Editor’s Note: Miriam Eva is a volunteer with VOM. She traveled to the Middle East on a short-term basis with another mission organization that has a focus on the Muslim world. Though VOM works in the Middle East, we do not lead volunteers on trips there. However, we can connect you to good partner organizations that do. Let us know if you are interested.
I will never forget my introduction to the Middle East. After accepting an invitation to visit, I pictured what it would be like to meet those who called that region home. I remember peering excitedly from the airplane window as we began to descend toward the city lights below.
Unfortunately, my luggage was not the only baggage I carried on the trip. I also took my preconceived ideas of Muslim people. My perception of them was formed and shut up tightly within the framework of my Western understanding.
Once there, my senses were immediately overwhelmed. I saw beautiful women covered from head to toe in traditional Islamic dress, called hijab and niqab, and I heard the sounds of the Adhan, or call to prayer, from mosques that seemed to be everywhere. Being in that country was a new experience for me, one that I eventually fell in love with.
We arrived during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims rise early to eat before the sun is up and then fast and pray until the sun sets. The fast of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.
With a desire to greet Muslim people, I learned two simple Arabic words that helped me bridge the barriers. I loved watching eyes brighten as I exchanged smiles with Muslim people for the first time in my life. Of course there were also Muslims whose faces showed disdain for me. My love for them is blind. I only see people God loves enough to give His life for them. With each call to prayer that I heard announced from the mosques, I also prayed. As I watched men standing in the trains that we shared chanting Quranic verses, I prayed for them, too.
I was surrounded by a people I feared — and loved.
Guards were assigned to escort us in remote areas of the country. They became our travel companions as we visited poor villages. We were honored to be invited into the homes of Christians. Over steaming cups of tea, and through the voice of our interpreter, we shared with them our love for God.
I remember one such visit on a hot day. I watched our guard dutifully follow his Ramadan fast, which included avoiding drinking or eating in the 100-degree desert heat. It was during this visit that a member of the family we were visiting asked me why I follow Jesus. I was given the perfect opportunity to share my love for a God who first loved me. I shared about the truth of a Savior whose love and acceptance I can never earn. Our guard listened intently. I pray that this was the beginning of this man’s encounter with God.
In areas of the world where is common, the month of Ramadan can cause an increase in Christian persecution. Let’s remember our Christian brothers and sisters in prayer during Ramadan, which began June 6 and extends through July 5.
While Muslims fast and pray in hope of encountering God, we can pray for them, too (1 Tim. 2:4). More Muslims are said to be coming to faith in Jesus Christ today than at any other time in history. A friend of mine who is a former Muslim once said, “What if Muslims all over the world are being visited in dreams and visions by Jesus because we are too afraid to go to them?” In many parts of the world, persecuted Christians are boldly sharing the love of Jesus with their Muslim neighbors — even when doing so endangers their lives.
Today, the mission field for reaching Muslims is in our backyard. It is no longer necessary to board a plane to extend the love of God to them — they are now our neighbors.
VOM is one of several ministries asking Christians to pray for Muslims at 8:38 p.m. (EDT) each evening during Ramadan. Each evening a representative of one of the ministries involved in gospel work in the Muslim World shares stories of what God is doing and leads in prayer during a live Facebook video chat. You can watch all of these videos here.