As we sat in the restaurant sipping tea, it quickly became clear that our young friend, a recent college graduate, was not your average “big-city Hui.” He had just begun describing his upbringing and the nature of his work when he abruptly excused himself.
“It’s time for the evening prayer,” he explained as he left, taking special cleansing towels from his bag. After an interlude of about ten minutes, he returned and moved on to discuss the role Islam played in his life. Having moved to our city from a neighboring town, he had found a job that allowed him to pray five times a day. He was comfortable with Arabic phrases and never mentioned Muhammad’s name without the perfunctory “peace be upon him.” Encountering a local at such a young age who is so interested in spiritual matters is not typical.
Given our first meeting, however, his interest shouldn’t have been a surprise. We first met in a group discussion inside a restaurant close to a local mosque. The group leaders had rounded up some restaurant customers to exhort them in greater allegiance to Islam, a meeting at which my friends and I had become unsuspecting attendees. Though I quickly made my dissenting views known, the floor was given for me to speak of Jesus without a militant backlash. With limited language and surely more than a few cultural miscues, we parted as a group clearly in disagreement but still on friendly terms.
The following week is when the aforementioned dialogue with our young friend took place. As our place of discussion moved from the restaurant to our house, he began to ask many questions about the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, the Bible, and how Protestant theology differs from Catholic theology. Obviously well versed in Islamic apologetics, he nonetheless was peaceable, open to questions, and interested in further discussion. When asked if he would like to take a Bible, he eagerly accepted the offer.
Our friend’s story encourages me in the following ways: First, we have a Sovereign God who is seeking worshipers for Himself, men of peace who will have softened hearts to hear the Gospel message. Second, we can’t pigeon-hole the Hui we encounter on a daily basis, whether in the city or in the village. Just as Jesus fluently spoke the spiritual heart language of the individual, so we should look with fresh eyes on every person we are graced with the opportunity to share the Gospel with. Third, despite the barriers of language and culture, the Word of God is sufficient to accomplish the Work of God. Where our explanations fall short, we can trust the Word to miraculously accomplish the impossible: to bring hardened sinners to repentance and faith.
Oh Lord, create a hunger for Your Word among the Hui in China; soften their hearts to acknowledge the wisdom, beauty, and power of Your Gospel truth. Please grant that Gospel workers will trust the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures.