One of my new friends here in Altona is Kawsar. I met her for the first time last spring the day she registered for a garden plot at the Altona Community Garden. When she realized she could enter a draw to win a free plot later in the day she said she would do so and then told me she was going home to pray. She came back in time for the draw and won the free garden plot. So I returned the registration fee to her.
Then she told me what had happened. “I went home to pray that I would win the plot so that I could send those sixteen dollars to a relative in Africa who is destitute. And now I am so happy that God answered my prayer.” So far, so good! Who of us hasn’t prayed for something specific and then rejoiced when we felt our prayers were answered?
But Kawsar is Muslim. And that raises red flags among some of my evangelical friends. In my childhood church, Kawsar would have been numbered among the “heathen” to whom missionaries were being sent to convert them to Christianity. All their prayers, we were told, were useless babble because they were enslaved by the demonic forces of darkness. Interesting though, that Kawsar’s testimony was a mirror image of the many testimonies I heard at church as a youngster.
Since then I have had numerous opportunities to dialogue with Kawsar. Once we lingered at the garden till after dark sharing about our faith experiences! She is convinced that we pray to the same God who is gracious to all who call upon him. The truth is, though, that in terms of sincerity and piety she has me beat by a Manitoba mile.
Earlier this spring, just before the garden was swinging into gear, I was experiencing some health issues for which I was hospitalized. Since then the doctors have determined I am, in fact, quite well and can continue on with my work at the garden. Shortly afterwards, I met Kawsar’s husband at the garden on a Sunday morning while we were setting up for a “field-trip” church service there. I introduced him to Pastor Ted after which he told us how much his family treasures the garden.
Then he went on to tell us that Kawsar had not slept well the night before, so she had been on her knees in prayer for two hours in the dead of night. And then he looked at me and said, “Jack, I heard your name many times during those two hours. Kawsar was praying that you would be well so you could continue your work at the garden.”
I was moved to tears! My Muslim friend, Kawsar, had prayed for me at least as fervently and lovingly as I suspect anybody in my early church community had prayed for heathen Muslims in faraway Africa. And here I was – in answer to her prayer – up and around, carrying on my work at the garden. I felt, in that moment, a deep bond of fellowship and love I have been told most of my life would be impossible with someone of a different faith than mine.
What was I to do with this new experience? I will post some options below.
I will leave it to you to select the option that you think I have chosen.