How do you get to know people in an area where 99 percent of the local population is Muslim?
Michael and Ann*, living in Africa, use what they call “friendship evangelism.” Everything they do is designed to start and build friendships with their neighbors in town and with villages out in the bush. Ministries include Bible distribution, Christian education, hosting short-term medical workers, drilling wells, and working with the national evangelical church.
One special friend they have made is a Muslim man they call “The Teacher.” He helped Michael and Ann with their Arabic language skills when they first moved to Africa, and has remained a fast friend. “He is very open to sharing his culture – the good and bad of their culture,” Michael said. The Teacher introduces Michael and Ann as “people of the Book” to his numerous friends and acquaintances.
Once such introduction came about in an interesting way. The Teacher led a four-month class for a group of villagers, showing them how to read and write. At the end of the class, he asked the two women in the class if there was anything else he could do for them. The women wanted to learn how to be better wives for their husbands and better parents for their children. The Teacher immediately deferred and instead recommended that Ann meet with the women. Ann shared a few Bible verses that specifically address women’s relationships with their husbands and children. “The women said that it was like I gave them a bowl of cold water, and that they got to take a couple of sips, but then I took the bowl away even though they wanted more,” Ann said. “So now that door has been opened for me, and I am welcome to return any time to share more with these women.”
The Teacher also was anxious to include Michael and Ann into his family. He asked Ann to teach his new wife how to cook “American” foods, so she came to their home each Thursday for cooking lessons. He asked Michael to show the Jesus film to his in-laws and now wants the film to be shown to the women in the family. “We have a special relationship,” Michael said. “He is our advocate to many people and has introduced us to people we otherwise would never had met.”
*Not their real names
-Written by Lisa H. Renninger
-Photo by Michael and Ann