable meeting with other men at cafes over a hot cup of strong coffee.
Holidays, both yours and theirs, are great ways to connect, and food is almost always in the center. Familiarize yourself with Muslim holidays, and ask your neighbor about them. During your own holidays, invite them to join you in the festivities. Conversations about faith and culture flow naturally around holiday traditions.
Connecting culturally with food is an easy and enjoyable first step in getting to know the Muslims in your life.
Saying hello to the Muslim next door might seem almost impossible to you. But faith tells us that our message is worth sharing. Faith reminds us that Muslims are made in the image of God, and they each deserve an authentic witness of Jesus Christ. Faith inspires us to reach out with the message of love that healed our own lives.
Food gives us an enjoyable and universal connection with Muslims from all cultures. Food and culture are inextricably linked. When we share our food, we share our cultures and our hearts. Food communicates blessing and friendship.
Try these tips this week and join us next time for Connect with Your Muslim Neighbor: Part Two for more practical ways to get to know the Muslims in your community.
Learn about Muslim holidays and how you might have a conversation with your Muslim neighbors about their traditions and practices
- Consider inviting a Muslim neighbor to join you for a holiday gathering or meal, sharing your traditions and beliefs that point to the Gospel.
- Read Part Two of this article!