Well we’ve been here less than a day and so much has already happened. Last night we got to meet our missionary that we would be working with and just got to hear his story. God had brought him out of a very addictive and depressed lifestyle to Nashville to fill a void in doing mission work with the K-people group. We also got to meet this little boy named Om. His parents were both Hindus but he had come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. What a powerful thing it was to see how this little 12 year old boy, surrounded by dark forces, is sharing the gospel and praying for his parents and friends. I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to pray for Om and his parents, after the missionary shared with us this little boy’s story. Om told us that he received dreams from Jesus. I could tell the Lord had a strong hand on Om, and that the Lord would do amazing things through him one day. As we listened to the missionary talk about what we would be doing, I got chills. Brooks, our college minister, had mentioned just earlier that day, “We are going to have an opportunity to share the gospel with those who have never heard the name of Jesus.” It’s the thought I had then, and the thought that continues, “What a privilege and blessing.” Today we will go to our first mosques and temples. What new experience it will be.
Well, we are now through two days of the trip. Yesterday was very exciting and insightful. We visited the Islamic Center of Nashville first. There we were taught more about Islam and were able to ask questions to these people as well. What I got from it was that Muslims have no assurance of Heaven when they die. They will not know if doing enough good will give them assurance. Also they believe Heaven is basically a “dreams come true” type of place. They believe there is no purpose to Heaven, except that you get to do what you want. For example, the girl giving us the information on Islam said that there would be rivers of wine. It was a very sad truth, which these people were truly blind to the message of Jesus Christ, and they could not understand that we could never earn justification or measure up on our own. After a while there we left and at went to eat lunch.
After lunch we visited another mosque. This mosque was stricter though. The women in our group were asked to cover their heads with their scarves. The men sat on the floor, but the women were all given chairs. We came in right as the afternoon prayer session was beginning. All the men gathered to the front and lined up, side by side. Then, a man facing them in the front began speaking in Arabic. As he began to speak, the men would bow once, then get down on their knees and bow and continue the process over and over again. They were all in unison. I could feel the darkness surrounding this place as I saw men fall face down, bowing to a false god. After about 15-20 minutes it ended. Then of the men from the place came over to our group and began to talk to us. This man seemed to be in his 50’s and a firm follower of Islam. He opened up the floor to questions, asking us to be open. We asked some pretty challenging questions. One girl in our group even shared the gospel and you could just see the power of the Holy Spirit flowing from her words. This Muslim guy said he was open to the truth, but he wasn’t. As this girl was sharing the gospel, he began to interrupt her, after not interrupting any person in our group all day long. By the time this girl finished sharing the gospel, 10-15 men from the mosque had gathered round and heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of this experience was super hard personally, because of the tact of going about asking him questions that challenged his faith to the very core, but we also wanted to do it in a very loving, Christ-like manner.
We left the mosque and headed back to the church for a little while. After being at the church for about 30-40 minutes, we headed to another church, named City Church at Woodbine, just right up the road from where we had been staying. We pulled up to the church and we were ushered through a house looking structure. There a man that had been working in the area told us that we would be going to a community to do door to door surveys. Before we left the church, we had some informal, spontaneous worship. Then we headed out. My group had apartment complex K, which consisted of about 11 apartments. The first three apartments we were invited in by some Egyptian immigrants who were Coptic Christians. Coptic Christians believe along the lines of Catholicism and that good works are enough to save them. We were able to share the gospel with each family, but at the end they said that when they had become Coptic they took an oath that they could not convert to any other religion. So each time, we would thank the families for their hospitality and leave. The next to last house we went to there a Russian woman who was a Muslim. She allowed us to come into her home and conduct the survey, although she was very hesitant at first. After conducting the survey, I asked her if it was ok to share what I as a Christian believed. She agreed and I began to lay out the gospel. I began to talk about sin and how we could never be good enough to earn salvation. I then, using the parts of Islam that are similar to Christianity, such as their belief of God as a “righteous judge”, explained how when we died that we would stand before God and that He would judge us. If we had accepted the sacrifice of Jesus’s death on the cross, then when God looked at us, he would not see us, but He would see Jesus, standing in front of us. Without that, without Jesus, God would see our sin, and would judge us completely for all the sins. I finished with sharing that “it was by grace that we are saved through faith and that it was nothing in or of ourselves or our own ability. I told her it would be selfish for me to experience grace like this and not share it with her. She truly thanked me, which was cool to see that she understood at least that these people loved her enough to share with her this message of grace.
After a pretty frustrating night, God sent us a believer for encouragement. Her name was Gretchen, which was the name that the Russian Muslim had actually mentioned earlier that lived next door to her. We were able to pray for her and to see how God had strategically placed her within this community to be a light of Jesus Christ, in the darkness. I pray that God would give her strength to love on these people and that they would understand the love of Jesus Christ. I had no trouble sleeping last night after a tiring day. Looking forward to another day of adventure and new experiences this Sunday morning.
On Sunday we got up and made our way over the City Church @ Woodbine for a church service. City Church was a house church, so this was such a new experience for me. We came in and gathered around the large room. The pastor stood up and asked some people in our group if they would share the experiences of going door to door in the Egyptian and Muslim communities the night before. After a few people had shared, worship began. Sitting on the floor, which had become a normalcy this week, all 60 to 70 of us began worshipping God. It was very powerful and just raw worship. Then the pastor came and taught from the Book of Genesis. He shared with us many truths from God’s Word, such as, “we are a reflection of God’s glory to the world” and that “God receives glory when we find satisfaction in Him.” Then we split up into smaller groups and hand an opportunity to listen and get to know the heartbeat of this church. Then we left and came back to the church for a little while to eat and get ready for afternoon activities.
In the afternoon we were split into groups and send out to different places. My group decided to meet up with a couple Muslim 20 year old guys at Starbucks. Our group leader had already made connections with one of the guys a few months ago. So we drove to the Starbucks in downtown Nashville. The city was huge and filled with many buildings and shops. While at Starbucks we held great conversations with these guys. We asked them questions about what they believed and they were incredibly open to listening. We found out the older guy liked ping pong and pool so we drove back to the church and played. I and the older of the two guys, Wael, had a ton of fun playing. We were both pretty evenly matched, which led to three very tiring, taxing matches, but I won all three ha-ha. It was incredibly encouraging thing to see these guys openness to us and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Best part of the whole day….. It snowed!!!
The church we were staying at moved us across the street to the fellowship hall, so that they could allow homeless men to stay in the gym during the freezing, snowy night. Waking up the next morning, curled up like an armadillo, we began to make our plans for the day. We had been worried that the roads would be iced over and we wouldn’t be able to drive, but that wasn’t the case. So, with a negative 12 wind chill, we put on our hats and gloves, piled into the van and Brook’s car, and drove to a church. This day was more focused on doing more labor type work, as we helped clean and improve the condition of this church. My team cleaned rooms that were used for counseling. We prayed over the rooms and the people that would come through there, that God would show His power and restore lives. After that, me and my four skittles (this was the name our group leaders gave to their group members; it is an inside joke), went to work, scrubbing out carpet stains, dusting, window cleaning. We were thanked for coming by the pastoral staff and we felt like God would even use this labor focused work to bless others in the church and the families that would walk through those doors. It was amazing to share my two year anniversary of knowing Jesus Christ with amazing friends at Taylors, and being able to help those in need. As I walked past each and every room set apart for counseling, I knew in my heart that God would use each and every counselor as He had used mine; to set me free and show me love, even in the middle of the darkness.
There are now, including today, only two full days left of this trip. It has flown by so fast, but it has not been without its lessons and surprises. I think once I get back, I will still have some digesting and debriefing to do for a good long while.
We were back to our regular early schedule. We got up and headed over to a fellow believer’s house to learn about the religion of Hindu. We all came in and gathered around the front room, most of us sitting on the floor, as is custom for Indian households. As we sat there we were taken through the Hindu religion and Indian culture. We were taught about the many physical features in the room of this house, such as the flowers and candles. In front of our missionary was a plate of flowers with a candle in the middle with two sticks coming out of it, spreading a smoky scent out and around the room. Our missionary explained what each thing meant. Then he brought out a basin and a coconut. He explained how the Indian or Hindu people would sacrifice a coconut to their “gods.” He began to tell the story of Jesus in a way in which he could relate to these people and their culture. He explained Jesus being God and how He came to earth to die for our sins, to be our sacrifice, to be our coconut. Then he began to talk about Jesus’s death. He said how the soldiers mocked and spit upon Him. The missionary then began to pull hair from the body of the coconut. Then he said that Jesus was beaten and he began to pound the coconut with a hammer. Harder and harder he pounded, until the coconut began to pour out its milk, representing Jesus’s blood. This scene sent chills down my entire body. As the coconut lay beaten and broken apart in the basin, the missionary stopped. The room was filled with silence. Then he began to open the coconut and on the inside, it was pure white. The missionary began to explain that because of Jesus’s death on the cross, our sins were wiped away and we were cleansed. It was a very powerful and unique way of sharing the gospel. We also sang some songs worshipping Jesus, how the Indian people would do in their own culture and language. After this, our groups split up.
One group went to a Hindu temple and the other group were spread out among Kurdish businesses and markets. I went with the latter group. As me and my friend exited the van upon arrival at the businesses, we got out and went over to a bench to pray. After praying we were a little confused. There were only two known Kurdish businesses. One was a Boost Mobile and another one was a restaurant. We didn’t exactly know how to engage people while they were working, especially in a sit down restaurant. So we began to think of different alternatives. As we looked across the street, God sovereign hand placed an Oriental, Thai, and International market all each, side by side. So we ventured into the International Market. Upon entrance into the market we saw a Middle Eastern man attending to the cash register. We began to think and pray about how we might engage him. We told him that we were visiting Nashville and wanting to experience different cultures. We asked this man, Delha, if there was any food he could recommend to us. No knowing the exact specifics of what we were interested in, he began to name off several different things. After looking around for a while, we finally agreed to buy something. We approached him and put the bread on the counter. As he was ringing us up, I asked him if there was anything I could be praying for him about. He explained to me and my friend that he was Muslim, and I explained to him that we were Christians. He then went on to say that we were all right in our religions and all “brothers.” He said he was interested in in maybe visiting an American church and seeing how “we do things.” This opened a door to talk about Christianity. He said that a lot of people of different religions brought pamphlets to their businesses often. I began to search around on my person to see if by a chance I had one, but I didn’t. He said we could come back and give him a tract though. So we left and I called one of the members of our larger group to see if she had a tract, but she didn’t. She gave me a cool idea though—-make my own tract. So then we began to search for a piece of paper or notecard.
Up a little from the markets, was a gas station. Thinking this was our best bet to find of piece of paper, we headed inside. After looking around for a while, we approached the counter. A man named Mina greeted us. (I’m not sure how these names are exactly spelled, so bear with me). But we asked Mina if there were any notecards or a piece of paper around. There wasn’t. Getting a little distracted we began to look around at other stuff in the store. Then we ended up purchasing something. As Mina was now ringing us up, we asked him if there was anything we could be praying for him about. He responded with saying that he was a Christian. We found out that he was a Coptic Christian. He explained to us through our talk that he was from Egypt, but had lived in London, England the last little while. So through trying to just find a piece of paper, we were able to engage another person. We were finally able to find a piece of paper at Papa Johns and we were able to make our own tract.
We were able to give it to Delha, the first man, and get his business card. Mina even gave us his personal number for us to be able to follow up with him. After no guidelines and some frustration, God turned all this into an amazing adventure. We were picked up and taken back to the house church we had been at on Sunday morning. From there we were sent out again, this time, to do surveys at a local college campus in the area. It was so bitterly cold, but we met some pretty cool college students. Our night was filled with fun as we went to Dave and Busters and the OpriLand Hotel. Exhausted, I went to bed super early and I’m feeling a lot better today. Today is our last full day in Nashville.
Yesterday was our last full day in Nashville. We got up and went over to a church and heard the story of a former Iranian Muslim who was now a follower of Jesus Christ. It really showed the heart, just hearing him speak, of what we were trying to do this week. I went up to one of my brothers in Christ afterwards and said, “This is why we do what we do.” It was almost the realization of knowing that I may witness to thousands of people, but only see a handful accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. But these handful are important to Jesus, because He will send them back into their communities, homes, and businesses, to share the gospel with their friends, neighbors, and family, in a way that I never could. A realization that a handful could change the world. After being encouraged by this man and his amazing story of life transformation, we went to lunch and then down to the Tennessee Titans stadium.
We parked across the street from the stadium, and walked over to a field, overlooking the river running through the heart of Nashville. There a man that had worked with the missionary that we had been working with this week, thanked us for coming. He encouraged us to look across the river and asked what we saw. There were banks, entertainment industry buildings, and radio and television buildings. “What if Nashville was known for Jesus?” he said. It was an amazing thought to think that if Nashville was a Christian city, then it would truly impact all ways of life in our country. “You are the God of this city, the King of this people, The Lord of this nation, You are. You are the light in the darkness, the hope to the hopeless, the peace to the restless, You are. For greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city.” (Chris Tomlin, God of this City).
Well, this morning we will leave to go back home. I have mixed emotions about it. I am super exhausted, but this experience of attending mosques and sharing the gospel in new and exciting ways has shown me that there are many ways to share the gospel, without changing the message. I have enjoyed getting to know each person on this trip. They have been such a great encouragement and supporter this week. God brought His boldness to our group this week. A lot of this week was living in the intangible, non-scheduled. We were thrown into the fire sometimes and asked to come up with our own plan and way of sharing the gospel. Other times we were taught about the many “sincerely” good, but lost people. Our emotions were drained, our spirit was attacked, but the Lord filled us up each and every day. We were never alone in our conversations, our visits. Jesus Christ was walking beside each and every one of us, guiding our words, thoughts, and actions. We were able to see a side of our country we had never really seen before and for our hearts to break in a way they had never broken before. This week our group became “the body” of the Bible. We had many parts, many gifts, many talents, but we became unified. We worked alongside one another and strangers. We worked with missionaries and loved them and served them as much as we loved each other. Do I know what God will do after this trip? No. But I do know that Jesus opened our eyes to the truth this week that people are dying, and going to Hell without Him, in religions that will fail them every time. He broke our hearts and emotions, and brought us to our knees at times, to make us understand the battle that we are in. We are not fighting against flesh and blood, but we are fighting against the powers of darkness. We head back to our communities empowered and emboldened by the truth we have learned this week.
I hope you all have enjoyed this blog post. I hope that you will partner alongside us in praying daily for these people and reaching out to these people in your own communities. The body of Christ is broad, and stretches to the ends of the earth. Come on.
“The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few.” –Jesus