Thursday, June 21, 2018

Immigrant Issues

"...I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne before the Lamb..." Revelations 7:9

Paul is our guest writer today. He had several decades of overseas ministry experience in a Muslim majority country. Now he writes from the homeland of how to make an impact on newcomers. These kinds of ministry opportunities would apply to other western nations where Muslims are settling. So, listen in on what Paul has to say. 

"According to the 2011 Canadian census there are approximately 1,100,000 Muslims in Canada.  If you live in an urban area of Canada, chances are that you have a Muslim neighbor, work colleague, client, or till operator at your local convenience store.  Maybe you have a desire to reach out to these people with the love of Christ, but do not know quite how to go about it.
72% of Muslims in Canada are immigrants (born somewhere other than Canada).  When these immigrants arrive in Canada they are faced with several difficulties.
  •        They lack Canadian work experience.
  •        They lack credentials for skilled and professional jobs.
  •          26% of immigrants do not have enough English language skills to function in Canadian society.
70,000 immigrants enroll in English language classes within the first 6 months of arriving in Canada.
What are the implications of these facts for God’s people in Canada?  The Church in Canada needs to see these immigrant “difficulties” as opportunities.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you or your church were the first to offer English classes or instruction on finding jobs to these people!  As you mull over these possibilities you might think that you really are not qualified to help.  There are several ways to feel more comfortable about getting involved.  One is to join an existing program, such as a church English as a Second Language (ESL) program and learn from a mentor.  Another way is to enroll in a training program of which there are many.

I would like to highlight just one.  Vanguard Taylor Language Institute (VTLI) is a 15 college credit program that is offered at Vanguard College and Taylor Seminary in Edmonton.  The credits can either go towards a degree in intercultural studies in either Taylor Seminary or Vanguard College, or it can just be a stand-alone certificate in teaching English accredited with TESL Canada.  The advantage of this program is that it can be finished in just one month - offered during the month of May with four one-week modules back to back with a practicum to follow ( ).  Being TESL Canada approved it will open doors for many teaching opportunities both in Canada and overseas.

Many immigrants have come to Canada at great sacrifice.  They have little resources, are facing an alien culture and language, perplexed by a new school system for their children, not knowing what to do in a medical crisis, etc.  We have the opportunity to be a friend to them as they cope with all the issues of uprooting from the familiar and living amongst the unfamiliar."

Dear Lord, give us willing hearts to help newcomers coming to our nations for refuge or a fresh start in life. Show us the way. Our cry is that the nations would hear about you and that all would seek to become 'permanent residents of heaven'. Amen.  

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Eid al Fitr

See Praying for the Muslim world (click) for a daily prayer guide.

"...imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one...'Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!' Count on it--that's the kind of party God's angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God." Luke 15:10 The Message

Ahmed said "The last ones to see the new moon are sometimes the first to see the crescent moon." In other words, there is a reluctance to fast so you avoid it or finish ASAP.

For Muslims who fast Ramadan it's been an arduous month of discipline and sheer determination to follow the rules. Some read through the entire Qur'an and abstain from anything that they would consider to contaminate the soul. They are relieved that it's over again although some are saddened by it coming to a close. Once the moon appears again 29 or 30 days later, Muslims prepare for a party, their Eid celebration.

On Eid day Muslims get up in the morning, take a shower/bath and get dressed in new clothes or their best clothes. The first step is to go to the mosque for Eid prayers. If there isn't enough space then a bigger venue is rented to accommodate the crowd. There is no prayer call for the Eid prayers even in Muslim countries. Over there it's common for the mosque crowd to spill over onto the street, blocking the traffic. You just got to wait until they are done.

Following the Eid prayers, they go around congratulating each other and hugging. Now they are free to eat or drink all day. All grudges are to be forgiven. Its a new start of broken relationships or a renewal of friendships. I remember some of the invitations we used to get for Eid celebrations. We knew our hosts wanted to go and visit their Muslim friends so we had just a limited amount of time to chat with them and eat the special foods they had prepared. In Muslim majority countries this is normally a 3 or 4 day holiday.

Parents or other relatives often give their kids gifts during Eid to buy candy or toys. It is common for the religious to make extra donations during the month of Ramadan to assist the poor or underprivileged. Last year Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Al Waleed donated a jaw dropping $32 billion "to foster cultural understanding, empower women, and provide vital disaster relief, among other things."

What response should we make when Eid arrives? When practicing Muslims go around to congratulate one another with 'Eid Mubarak' they really do view this as an accomplishment and during Eid prayers pray that God would accept these religious deeds and reward them. It's very much a 'Muslim event'. So Muslim friends don't normally invite us to Eid celebrations. We prefer waiting for a few days and then be in touch with them and ask "How was your Eid?" or "How did you celebrate?" rather than congratulating them. Muslims assimilated into western society don't celebrate like their older relatives. Some don't want to take extra time off and just keep the celebrations simple.

Dear God, now that Ramadan is coming to a close help me to re-engage with my Muslim friends and continue sharing the Good News that can make the whole year blessed. Amen.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Ramadan Discussions

See Praying for the Muslim world (click) for a daily prayer guide.

"...this is what he(God) requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

Where we live Muslims who fast and have a day job endure over 17 hours without food or drink. Muslims need to ask "Does God really require people to suffer like this?"

Some of my Muslim acquaintances bravely start off fasting for the first couple of days. Others compensate by taking holidays or return to their homeland during this month. Others fast the last 10 days of Ramadan--the most important time. Any religious act like saying extra prayer or reading the Qur'an on the 'Night of Power'(Laytatul) according to the Qur'an receives 1000 fold merit(Qur'an 97:3). During this night Muslims celebrate the 'revelation' of the Qur'an. Muslim scholars believe it took place sometime in the last 10 days of Ramadan. This year 21st is designated as the 'Night of Power'. Muslims consider this the best time of the entire year to pray for salvation and blessings. Many believe it's their night of destiny. Ramadan has been called 'month of God'--month to repent, month to forgive, a month of reward.

Is it wise to visit a mosque during Ramadan? I visited the mosque several times for 'Iftar'. Since I hadn't fasted, it felt awkward. We all sat around until it was time to 'break the fast'. We give a mixed message when we enter into their rituals without having a voice. Ramadan is considered by Muslims to be a deeply spiritual month. Many spend extra time in the mosque. It's all about the Scales(Mezan) where they believe on Judgement Day their 'good deeds' and 'bad deeds' are weighed. They believe that lax Muslims will spend some time in hell before being allowed to enter paradise.

Overall Ramadan is a celebratory month when women make special dishes to be enjoyed into the wee hours of the night. Many say "We love Ramadan."  A Muslim woman on a TV show said, "Its easy to forget the real reason why we are doing this." It becomes a cultural event. Many nominal Muslims will go along with the 'Iftar' celebrations or 'Eid al Fitr' like nominal Christians do at Christmas and Easter. When asked "Why do you fast?" Muslims often say that they can empathize with the poor. Yet, why are the poor expected to fast as well?

Matthew 6:18 declares "But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting...your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

According to the Injil(NT), it is not about merit with God. It helps to take our eyes off the things of this world and focus on God. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God, a spiritual discipline often neglected. One thing we could consider doing is missing a meal and praying for the Muslim world during the month of Ramadan. There probably has never been a more desperate time in the Muslim world.

Dear Heavenly Father, have mercy on Muslims who long for peace in their part of the world and in their souls. Amen.