Recently my family and I rode the metro train from the center of town to our neighborhood, about 45 minutes away. As usual, both our boys fell asleep. My husband was standing, holding our 4-year-old, and I was sitting trying to keep our younger son as comfortable as possible. Normally not a problem, but at the time I was 8 1/2 months pregnant, trying to hold a very large 2-year-old in a catatonic state.
A few minutes after we got settled, a Muslim couple entered the train and found a place to sit right beside us. The wife sat next to me; she wore a black burka that left only a small opening for her eyes, nose, and lips. In this culture, I knew it was disrespectful to show the bottoms of one’s feet so I tried to make sure that my son’s dusty clogs did not brush across her black fabric. My efforts were in vain though, and in my broken language I tried to apologize to the woman.
As I apologized, she just smiled, leaned over, and gently grabbed my son’s feet and placed them in her lap. She looked at me reassuringly and began to tell me about her five children and many grandchildren. Her husband joyfully chimed in, telling us that they were going to a friend’s wedding and then attending another cultural celebration for a little boy they knew.
For the next 25 minutes, we talked about many things and they made me feel welcome in their country. As they left, the wife grabbed a small handful of chocolates from her purse for my boys, and then reached into her shopping bag and pulled out two glass coffee cups. She placed them in my hands, gave me a smile, and left with her husband.
The husband was a local Imam, the spiritual leader at one of the mosques in town, and one of the hundreds of men whose voice rings out over the city five times a day proclaiming the greatness of Allah. Our family has been in the city for almost a year, and the call to prayer is now a part of everyday life – I don't even notice it much anymore. But that day our interaction with this couple challenged my thinking. I met the person and the family behind the voice. I heard that voice talk about his children, grandchildren, and friends. I saw the smile from which that voice came, and I saw the person behind that voice.
The encounter reminded me that we must always keep in mind who the true enemy is. Don't get me wrong; sin exists in this part of the world and bad things happen, but it is important that we keep a biblical perspective. The enemy is Satan, and the people who do "bad things" are those trapped in his lies, just like I used to be. Jesus desperately loves Muslim people, and He has called us to do the same.
Now each morning as I sit and drink my cup of coffee and hear the call to prayer, I think a little bit differently. I hear a man, a father, a grandfather, a son, and a family trapped in lies. It is our privilege to show people Truth that will set them free. There is no better job in the world.