“I think that God just isn’t concerned about me,” Mei Li tells me as she sits at my dinner table and pushes food around her plate. Her sentiment is not unlike the feelings many believers have at one point in their life. Mei Li faces intense cultural pressure to be married by the time she’s 30. At 29 years old, her mother’s request for the past several years is that she marry a nice, preferably wealthy, Hui man, which is almost unheard of.
God called us to Asia with a burden for the Hui. Since we arrived we have intentionally shared our burden for Muslims with our local partners. God has blessed us with the opportunity to disciple and befriend a sister, Rebecca. She has watched us serve a neighboring Hui family who own a local noodle shop as well as share the Gospel with them. We’ve talked with her about the importance of reaching the unreached. She has become a close friend and has picked up our passion to share with Muslim people groups in East Asia.
Upon arriving in Asia we knew that we did not only want to personally reach out to the Hui, but we also wanted to equip our national friends to do the same. They not only have perfect language abilities, but local culture is engrained in their hearts while we will only be able to study it. The things that we simply understand to be offensive in this culture actually offend them and the things that we merely intellectually ascend to in order to be polite are received by them as acts of true love.
In the span of a day, there are many times when Chinese culture and my culture collide. Cultural awareness is heightened as soon as I walk out the door. Making and building relationships in the midst of conflicting cultural values can be challenging as well. However, Chinese culture is not the only culture I encounter regularly. Within China there are many minority groups who also have their own distinct values and beliefs. One of these groups is the Hui.
Growing up under intense Islamic influence, Maria* heard the call to prayer five times a day. She recited the Qur’an with neighborhood friends in one of the many mosques dominating her hometown landscape. “No matter how difficult and painstaking it is to learn Arabic, it is the most beautiful language given by Allah!” she was told. After graduating from high school, Maria left home to attend university in the provincial capital. Her father wished her goodbye with these stern words: “Never forget that you are a Muslim!”