A worker in South Asia was asked how he came to work with Muslims. He grew up in a Muslim-majority country as the child of international workers.
He remembers not being too interested in the Muslim people around him, and focused more on his own interests and plans. Then one day, his high school teacher invited him to witness Shi’a Muslims taking part in the Ashura religious observance, a period of intense grief and mourning where some people beat and flog themselves in remembrance of the suffering and martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammed. He was overcome with sadness and felt overwhelmed by the darkness around him, especially when he witnessed a young boy violently thrashing himself. He prayed, “God, if I can shine your light here, I want to.” The Lord gave him a heart to help Muslims, and he has been working on community development projects for the past twenty years in the country where he grew up, caring for these “dear people”.
One of the community development projects is an education and literacy program for children. When the summer grazing season for livestock is over, the nomadic people groups settle into one region for the winter. This gives education and literacy workers a chance to spend quality time with teachers, providing them with training and curriculum. Due to the nomadic nature of the people, there are no permanent classrooms. Instead, the workers go to the temporary schools and stay there for up to a week at a time, three or four times a year, in order to have more extended input to that community and school. One worker also occasionally travels with a group so he can understand the transit experience. The curriculum is taught in the people’s mother tongue to around 430 children in 31 different regional schools.
Other community development projects include public health education with a focus on preventative medicine, helping with water projects in rural villages, and teaching local farmers better methods for their agricultural crops and livestock. It is often difficult work in less than ideal circumstances. Yet the worker perseveres, thanks to the love for the people that God placed in his heart long ago.
-Written by Lisa H. Renninger