Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Missionary Secrets 2: life is not as exciting as it seems

Am travelling at the moment, and so do not have children running my life for a few brief days. After smoking hooka and reading for a while outside and enjoying the fine weather of this perfidious city, I thought I would drop by the local mosque. Which worked out well since they were issuing the call to prayer: "Come to fulfillment....come to prayer." Wonderful words, if I do say so myself.

After standing at the mosque door and signing to some guy there I said, "I'm a Christian, but would like to see how you prayer." I have done this once before, but that was some  time ago. They had no problem with that, so I took my shoes off and sat outside the door of the prayer room and watched them do their short prayers. I enjoyed chatting afterwards with some of the men coming out. And there were only men, as this mosque had no women's room. But sure enough, some 30 or so men piled in and prayed and left.

In the Arab world if you can get 30 Christians together once a week for worship you are doing pretty good. And here were 30 guys on a Tuesday evening coming in.

Chatted with the imam's dad (nice) and the young imam (not so nice). Wanted to ask about the crucifixion in the Qur'an but really felt it was not right at the moment, and so I left and said, next I'm back in X I will come and visit you all, God willing. Yes, they said, God willing. The men outside the mosque were friendly and all waved to me. All in all it was much more welcoming than visiting a church, I'm sad to say.

This is the sort of thing that sounds exciting to non-missionaries, but to me it is not very exciting. It was not a big disappointment either. It was just normal missionary life: after reading, eating, a couple of interviews, evening prayer (at a Christian church), and so on.

Missionary Secrets 2: missionary life is not that exciting most of the time.

--Abu Daoud

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Parking Ticket and Bashiir

Dear All,

Today I went out run some errands and I stopped at a nice, new cafe and to pick up an early lunch (grilled cheese and tomato, how's that for fancy?) I was reading my book and as I was the only one there the young lady there and I started chatting as she was sweeping and didn't have much to do. Then the manager got there, a young man around 30 I'd guess, and we started chatting.

I was in a hurry to leave because my car was by the parking meter which I new was going to run out and I live in probably the only Arab city in the world where police give tickets for this stuff (seriously). But I told him that I am a scholar and that I study things like religion and politics and history, and he got interested. He then asked me a very interesting question:

"Are violence and terrorism taught in the Qur'an?"

I thought for a moment, and answered that the Qur'an is a mixed bag. That during the Meccan period it was not the case, but that during the Medinan period violence was indeed used, and I cited the example of Muhammad's call for the assassination of Asma bint Marwan. So I said, sometimes yes, sometimes no. And then I said that I found the example of Jesus more attractive, who said his kingdom was not of this world, and refused earthly power and the use of violence.

Anyway, I left and sure enough I had a parking ticket which will cost me some $30 USD or so. Ugh. But then later that day I returned (as he had asked me to do), and brought a little NT (injiil) of mine. I told him, this is my Gospel and I will lend it to you for a week, but read Jn 18-20 (I gave him page numbers actually, for obvious reasons), on the question of power and politics and violence. I will come by next week and we can talk about it more.

Will you please pray for this man, whom we will call Bashiir? Pray that he reads the NT. Pray that he will seriously think about it. And also pray for the young lady at the cafe, who overheard all of this and is also Muslim.


Abu Daoud

Friday, May 11, 2012

Missionary Secrets 1--retirement worries us

I have been a missionary long enough that I feel like I really understand the job. There are veterans out there that put people like to shame, but all those young Americans who come to the Muslim world for a few months or two or three years--I'm not with them. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike them, and some of them are great people and in our own ministry they do help a good bit...often--but not always.

So here is my missionary secret 1: retirement inspires fear, or at best, requires a great deal of faith. I'm not old enough that retirement is just around the corner or anything, but when I hear about people who get matching retirement based on income (like I used to before we left for the field), well, that is admirable.

You always hear, but away 10% of your income for retirement. We do that. A lot of missionaries can't afford to, so I think we are lucky in this area, and I am thankful for this. But still, based on our income it is never going to reach a great amount.

Also, we have to pay rent. I mean, buying a property in the Middle East is near impossible, and besides, would you invest money in a property in the Middle East? When you don't know if your visa will be renewed or when the belongings of all non-citizens can be suddenly expropriated by the State (which has happened)? So after years in the mission field, you go home and...you rent? One of the staples of retirement in the West is that by then you own your home, so no rent. Not for missionaries.

Also, no one ever asks us about retirement. People will pitch in for evangelistic campaigns or bibles or other good things like that. But retirement? I have never tried it, but I'm not eager to. I don't suspect it would really meet with much success, but maybe I'm wrong.

So, next time you meet a visiting missionary, ask them about retirement savings. If they are boomers they lived in a prosperous period where investments did well and churches were wealthy. If they are (like us) Gen X then, well, you're probably screwed. Boomers will also enjoy the generous welfare of the West for old folks. Gen X'ers will not. By then all the money will be gone and we'll have to do insane things like pay for our health care and nursing homes.

So ask. I don't know of any missionary ever who has raised the topic with supporters. But I do know that it's a topic on the mind of many of my colleagues. We don't lack faith--you don't get into this line of work if you do, I suspect. But we are trying to be responsible and take care of our families. Churches and supporters of missionaries and missions should know about it.

--Abu Daoud