Posted by: JennyRain | July 12, 2009

Afghan Cup and the Greatest Gift

It is early Sunday morning. I am not at church but ministry is all around me. I am watching the Afghan Cup soccer semi-finals and thoroughly enjoying being immersed in a culture outside of my own.

The beginning of the game starts when both teams huddle to boisterously shout, “Allah-Akbar!” (God is great!) It is as if soccer is their own form of worship! Their shouts of worship stand at odds with the silent symbol of worship I wear that recognizes Elohim – Creator God – the One who created and sustains me.  

It is the contrast of these two worldviews and two approaches to the Divine that have me intrigued. If given the chance, how would this beautiful middle-eastern culture – rich in history, robust in its expressions of family and loyalty, melodic in its language – share about their understanding of the Divine with me? What would they highlight about Allah and what would they downplay? Would anyone even try? Or have we Americans been branded as hopeless infidels no longer worthy of evangelization?

In contrast, what is it that I could share about my God that would help each Afghan, albeit, every middle eastern person know that they are loved, valued, and held in the arms of Grace by the One who gave His heart for all humankind at Calvary? How could I transcend our cultural barriers and reach across the divide of history and faith to create a caring connection with these families seated all around me? Would they even listen to me? Have I earned the privilege of being heard?

Traditions of Worship
There is a tradition in Muslim culture that is similar to followers of Christ. Both religions take time to reflect on the names of God. Muslims have 99 names for Allah. One of these names – Al-Ghaffor – (the “All Forgiving” one) – has captivated me for years. How can the Muslim faith tradition worship an “all forgiving” deity if that deity’s mercy has to be earned through such things as daily prayers, trips to their holy lands, and other such requirements?  
  


When I think of an “All Forgiving” God, I think of one who is merciful from everlasting to everlasting and his mercies have no end. They are new every morning! One who IS all forgiving because He knows us inside and out. He knows that by no power of works of our own can our humanity share the same space as His Perfect Divinity. One who provides every opportunity to create a bridge of love for His created ones to find Him and One who leaves behind footprints of Himself on the earth so we can know Him and enter into a healthy relationship with Him that brings freedom, not bondage, light, not darkness, life, not death in body, mind and spirit. This – to me – is an all-forgiving, Grace-full God. 

In my own reflection and study I have found this all-forgiving God to be Elohim Himself – God of Creation – living through Isa (Jesus). Because of Isa, I am forgiven of Elohim. All of what separates me from the Divine Love has been removed by the action of Isa

And as I ponder the journey that has brought me to this realization about Isa, I realize that I have a Middle Eastern family to thank.

The Impact of One Family

There is something – to me – that is very special about Middle Eastern Cultures and it can be traced back to one Muslim family that invested in my spiritual journey fifteen years ago. This family saw my spiritual curiosity and took the time to encourage me to seek for answers. They invited me into their home, their lives, and their own “sacred space” as I watched them pray, read their holy Qu’ran, and discuss spiritual matters. I was a constant presence at their dinner table while I struggled to find answers to my questions about God. Their patience and acceptance of me during this journey resulted in my desire to know God to soar to new heights!

 

When this family provided me with a copy of the Qu’ran (in English), I read it from cover to cover before my finger cracked the pages of the sacred Book of my culture, the Bible. I read about Isa in the Qu’ran. I read about Abraham. I read about Mary. I wrote twenty pages of questions! Then I sat with the family to ask questions about the stories. Once completed with the Qu’ran, I stepped beyond my fear of the Bible, picked it up and began reading. My life has not been the same since!

Perhaps this is why I have a very special place in my heart for Middle Eastern families and at times like today – when I am surrounded by Afghan families – I am reminded of how special each one of them is. One Middle Eastern family’s greatest ministry to me was giving me the best gift of my life – my faith in the All-Forgiving One, Isa.

If you want to see a more “soccer-like” description of what the game was like, click here for a great blog on Afghan Cup 2007.

 

 

 

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