Not too long ago I had the opportunity to travel to The Middle East to get to serve and love on the community there along with brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m still processing what all God had in store for us while we were there and what He continues to have in store for us now.
There were a few things that stood out to me and I wanted to share that experience and those moments here with you, hoping they will be a mutual encouragement and benefit to your walk with Jesus. And if you aren’t a follower of Christ, maybe this can be an encouragement to you on what is happening on the other side of the world.
Sincerity Of The People
Being a foreigner and I’m sure I stood out with blonde/spiked hair, there were times we may or may not had to ask for directions. haha. Whether we pulled up to someone in our car or just asked someone for help on the streets, the earnest desire from a “stranger” to help us was felt. If I pulled up to someone here in my car or on the street the typical first response from them is “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” Quite the opposite response.
The sincere devotion of the people particularly gripped me while on the plane ride over. Imagine being 12 hours into a flight, 99% of everyone is asleep (except for me and about 3 other people…I can’t sleep on planes), and what do I notice? An older man gets up, walks around the flight for a minute, sits down, and starts to pray. He is praying and attempting to kneel even though he can’t on the plane. He is praying while everyone else is asleep. He is one of the oldest people on the plane – and has the most energy and devotion towards his commitments.
This broke my heart and encouraged me at the same time.
He is so sincere and devoted, more than other Christians I know including myself at times, and yet his devotion isn’t to the God of the Bible.
I was so affected by his devotion and was reminded that the power of the Holy Spirit is the only one who would change this man’s dedicated heart. It was overwhelming but also freed me up to know I can love people well, share the Gospel, and it’s on the reliance of the power of God to do the saving. Not me. While that is hard if I want to control the situation or save the person myself, it is incredibly freeing and builds my confidence in The Lord to know I really am dependent on Him to do the work in changed hearts.
Women and Honor
Another thing that really hit home for me were the differences between men and women. Culturally there is a huge divide between the value of men and the value of women, but what struck me was while I believed a lot of it was oppression (and don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely oppression of women everywhere), there was at times more of an honor perspective than I realized.
It’s illustrated pretty good here in this graphic:
If you were to ask different women on what they think about the culture most would look at you confused at why you were asking. There is quite the perspective of when a woman is covered that it comes from a place of respect and honor. Their husband wants to honor and respect their dignity and not let a man see them in any other way.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you have many who look at us in the states and see a woman “being free” to wear or not wear whatever she wants and while we at times may say that is about “women’s rights,” it is often viewed as disrespectful and oppressive towards women.
I was not expecting this mindset at all but isn’t it interesting how we might assume we know what oppression is, while another perspective truly believes it is honor and respect. Makes me think of what else we assume and get wrong.
A Great Work Being Done
Lastly, there was a moment that blew me away. I know this memory will stick with me forever and I’ll draw from it for a long time on the work God is doing around the world.
We were all spread out at a coffee shop in the middle of nowhere and having a time of solitude. Imagine just a coffee shop doing its thing and some of us sitting at a table in silence. When out of nowhere, a man walks up and immediately starts asking us what we were doing and what we were reading.
Now you have to understand just like I had to learn, for a man to do this, approach us…including women….and straight up ask us these questions, that is abnormal. And culturally can be frowned upon. It stunned us for a moment because we didn’t know what to think with his questions and the emotions that were coming behind his questions.
Well after he asked us his questions, he then said something that no one was expecting. He introduced himself as a pastor of a local Christian church and said he felt the Holy Spirit come in with us when we entered the coffee shop.
He said this with tears in his eyes and he felt drawn to just have to come up to us and say this.
He later came back with some bread that his wife made for him to give it to our people as a gift.
This. Was. Incredible.
This man had incredible courage and felt the presence of God enough to get out of his seat and walk over to us publicly and say what he said. To say that we were stunned is an understatement. I sat there for awhile in silence just blown away immediately thinking God was telling us that He is at work, all over the world. There is a movement of the Holy Spirit that spans across the globe and many people are coming to Christ.
It’s not on our shoulders to be responsible for the saving, Jesus will take care of that.
It’s not on us to have the perfect words in conversations, God can move even in the silence.
It’s not our wisdom or understanding that will ultimately connect with others, it’s our heart and perspective to meet people where they are.
I’m so thankful for this experience and believe God will continue to work through it for us and for others for many years to come.