The strategy? Developing genuine friendships is the starting point. It's exactly what a lot of Americans in the community have wanted to do, and now they're being given the most practical of opportunities. To start with, building friendships with Muslim people is just what Missionary Emad does best. He was very successful at it in Egypt. And, let's be perfectly clear. We’re not talking about sham friendships. It's not a "bait and switch". This is genuine friendship and the love of Jesus displayed in hospitality and friendship. It starts with getting to know Muslim people as people, people with families and a life story. The friendships are not contingent upon someone coming to church, or becoming a Christian, although this is happening. No, the friendships being formed are real, and they are lasting. And, more importantly, the friendships are being developed by American Christians.
An introduction for Americans to this kind of friendship ministry came for Omaha area Lutherans (and other Christians) through a 6 week Outreach to Muslims training seminar led by Missionary Emad. The course has been a real help to Americans wanting to do outreach, by giving them the background of what Muslims believe, how to approach them, and what kinds of questions they may have about Christian faith. The-six week training session was attended by more than 30 people. Some of them have taken the opportunity to shadow Emad, going with him as he visits Muslim people in their homes, or by talking with Muslim families who’ve attended worship services after the service. Among them is Pastor Jim Haack of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, his son Christian, and others. Basically, what they have learned is that friendship displayed in hospitality (almost always featuring food) is key. In the homes of Muslim immigrants, with Emad by their side, Pastor Haack and volunteers have learned by doing. They talk, they eat, they laugh, and they enjoy Middle Eastern hospitality. These "mission trips" are having a profound impact on participants. Time spent with Muslims and their families are really helping these believers "get it" when it comes to outreach to Muslims.
As Pastor Haack says, “When Emad has taken me on home visits to these people, it was like learning from a master. He knows just what to say, and especially what not to say, to foster a ‘safe’ environment where true dialogue about differences in religion can occur. It’s more than on-the-job training. It’s becoming equipped for 21st century evangelism. He lives what he teaches.”
The fruit of this outreach effort? Three Muslim families have come to worship services several times, staying afterwards to ask a number of questions about Christ, the Bible, and the worship services. These families now feel most welcome at the church, and are comfortable with these Americans. They are not hesitant to ask questions because their "teachers" have also become their friends. Please pray for this practical outreach training that POBLO Missionary Emad is doing, the willingness of Omaha area believers to get involved, and for the Holy Spirit Who goes with them into the homes of Muslim families. It looks like this is just a start to Missionary Emad's goal of having dozens of area Christians who are stand ready to meet, befriend, love, and witness Christ's love to Muslims.