Tamara and I walked through the checkpoint later than usual recently, at the same time as the evening call to prayer.
As we walked through the area between the gates, a man faced Mecca. Others ran to join him and they bowed, perfectly aligned and moving in sync, prostrating in prayer. I was struck by the beauty of the togetherness of it — likely men who do not know each other joined in their common faith and brought together in a ritual demonstration of submission to God.
As I watched them, humble in posture and bold in declaration of their faith in the middle of the checkpoint, I was a little bit jealous. How often do I spontaneously see a brother or sister and pray with them, especially in public? In fact, how many brothers and sisters do I walk by without ever knowing we have the most important thing in common?
In my church tradition, we seem to equate ritual with perfunctory behavior — assuming that people are forced into the effort and are going through meaningless motions.
We will never be saved through ritual behavior. But I don’t think our assumption is true.
Today our main activity was to spend time at a local mosque. It was a really good experience. We were given the opportunity to meet the Imam and were invited to observe the mid-afternoon prayer. Then we talked with some of the leaders and learned more about Islam whilst building some interesting relationships!
I hope everyone at home is very well!
Today was really, really crazy! We were at the school again this morning, and several of the girls surprised me with cards and little gifts when they saw me again. It was so surprising and really really sweet.
After the school, we had a meeting with some local Muslim leaders. It was a really insightful discussion about the teachings of Islam as they relate to terrorism and other challenging issues.
Then we did some training for the work we’ll be doing for Healing on the Streets on Saturday.
Directly following that Ben and I (a British friend) went out to follow up with people about the Jesus DVD project, which we have been helping a local church with. Families in the neighborhood have been offered the DVD and if they wanted to follow up with someone we are going around to do that. We ended our time at one of the little girls from school’s house, and had a great conversation with her mom and aunt. They were really so kind and warm!
Following that project, we went to the pastor of one of the churches’ house for a Jamaican dinner. It was really nice and we had a wonderful time laughing with the family.
I am looking forward to sleep and am just really thankful for these great experiences!
Whew, today has been really busy:-)!
This morning I got up kind of late and had to rush to get to the church where we met on time. Once there we prepared for our day and then headed to a local elementary school which has a great relationship with my friends here. We put on a skit teaching about peer pressure and then went by twos to individual classrooms to tell about America. It was good but a little stressful since neither my partner or I have much experience in an elementary school classroom.
After the classes we went to lunch and recess with the kids. I had a following of year 5 girls, who were quite a bit cooler than me, talking about their favorite designers, celebrities, and cars. They were super-sweet. I have pictures but am not sure if I should post them, so I’ll check and maybe put them up tomorrow. We’ll be going back to the school then.
After being at the school we met with a local Muslim woman and had a wonderful conversation about holy books, true faith, and issues of modesty and women’s dress. We Christians have quite a bit to learn from Muslims as we seek to honor God. Let me know if you’d like to talk more about what I mean by that.
Then we went to a local Madrasa, or Muslim school which children attend after school. It was great to meet some of the teachers.
Our dinner tonight kept the inter-faith dialog going. Bob and Kathryn invited some local Muslim men and women to join us at a nice restaurant for an “evening of sharing.” It was great to get to talk about some serious Muslim/Christian issues today with Muslims who take their faith seriously.
When I got home I got to spend some quality time with my host family. They are really wonderful.
There is the update! I wanted to note on here that I’m sorry my updates tend to be sterile. There is much more going on in my activities and what I am learning, thinking, and feeling, but because of the time constraints I’m under and out of concern for the privacy of those I’m traveling with and to, I would rather not post too much detailed information in this public forum. I hope that, if anyone wants to follow my trip, this at least gives a good basic understanding of what is going on. But if you would like to know more just ask… I’d be happy to fill you in on the other stuff!
Here is me with some friends in the Madrasa.
I have had a nice few days with Kevin and Keely. After getting back to Casablanca on Saturday, Michelle stayed for a few nights for some down time. She left for Fes on Monday, and I will be joining her to visit three cities in that area tomorrow morning. Ryan left today to finish his travels in Italy.
SO, there are not too many adventures to report for this week. Ryan and I wondered into what I think is the thieves market on Tuesday. There were lots of things like used cell phones and laptops as well as pretty much anything else you can imagine in little shops. We also ventured out yesterday to see the Hasan II Mosque, which is one of the largest mosques in the world. I have enjoyed having the opportunity to work out a little bit (Kevin has some P90x videos, which have been fun). I baked cookies yesterday morning, one of my favorite things to do!
I also have been working on some next steps planning. It is exciting that I’ll be on my way home for a week, but do plan to do more traveling soon after getting back to Maryland. I’ll be home (in Ellicott City) from the 11th until the 21st or so, and then will be spending about a week at my grandparents’ house in Pennsylvania. After that there are a few options on the horizon, and I’ll let you know as I get more information and make some decisions.
Here are some pictures from the mosque:
Hopefully I’ll have some more fun stories for you in my next post! I’m meeting up with Michelle tomorrow, so if history is any indication we’ll get ourselves into some kind of adventure:-).