What happened when we opened our HOME to Muslims

IMG_1135A few years back our family of six spent four years living in Morocco. In a country that is nearly 100% Islam, we made many Muslim friends. A couple weeks ago, one of those friends decided to visit our family here in Michigan. She traveled with her 18 yr. old daughter who was coming to America for the first time.

Although we were virtually surrounded by Muslims while living in Morocco, it was an entirely new twist to have Muslims living with us – experiencing every-day life with us. This was far more up-close and personal.

 

What I learned made me uncomfortable. But probably not in the way you’re thinking.

 

My friend came bearing gifts – for me, my husband, the kids – even for our sons who no longer live home. She got up early and made coffee. She stayed up late and made Moroccan fried bread. Whenever I wasn’t looking, she did the dishes. She listened for hours and gave me counsel on life’s hard stuff. She would sneak off when we were at restaurants and secretly pay the bill before I even had a chance to object. She sat and listened to our kids rattle on about silly things she knew nothing about: American football, homecoming festivities, travel sports, and Tim Allen. While in Chicago, we were walking back to our hotel late in the evening and we encountered at least 5 beggars in the streets. She stopped to give money and/or food to each one. She even went into a market and bought a fresh loaf of bread for one beggar.

We watched TV, You-Tube, and American sports together. And she made me laugh ‘til I nearly peed my pants.

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Three times throughout the week (although I know there were many more) I found her kneeling, facing East toward Mecca, head bowed low to the ground in prayer. Every time it stopped me in my tracks. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d prayed in earnest. Life in America is busy, you know….  

And, perhaps most remarkably, both my friend and her daughter went to church with us. They were not concerned in the least that our church might rattle their faith – they simply wanted, out of respect to our family, to fully experience our culture, our lives and our religion. They understand Christianity (at times, I fear, better than I do…) and they didn’t have questions about it. They just wanted to honor us by attending church.

My friend and her daughter oozed love for me and my family and our community – as well as the strangers in their midst – throughout their weeklong visit. Then, even after returning home, they mailed us beautiful Christmas gifts to thank us. Muslims, who don’t celebrate Christmas in the least, sent gifts to US just to bless US on our holy holiday.

 

Friends, I don’t know about you, but I call that love.

 

I am being haunted by an old Sunday School song. “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

Really? Will they know we are Christians by our love? Will our behavior be so exemplary, so unique, and so incredibly loving that people will unequivocally be able to recognize what faith we ascribe to simply by our actions?  

What haunts me is that, in many ways, my Muslim friends are better at loving than I am.

 

Which begs the question: Did WE know THEY were Muslim by their love???

 

If you’re jumping to defensive mode and screaming “HELLOooooo!!!! ISIS!!!!” as proof that “they” do not love – well, I get that. Undoubtedly, there are factions who are acting in the name of Islam and represent the antithesis of love.  These people need to be stopped.

But something I learned in Morocco that is important for us to understand here, is that many Muslims in the East equate Christianity with ANYTHING and EVERYTHING coming out of America. They observe things such as: our greed and materialism, our divorce and abortion rates, the Kardashians, The Bold and the Beautiful, all-things Hollywood, our massive gun violence, or George W. Bush (whom they can only see as someone who indiscriminately blows up people and cities), and conclude: “See! That’s what Christians are like!” They are unable to separate the actions of our country from our dominant religion (Christianity) because in their home countries there is no separation of religion and state. To be Moroccan is to be Muslim. The king of Morocco is also the head religious leader. As is true in many Middle Eastern countries. So it is no wonder that, to them, everything coming out of America (and let’s be honest, most of it ain’t pretty….) must be Christian.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my Christian faith identified by the actions of Lamar Odom, Donald Trump or Miley Cyrus. Or how about the Unabomber, Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh?  Or what about people that blow up abortion clinics out of religious conviction or priests that rape little boys?

Please, world, don’t equate me, a devout follower of Jesus, with these people!  

Some may counter and argue that these people cannot possibly be true Christians anyway…. but that is entirely beside the point because again, in many Eastern Muslim minds, all American actions are Christian actions.

And yet, in some ways, that argument completely makes my point! Because, likewise, it is entirely unfair for Americans to judge the whole of Islam based on what our Westernized media chooses to report – which is only reporting the extreme actions of extremists.

But if you get to know the people, the regular, ordinary, every-day people that live and work and teach and heal and farm and shop and play soccer and have babies and read books and cook meals and go to school and watch movies and all the millions of other things that you and I do, well, these people are fully as good at loving as you and me. They are. I’m telling you, they are.

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If you don’t agree, perhaps you’d be willing to ask yourself a few questions:

How many Muslims do I know personally?

How many Muslims have spent considerable time in my home?

Where do I get my information about Muslims?

How many Islamic countries have I visited? What was my experience there?

How many people do I hang out with regularly that practice a different faith than my own? Do they know how to love? How do they express love? Do any of them love better than me?

Will they KNOW we are Christians by our love???  Will the title “Christian” ever represent to the world “a distinctly caring, self-less, and sacrificially giving people who love regardless of race or religion?” And if it did, would my own loving actions, kindness, and generosity be so recognizable so as to set me apart from the “world” and allow them to quickly identify me as a Christian???

I’m afraid, that for me, the honest answer is “no.”

So, in response to the hate that is being spewed from the media, our Facebook feeds, and many people with big microphones, I think those of us professing a faith in the resurrected Christ should ask ourselves, “Will they know we are Christians by our love?”  A chief yearning in my life is that my family, my church, my street, my community, my state and my nation exhibit a Christ-like love to our fellow mankind. I’m nearly to the point of despair at how miserably we’re all failing. And so, this is what I’ll do – which is really the only thing I can do – I’ll sing that great song of the season: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!”

25 thoughts on “What happened when we opened our HOME to Muslims

  1. Love , love , love! To read every word you write . Thank you for sharing your gifts .
    Blessings to you and your family 🙂

  2. Um….you put into words EXACTLY what’s in my heart. I had the pleasure of visiting with several refugee families who have been placed in the Grand Rapids area. They are so very different from me in so many ways. They are Muslim, the dress differently, they act differently than me in a cultural sense. But they were lovely. Loving. Devoted. If we were, as Christians, as devoted to our faith as they are…..wow. The world would be radically different. Thanks for your words, your kindness, and your open mind!

    1. Ahhhhh, Alison…. YOU are the beautiful picture of how we can engage with the people unlike ourselves right in our own back yards – and grow and learn from them in the process! Thank-you so much for work amongst our local refugees. THIS is His kingdom come!

  3. To questions about Muslims-can only answer I have met TWO people in a local park, a man and his little girl, but have not see them since. They might well be hiding because of the indiscriminate hatred Americans have exhibited towards them, I don’t know! Indeed, it is what is in the heart that counts-for all of us!

    1. Thank-you for the encouraging words. My intent was simply to share our personal experience – hoping that Americans (Christian or not) would, indeed, open their hearts and homes to Muslims and not be ruled by fear.

  4. Cindy, so beautiful! I could never say it better than you have written. People have many times asked me if I was afraid living in Morocco. I honestly told them – never. I have been more afraid walking down streets in America than I ever was living overseas. I have wonderful memories of Morocco and will never regret the time we worked and lived there. I am hoping to go again in the spring. Love and miss you guys so much!!!

    1. I love you so much, Rosemary. I’m with you – our memories of Morocco are simply beautiful and we will never regret our time living and working there. I would be totally interested in going with you in the spring! I am missing the people and that beautiful country SOOO much! Let’s talk about it!

  5. The make up of my kids school has changed, a very highly rated, sought after school because of the academics. Now 70% first maybe second generation immigrants from the Muslim countries. The science olympiad group comes to my home every week now.
    Your assessment does not fit my experience. They do not want to assimilate into the community they have moved into. My parents immigrated after world war II. Their goal was to assimilate and become part of the community.
    When there are parent meetings of the science olympiad, other school activities, the other parents consciously exclude some parents by talking in their native language.
    So, they do not appear to have a more loving community, in my experience.

    1. I’m sorry that has been your experience, Ellen. All I can say, is that has not been my experience at all. I do know, however, how incredibly hard it is to be the foreigner and not know the national language, the cultural norms, and the expectations of me as a mom. While in Morocco, I too, probably came across as cold, arrogant, and unloving – even though that is the total OPPOSITE of what I wanted to emanate. Until I learned the language well, I couldn’t communicate well enough to let the local people know I’m actually very outgoing, talkative, and eager to meet people. As my language ability increased and I grew more accustomed to the fabric of the culture, I became much more open and inviting. I would say give the Muslims at your school time and the benefit of the doubt. They are normal people – with fears and concerns no different than yours. Reach out to them first, and you might be incredibly surprised by the rich relationships that await you.

  6. This is fine and good. It is encouraging to know. BUT how would you know the difference if these people were total strangers. Your relationship with them was a vetting process but our Government does not go to these lengths to determine if the refugees and other muslims let are letting pour into our country are friendly, loving people or just plain out to destroy our way of life and all other religions but theirs. You need to be as Jesus said (paraphrase) as wise as serpents but as innocent as lambs. Know your enemies from your friends – this is very, very hard to do. So i say treat all muslims as your enemies until they prove otherwise. Do not try to hurt or kill them just keep them at arms length and under scrutiny until they show you otherwise.
    Thank God for your good muslim friends but be leery of other muslims you do not know or have a relationship with.
    Also, remember a friendly muslim today can become a radicalized muslim tomorrow. Their religion teaches that all none muslim are infidels. As infidels we can only be treated in two way – convert to Islam or be at continuous war with Islam. Also, also remember to a muslim lying to an infidel is not a sin it is almost required.
    Your friends may not be hard core believers in the Koran but what will happen in the future. Have they ever spoken out to you about the atrocities their fellow muslims have committed and will continue to commit against all non muslims?

    1. You could say the exact same thing about Christians. Just change everywhere you used Muslim to Christain and change the word infidels to ‘going to hell.’ A friendly Christian today can become a mass murder tomorrow…see how absurd all your arguements sound? And where did you get that “Also, also remember to a muslim lying to an infidel is not a sin it is almost required.”? Please quote chapter and verse of the Koran where it says that…or is it something you heard somewhere or something you have just assumed?

  7. Cindy I really appreciate seeing articles like this that 100% connect humans to humans. As a Muslim who chose Islam it is great to see people truly practicing interfaith understanding and respect. I am also encouraged by how you show the other side–the world sees us as a Christian country. I have been told to go back home. The problem is I am mixed with Native American, so I am not from the other side of the world. But as an American Muslim I can see the world from all sides. Beautiful insight keep spreading the love.

    1. Thank-you so much for your comments, Cordelia. You definitely bring a rich and insightful perspective to this discussion – a much needed one! I often say I wish I could teleport everyone I know here in America to spend significant time in my little town of Dar Bouazza, Morocco so they could meet all the wonderful Muslims we met there. I think it would totally change some people’s narrow-mindedness and/or fear. Likewise, I wish I could teleport all our Moroccan friends to spend some time in my West Michigan city so they could see the “Christian” America that I know – that it is NOT like The Bold and the Beautiful, NYPD Blue, Scandal, etc., etc. We can learn SO much from each other – but we have to be open to learn! Thank-you for helping to build that bridge, Cordelia!!!

    1. Our friends were visiting the week of Halloween. In this photo we are eating on the patio at a quirky bar in the beautiful beach town of Saugatuck, Michigan. The bar had many artists paint all kinds of silly, strange, and fascinating art in the windows. I don’t think it was a pig – but I honestly have no idea what it was.

  8. You lost me when, as a Christian, you lumped Trump, Cyrus, and Odom in with the others. If you are truly wanting peace on earth, then let it begin with you. Jesus loved the sinners, more even than it seems the learned. So, if you want to be the love, you have to spread the love. Those three people certainly deserve your blessings…not judgement. Let our actions and our words be defined by love and kindness like you have stated. And bless your Muslim friends and family. They sound like better people than most.

    1. We have a prayer board in our dining room. The very first thing listed to pray for is our enemies. Further down the list we actually have Donald Trump and Miley Cyrus. No lie. We pray from that list daily. And for now, that’s all we know to do for people we don’t know personally, but disagree with their actions. And we also pray daily that as we ask Jesus’ kingdom to come, we would not be judgmental to those who live differently than us. It’s entirely possible to love people you disagree with – and that is always our (family’s) goal. However, there are things that God clearly states are not of His kingdom, and He gives all people the freedom to live apart from Him if they so choose. I’m only saying I don’t want my Christian faith judged by the actions of some people who don’t emulate my understanding of the gospel of Jesus. That is, unfortunately, what is happening when America is judged on the whole by the actions of a few. Also – in my experience – my Muslim friends are not unique in their love and generosity. WE met several hundred Muslims while living in Morocco. From some of the wealthiest in that society to the poorest family living in a shanty-town, we experienced extravagant generosity, warm hospitality and genuine love. My blog wasn’t just a picture of ONE family – it was a snap-shot of our entire experience living in the Muslim world.

  9. I loved reading this. I have very close Muslim friends and their piety and devotion has always amazed me. I am as comfortable with them and various cultures as I am with my own now. I live in a city with a large Muslim population, but it really wasn’t until the last ten years or so that I became close friends with some. Their example actually led me to be stronger in my own faith and devotion and it has made me a much better person. I believe we can learn much from each other in this life. Thank you for sharing.

    1. The same was true for me, Jenna. I have become stronger in my own faith for having allowed Muslims into my life. The love and generosity I have experienced from all my Muslim friends has led me to some serious introspection. Ultimately, I grew in my love for “others” and for Jesus. We should not fear Muslims. A culture of fear only feeds a culture to hate. As a follower of Jesus, I want to follow His example of hanging out mostly with people who were not like Him at all. You’re so right – we have MUCH to learn from one another! Thanks for your comments.

  10. Dearest SIster Cindy,

    Thank you so much for this extremely insightful and convicting article! I am a blogger as well and was wondering if I could reblog this? I would be extremely honoured to share in the fruit of this post!

    Yours in Christ,
    Kegan Cook

    1. I’m honored that you would want to reblog this, Kegan. Actually, my Muslim friend should be the one honored! She is the amazing one and all I am doing is just living life alongside her and writing about it. We have both learned so much from each other – a rich relationship for sure! Thanks for the words of encouragement!

  11. Reblogged this on maidenforjesus and commented:
    This is very powerful and convicting….It’s something that we should all think about and provokes some honest self-examination…God, have mercy on me! I am a wretched creature! Thank You for Your grace! How could I live without it? Change me, O Love, into something more like You! I want to change….

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