Much of where NLE ministers is deep in the countryside where modern civilization has scarcely made an impact; where people know only an extremely tribal M*slim culture; where new ideas are not readily assimilated. These evangelical sites are difficult to access, with the added layer (for me) of not fully understanding the tribal or M*slim cultures. I pray as Brother Andrew does, “Lord, may I see what You see, hear what You hear, love what You love, hate what You hate, and feel what You feel.” Each time I travel to Ethiopia, I go expecting God to reveal more of His heart for the people we serve.
I chatted with Sheik Kasim* during a rare time of gathering our evangelist-missionaries together. Sheik Kasim was a scholarly Imam before coming to Christ five years ago. He shared with me the enormous pressure Isl*m puts on the individual to be righteous and how futile it is. No M*slim knows for sure if his good works will grant him entrance to heaven.
An example he used is the pilgrimage to Mecca that every M*slim is required to make at least once in a lifetime. Prior to the trip, the pilgrim asks forgiveness of anyone he has offended, pays off all his debts and memorizes numerous verses from the Quran. On the pilgrimage everyone wears a white robe, circles the Kaaba, stones the devil and offers an animal sacrifice. All these things must be done precisely and with the right attitude or else the pilgrimage is a failure. If at any point the pilgrim slips in his devotion, he might as well stop there and head home – the Hajj is over for that person.
Knowing that millions of pilgrims are crowded together for five days, I said, “You mean if a man is jostled and gets angry, saying, “Hey, watch it, you fool!” his Hajj is doomed? Kasim sadly nodded his head. “He has failed. The pilgrimage is over.”
As he talked, many scriptures came to mind about Christ’s disciples no longer laboring under the weight of the law, having received right standing with God through Jesus’ sacrifice. I felt a deep sorrow for M*slims who try so hard to please God by their efforts, but have no comprehension of grace offered by a compassionate God.
Sheik Kasim and the 35 other evangelist-missionaries NewLife Ethiopia works alongside are passionate about sharing the wonderful Good News with their tribesmen. They want all to know the incredible joy of being unconditionally pardoned with assurance of life eternal with a loving God.