Friday, February 12, 2010

Father Abraham Had Many Sons


Fridays are usually nice days. Usually then involve laundry, grocery shopping, and maybe some grading. Today we went grocery shopping, but I never got to laundry and I had nothing to grade. I woke up semi-early, at least it was semi-early for me. We went to the bazaar today and I’ve been practicing my Russian numbers so I felt like I was a little more competent. We bought sparingly because we’re poor. Today we got a package from Campus Ministries! Some of the things inside the package I found a bit odd, but it’s always nice to get some familiar things from home, especially chewy sweet tarts.

The main event of today was Friday club. It was a good Friday club. Emily’s computer broke down so she couldn’t type up her regular dialogue and we didn’t have the movie so I couldn’t do it either. Luckily, Yelena had all these ideas about things we could talk about and activities we could do. After preparing a few things for Friday club, I watched The Office, and then we ended up being so late we had to practically run all the way to work and yes, it is still far below freezing. However, we got there with plenty of time to spare and everything was set. I felt like a missionary today. I know, I’m a student missionary, but often times I feel like the only mission work I do is make the local conference money. Most of my “mission” is real mission work which means it’s simply allowing God to shine through me in simple and everyday tasks. I’m not a model of Christian character and would gag at the thought of someone holding me to that esteem, but here it is about all I can do, and I think God is ok with that. But, tonight was good. We split up into groups and talked about the White Witch who calls herself the Queen of Narnia. We talked about evil and what it is. I realized today that everyone, no matter what part of the world you’re in, everyone thinks about God. Nobody can escape the unanswerable questions of our complex existence. Some people try, but they’re fooling themselves. Regardless of belief or practice, everyone at least thinks about God. Yelena pulled quotes out of the Bible and the Quran and we discussed certain aspects of evil and tried to fill in the blanks to some of these quotes without knowing. My group was filling in a blank that said, “Do not repay evil with evil, but rather trust in________________________.” I of course treaded lightly. I am not here to convert everyone I meet, far from it. I am here to try to understand these people and maybe get them thinking about spiritual matters. The people of my group started saying things like “destiny” and “fate” and I encouraged them to be more specific and think about what abstract terms like destiny and fate really mean. Within no time at all they came up with “God.” I looked at everyone to see if they agreed and sure enough everyone there nodded their head in approval. Yesterday in discussion we talked about health and I couldn’t help but pull out the Adventist NEWSTART acronym on them. The “T” stands for trust in God and sure enough everyone in that group nodded their head and vocally approved that trusting in God is very important.

Muslims and Christians really are not that far apart. The problem is the West is completely ignorant of Islam and the East is completely ignorant of Protestant Christianity. It’s sad really, that we misunderstand each other so badly. I, as an ignorant Westerner, have long wondered why true Muslims do not speak out more forcefully against the radicals and try to clear up their “terrorist” reputation. I thought certainly if Christians got radical like that I would be fighting against them and doing everything possible to try and take God’s name off their actions. Christians were once “radical” and “violent” like some Muslims are today. Read about the crusades. This made sense to me today for the first time. The conclusion that I came up with while talking to Yelena (who studies the Quran and Muslims very thoroughly) is this: the reason most Muslims aren’t fighting radicalism is because they simply don’t care enough to get involved. Islam is younger than Christianity by quite a bit. It is a religion and like Christianity, it has and will change more and more as time passes—all religions do. Christianity took over the Western world some hundreds of years after Christ went back home and left us with His Spirit. When Christianity was in charge we called it “The Dark Ages.” Catholicism ruled with a golden scepter and it wasn’t until Martin Luther came along that Christianity actually began (notice I say began) to go back to what Jesus intended it to be. We hear all these things about how Islam is the fastest growing religion and so I thought it would be interesting to look into their “evangelism” tactics. Do you know what they do? They basically tell people, your culture was once Muslim and you need to turn back to your roots. People do, they exclaim the Shahada and start to engage in cultural/religious practices. It’s simple. Now don’t take this the wrong way, especially if you are a Muslim or closely related to Islam, I mean no disrespect. But, Islam is in its “Dark Ages” and yes, they have a few wild horses running around, but it is not as gruesome as the Christian dark ages. It’s like in America, many people (more in the past than today, after all religion is constantly changing) call themselves Christian because that is what most Americans are and our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values and what not. It is the same with Islam. Most Kazakhs I meet are not hardcore Muslims and they will politely admit this to you. They are mostly nominal and they know it. Like America and Christianity. And Islam is filled with many rituals that seem radical for our day and many practices which seem foreign to us Westerners. They are in their ritualistic phase, just like Catholicism in the Dark Ages. I know this sounds bad, especially if you are Catholic, Muslim, or a nominal Christian, but it’s quite true. All I know is that the Quran says beautiful things, many Christians are ignorant of this, but I don’t blame them, because many Muslims are ignorant of this as well and that is why we continue to swim in this pool of unawareness. All I know is that my God is big, too big for cultural differences, too big for religious divides, and too big for my sins and shortcomings to stand in His presence. My God loves, He loves all people, even the ignorant, even the radical. How do I know this? I won’t try to convince you logically because you probably would either find error in the logic or fall asleep. I know this because I have experienced it, I have lived, and this world, this creation, these people scream with evidence of a loving Creator. Yes, something has gone terribly wrong and evil exists, but I know that pretty soon all these walls we have built will crumble and we will live completely naked and completely unashamed in a beautiful place worth living.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Kyle! We just read your entry as we were preparing for Sabbath at home. The kids (older ones) say:
    Marco: Is so good to know that Jesus is our savior and we have access to salvation thru him (or something like that...).
    Hilda: I love your story for today. It makes me think about who we really are.
    Jocelyn: I like to read your stories. Keep them coming!
    Francisco: I love you uncle Kyle! Thank you for writing that for us.
    Carolina: When I'm scare of the monsters at night,I pray to Jesus and he makes the monsters go away.
    Ana: I love you uncle Kyle.
    Yasmine: Caballo (you know that means 'horse' right? She got that from your story lol!)

    Dear Kyle,

    We love to read your stories at night before bedtime. I'm so surprised that the kids stay concentrated while I read the loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooonggggggggggggggggggggggggggg entries in your blog! LOL! Take care friend. We will be waiting for you either here in Collegedale or up in Michigan. We Love you! Say Hi to Steven. Daniel.