The Bible has a lot to say about honor. Saturday night Phil and I were honored. Our next door neighbors are a very private, proper, gentle and generous Islamic family from Pakistan. If you read our blog regularly you know Phil and I have been praying for and seizing opportunities to build a friendship with them. Shiraz and Naima honored us this past week with a very special invitation to attend a family party at their home. It was Saturday night. Our children were tucked snugly in their beds. Phil wore dress slacks and a collared shirt. I wore a long skirt, leggings, a maternity sweater and a decorative scarf (attempting to emulate the modest dress of my neighbor and her relatives). We prepared ourselves for cultural differences. As we walked in the door holding hands, I whispered to Phil, “I’m not going to speak much, but stay behind you most of the time,” guessing that would be the most appropriate conduct for a woman.
It took all of one minute for me to realize I would not have the comfort of hiding behind my husband because the front family room of the home was filled exclusively with men and I was ushered into the living room next to the kitchen with all of the women. I gave Phil a see-you-later smile and warmly hugged the hostess. Her two sisters whom I’ve met before greeted me and I offered the proper Islamic greeting (“As-Salam Alaykum” which means peace be upon you) to people as I met them. The older ladies, who spent most of their lives in a small village in Pakistan, loved my proper greeting and welcomed me with great kindness. I was seated next to a caucasian wife who met her husband of twenty two years at Saint Mary’s Hospital here in Reno. All of the women wore traditional clothing so the room was a sea of bright, flowing colors, sequins and sparkles. They truly looked like royalty and many of them were, quite honestly, off-the-charts beautiful. It was as if I were in a room of Pakistani princesses. Each woman carried herself with great poise; modesty, thoughtfulness, and dignity modeled in their delicate gestures. I learned through a proud relative that most of the men in this family are doctors, engineers, or business owners. This is a family that works very hard, and lives well.
After I settled in, I quite liked being separate from the men as it helped me relax. There is a feeling every woman knows of being assessed when she walks into a room and being hidden among the women was quite comforting. After a time the hostess announced it was time to eat. The men came into the kitchen first and ate bountifully dish after dish of succulent, superb cuisine. Once every man was seated and eating back in the front room the women were invited to partake. I was asked to go first through the food line. With enough food to feed an army, and my pregnant appetite at work, I wasn’t shy about filling my plate. The aromas were so inviting and the dishes so masterfully made that I quite enjoyed myself. Homemade Naan bread wrapped in large sheets of cloth just like we had in India, a chickpea dish, a sweet rice dish, two amazing salads, two chicken dishes, a goat dish, sauces, and…I could go on…It was delicious!
But the best part came as I sat next to a woman named Mispa. She was about my age and had two small children. Throughout the course of the evening I learned that she grew up in Delaware and married a man from Pakistan who was now a doctor here in Reno. They married just before he began residency here in the states. And, it was an arranged marriage. Mispa was obviously very well educated, speaks three languages, and having grown up in Delaware thinks mostly like you and I. When she could tell that I was not at all shocked or taken back by the genesis of her marriage, she said, “You know, it’s really all the same. If you date someone or if you have an arranged marriage, it all takes work.” I agreed and I commended her for having the wisdom to allow her parents (who know her and love her more than anybody) to have such a vital role in the single most important life-decision she could make. She smiled. We talked about parenting, being wives, education, culture, languages, and after a time (I have no idea why or what I said that gave this impression) she asked, “Are you a missionary?”
“Yep,” I said and felt like God was with me. As the evening went on, and after a home-brewed cup of very sweet green tea, I started to feel sleepy and was sending Phil subliminal messages to come get me since it would be improper for me to go to him. When we got home we had a long talk about how rich, full, and beautiful our time was. Phil got to have interesting conversations with the men, mostly about work. They liked that he was a pilot and Phil says he spent most of his time asking questions. Then, one of the men, Miton, began talking to Phil about Islam and after a few moments he said, “So, you’re a Christian, right?” Perhaps he knew this from our neighbor and host, Shiraz who just last week asked Phil if we are Catholic. So, the family knows that we are Christians and yet, we were still invited to the family party. HOW COOL IS THAT!
Here’s one last thing about this party that I found simply astounding. There were no other friends at this party. No coworkers. No colleagues. Just family. And us. Was this incredible invitation the result of prayer for in-roads and opportunities? I think so. Was this the beginning of a flourishing friendship? I hope so.
May you be blessed this week as you look for, pray for, and walk through open doors. If you pray for us, please pray the Lord will provide us with a larger vehicle to use for the next year as our family is outgrowing our Subaru. Please also pray that we find a new and effective life-rhythm with Phil’s new work schedule. We used to wake up around 5am for quiet times and exercise but now Phil is waking up at 4 or earlier to get to work on time. We are having to work out a new schedule for our routines and it is taking a bit of adjustment. Please pray for wisdom, discipline, and grace.
Blessings to you!
Jessica has been put in charge of a project for Summit. Her job is to interview people to hear their testimony about how God has changed their life. She is incredibly stoked and honored to be working on this project! She attended the “First Steps” class on Thursday. “First Steps” is a class that teaches people what it means to be a disciple of Christ, what the death and resurrection of Christ means to a believer, and how to have a relationship with God. While meeting some of the people who had completed the class, one of the young ladies said, “I know you. You live on Allegrini.” Thus began a great conversation.
The lady explained how she had come to believe in God and accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She also happens to be the sister of one of our neighbors! She was excited to know Jessica and glad that we are living near her sister. (She also asked, “You guys are the ones who talk to the muslims, right?” That sounds like a good thing to be known for!) The young lady encouraged Jessica to pray for her sister and family. (We are already on that!) She thinks that her sister might be interested in coming to church but she doesn’t know how to invite her. Jessica said, “Well, you said you wanted to get baptized. Invite her to that!” We are hopeful and excited about what God has done in this lady’s life and what he may be stirring in our cul-de-sac.
We continue to build relationship with our neighbors next door. They invited us to dinner on Friday and we had a great time getting to know them and one of their friends. The topic of aviation and flight instruction came up and I might have some more flight students! Yahoo. We also shared a little more of what we will be doing with MAF and why we are doing it. It was a great time. Now we just continue to pray and let God do what He wants with the seed.
On another note, I have started working at Trader Joe’s. Let me tell you, it is a LOT of fun. Seriously! It is a busy job but that makes the time fly. I also get to interact with the coworkers and customers for about 8 hours. (Yes, I am an extrovert and, yes, I come home stoked about the work and getting to interact with people.) It is a blessing and I am excited about the opportunities that God has for me at work.
Have a blessed week and remember, God is good and He loves you!
I realized something as I gave a devotional to some elementary age children. We are talking about being Fishers of Men and I was trying to explain how to practically tell others the Good News about God without simply blurting out, “Accept Jesus or go to Hell.” (This works for some but is usually a conversation killer.) So, I did some quick thinking on my feet and explained to the kids there are three really easy ways to start talking to others about God.
1. Tell people something you have read in your Bible.
I should probably preface this one by saying you need to be reading your Bible in order to share something that you have read recently! Isn’t it amazing what people will talk about?!?! Who doesn’t like to share a really cool video off of youtube, or maybe a cool picture that you came across on Facebook? Well, why can’t we share a really cool thing about something that God did? For instance, have you ever read the story of how Elijah was taken up into Heaven in a whirlwind on a fiery chariot? (II Kings 2) Or, have you read about Elisha and the invisible army of angels? (II Kings 6) That is cool stuff! It is even cooler because IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED!!!
2. Tell people how God has answered one of your prayers.
I should also preface this one by saying you need to be praying for God to have something to answer! Jess and I have been amazed in the past month at how God has been answering prayers. I was offered a full-time job at Trader Joe’s this last Saturday. Ding ding ding! It was an answer to prayer!!! What a perfect opportunity to share about God. I have been praying for a job and God has answered. Not only that, but He has been providing for us during the wait!!! I was given three weeks of work, which has filled in perfectly for right when I start at Trader Joe’s. Come on! How can God NOT have His hand’s all over that?!?! But, if God answers a prayer then let others know about it!
3. Tell others how God is or will work in your life.
My sister introduced us to her boyfriend last night and we had a lovely time together. He was polite, kind, helpful, tender-hearted, intelligent, and engaging. He asked some great questions and wanted to know more about what were going to do as missionaries. He studied international affairs in college and he was nervous about us moving to Africa or Indonesia. “Aren’t you afraid of what might happen to you? Are you going to carry a gun?” he asked. No, we are not going to carry a gun. Are we afraid? I told him that, from a worldly perspective, it is a scary thing to move to another country and I would have serious doubts about what might happen. But, if I believe in God and I believe He is who He says He is, then I don’t have anything that I need to fear. If God has called us to serve as missionaries, then He is going to be with us and He can protect us from whatever may happen. I also realize that following God does not guarantee safety. However, if something bad happens, I know God will use it to bring glory to His name. I am good with that.
So, I have to tell you, this is something that just hit me today. I wish I did this more often myself. Here’s hoping and praying that we will do a better job at fishing for men and not being afraid to share how great is our God!!!
In the past two weeks I have had the opportunity to work a variety of jobs. Two of these jobs have opened up doors for me to share/live out the gospel. The first job is a care giver job when I spent the night (awake) at a couple’s home and helped the man get in and out of bed to use the bathroom. I didn’t spend a lot of time with the family while they were awake, but I was able to care for them whenever they needed me. On the last night that I worked I sat down with the wife and let her tell me all about her husband. I asked her questions and she would go from one story to the next. She couldn’t stop talking about what an amazing husband she had. She also asked me questions about my family and I told her about what we are planning to do with mission aviation. It was a blessing to serve that couple. He passed away the morning after my last shift. The family told my employer that I had done a great job and had become like one of the family in the short time that I spent with them. I was excited because I felt that I was able to be the hands and feet of Christ for this man and his family during the last days of his life.
The second job was one that I have done before but seemed to have come out of nowhere. The director of the pre-school at Summit Christian Church called me a week and a half ago and asked if I could help fill in with their off-track program. (This is a kind of child-care program that watches elementary age kids when they have a month off from year-round school.) It will only be for three weeks, but it will be useful while we wait for more hours from the care-giver job or possibly get hired with Trader Joe’s! Last week was building up toward Easter and I had the idea to read the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection from “The Jesus Storybook Bible.” (If you don’t know, this is one of the BEST kid’s Bibles around!!!) After reading the story, I had the chance to share the Gospel with over 40 kids and explain why Jesus died on the cross. I know that some of the kids have already accepted Christ but it was a blessing to be able to lay it out for them and give them an opportunity to accept Christ, if they haven’t already. YAHOO!!! What fun and what a blessing that God has given to us!!!
We continue to wait for God as we figure out where I will work for the next 9 months. I had a second interview with Trader Joe’s last Thursday and I thought it went very well. One of the managers who interviewed me first saw me before the interview and said, “Oh man, I am so glad to see you back! I asked about you yesterday and was hoping that you would come back. You are going to do great!” He was more excited than I was!!!
We had some great time with our neighbors this last weekend and we are excited to keep pouring into them. Our kids did an Easter egg hunt together and they invited us to dinner some time this week. They also asked if we like to camp and if we would want to go camping with them this summer! Pray that God would give us wisdom in when/how we can share with them.
God is GOOD! We hope and pray that you had a wonderful Easter and were able to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! May God give you a full understanding of all that you have in Christ with each new day!