Pathways to Peace

Following Jesus Down The Road Less Traveled

How A Muslim Child Saved An Evangelical Minister’s Soul

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.00.51 AMPrior to 2005 I hated Muslims. I would not have admitted that openly, but my deepest feelings toward them were resentment, distrust and bitterness. Now, ten years later, I love them and see them as my brothers, sisters and dear friends. What brought about such a radical change of heart? It took place one afternoon in a Starbucks when I had an encounter with a Muslim boy named Omar.

Three months before I met Omar, I had been invited to attend a class at a church on Muslim/Christian relationships. I laughed at the invitation when I received it. My wife, Oceana, told me she felt like I should attend the class because I had a deep prejudice against Muslims, especially Arabs. I had always prided myself on being a progressive pastor who promoted racial reconciliation in the churches that I had lead, but when it came to Muslims I just could not see them the same way. After some prodding and prayer on the part of my wife I finally decided to take the class.

As I read books on Islam and attended the class, I began to realize that I was judging and condemning a group of people that I really knew little about. I read Muslim, Christian, and secular authors on Islam. I made a point to hear all sides. I did this to ensure that my conclusions concerning Islam would not be romantic in nature, but would be based on a sense of honesty, realism, and empathy.

I was not naïve in processing this information. I am concerned about the radical extremists who are committing horrible acts in the name of Islam, but I am equally concerned that the U.S. foreign policies toward the Muslim world have helped create much of the resentment that the Muslim world and other nations have toward us. Suffice it to say, I believe I am a more committed Christian today because of my genuine friendships with Muslims.

Although the class and the books I was reading were impacting my view of Muslims, it would take a small child named Omar to completely turn my heart around.

One day I was sitting in a Starbucks reading a book about Muslims and their culture. The more I read the book the more frustrated I became. I decided to pray for guidance on this issue. I closed my book and prayed: “God, surely you are not calling me to reach out to Muslims in friendship and to build bridges between Christians and Muslims. I want you to know that I have no desire to do this because it would stretch me way beyond my comfort zone. But if you are, I need you to give me a sign so clear I will never doubt it.”

I went back to drinking my coffee and felt a sense of relief. I did not believe He would answer that prayer. Within a couple of minutes, a little boy walked over and asked if he could borrow one of the highlighters that I was using to mark my book. I said, “Sure.” He got in a chair and said, “By the way, my name is Omar. I am five years old and I am here to teach you Arabic.” I was stunned. Omar’s mother called to him to leave me alone, but I told her that Omar was fine.

God had my complete attention.

Omar began writing in Arabic and coaching me on how to do it. Afterwards, I approached his mother and told her that I believed Omar would be a great teacher one day. She told me that Omar was a shy child and he did not typically approach strangers. She was trying to figure out what compelled him to come over to me. As I left Starbucks that day, I began my journey of walking with Muslims as a genuine friend.

I have never doubted that God sent Omar to soften the heart of this Christian who had forgotten the words of Jesus. He said that His followers must love their neighbors as much as they love themselves, and that we even love, forgive and pray for our enemies.

I no longer see Muslims as my enemies and I can say that I have a deep love and genuine friendship with many of them. I encourage Muslims and Christians to form friendship groups and to eat together; to discuss the Bible and the Qur’an, not to debate, but to find out what they have in common and to gain understanding about how they are different; and I encourage churches, mosques and synagogues to partner together on humanitarian projects.

Some will say that I am compromising my faith by what I am doing. I believe such endeavors of mercy are at the core of the teachings of Jesus the Messiah.

 

About Jeff

28 Replies

    1. Jeff

      Thanks Gerri!

      1. Hey brother, you are a hero of the faith!

        1. Jeff

          I am humbled by your kind words, Mark. I had a great teacher in you, my friend.

      2. Malik Khalid

        Very heart touching story I first salute to Oceana for encouraging you to meet Muslims then you and Umar.

        1. Jeff

          Thank you for your encouraging words, Malik! God Oceana and Omar to walk me up. It has changed my life.

    2. Nailah

      Jeff, as a Muslim who tries my best to build bridges with all humanity, I applaud you. God has granted you a unique opportunity to do even more good. How blessed you are! And how special was little Omar! Salaam brother.

      1. Jeff

        Thank you, Nailah! Muslims and Christians need each other more now than ever to move humanity toward to the common good of all. Small acts of neighborly kindness done each day help push by the darkness of fear, anger, and hate. Keep building those bridges.

        Jeff

  1. Muhammad Islam Awan

    I love your following statement very much which is the way forward for humanity:
    “I encourage Muslims and Christians to form friendship groups and to eat together; to discuss the Bible and the Qur’an, not to debate, but to find out what they have in common and to gain understanding about how they are different; and I encourage churches, mosques and synagogues to partner together on humanitarian projects.”

    1. Jeff

      Thanks Muhammad for your kind words. May God help us all to love one another.

  2. Ash Shawwa

    And I as a muslim love you as a brother in humanity.

  3. Lisa

    Pastor Jeff, welcome to the journey. Now that you realize that Muslims are not your enemy, maybe you will come to see that there is no one “Muslim culture,” and that the great mosaic of peoples and cultures that practice the Muslim faith are as diverse and beautiful as the myriad of cultures and peoples that call themselves “Christian.” Also, there are many interfaith groups around the country that are coming together to do good things in their community. Sadly, there are more Jews and Muslims coming together than there are Christians and Muslims. You are in a position to change that :).

    1. Jeff

      I agree with you, Lisa. We have a lot of work to do but there are many wonderful things happening in spite of the fearful and the haters. Let’s keep the pillars of hope burning bright for the glory of God.

  4. Madihah

    Truly happy that God opened your heart brother. Now, let His Light shine through you. Prayers of peace for all. From your Muslim sister.

    1. Jeff

      God bless you sister Madihah. Pray his like continues to shine through me as I bring his love and peace to dark places.

  5. sobhi

    O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). [chapter 49- verse13 from Quran]

    1. Jeff

      Amen, Sobhi. One of my favorite ayas.

  6. Asif Kidwai

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
    Your brother in Islam.
    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    1. Jeff

      I am always looking for more Muslim brothers and sisters!

  7. Ibrahim

    I like this story. There is something spiritual about what Omar and Jeff did. Authenticity and dedication make a real difference. May Allah guide us all to His path of light, peace, wisdom and love. Thank you Jeff for sharing.

    1. Jeff

      Amen, brother Ibrahim. I appreciate your kind words.

  8. mustafa Jusufspahic

    I love this story and if you allow me to notice that message of God in this beautiful stiry were concider learning arabic language , actualy problem starts with wrong or superfacial translation of Word of God Qur’an to english language.

    1. Jeff

      The Qur’an is a beautiful book and to read it in Arabic would be a great gift of learning. Thank you for your suggestion.

  9. Tumiran

    Jeff,

    I love the story, I watched your youtube video. God works in miracelous way, and you are chosen by him, may God bless you always, and guide you to his straight path.

    Tumiran

    1. Jeff

      Thank you, Tumiran for your kind and generous words. May we all seek the Path he has set before us.

      Jeff

  10. Jeff

    Thanks for the encouragement Mike!

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