“Assalamu Alaykum” means “Peace be upon you,” and “Walaikum Salaam” means “And unto you peace.” This exchange is the common Arabic greeting and response throughout the Muslim world. It’s an easy way for western Christians to begin building rapport with Muslims.
When author and missionary Nik Ripken is in a Muslim country for the first time he gets in a taxi. Within 15 minutes he says something in Arabic or another language to the taxi driver, who then greets him, asks him where he is from, and welcomes him. If Ripken shows interest in him within 15 minutes, then the taxi driver will take him out for tea and cookies. If Ripken shows interest in his family and asks the right questions within 30 minutes, the taxi driver will invite him to his home for a four- to six-hour meal the following week.
The taxi driver needs those days to invite his extended family and buy a lamb, goat, camel, or cow to prepare and cook.
“It never takes longer than 30 minutes to get invited to a Muslim’s home,” Ripken said. “The safest place for Ruth and I and the boys to be in the Muslim world is a Muslim’s home.”
Ripken shows interest in Muslims, breaks bread with them, has them in his home, lets them watch his family’s interactions, and prays for them.
“Christianity is the only faith system I know in the world that prays for people by name outside of a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque,” Ripken said. “It will break them, and sometimes it will just lift them up. So, we pray for their children right there in their house. We pray over their aged parents. I’ve never had a Muslim refuse to have me pray for them.”
The problem does not come with praying for Muslims. The problem comes when we are not careful. Jesus was careful. For example, in the Gospel of Mark when he healed someone he said, “Tell no one,” because he is more than a healer.
When Jesus fed the thousands he said, “Don’t tell anyone what I did,” because he is more than a feeder of men and women. When Simon Peter said, “You are the Son of the living God,” Jesus said, “Tell no one I am the Christ.”
“He wanted to make sure that he is either Lord of lords and King of kings or he’s nothing,” Ripken said.
“I can take you to 25 villages between Mogadishu and the western side of Somalia. I can take you to 25 villages where they love Jesus. We had medical clinics there for four or five years. We never had a medical clinic without praying for that child who had picked up a hand grenade or that woman who was giving birth. We prayed over those people.”
Ripken added it is good news that those Somalis love Jesus. The bad news is that they love him only as a healer, because none of those doctors or nurses learned the Somali language or culture. They were there short term.
“So, just like in Mark we never got past the ‘Tell no one’ stage,” Ripken said. “They love Jesus, but they love him for something he is, not all that he is. That takes time. That takes language.”
Loving Muslims takes relational commitment and the sacrifice of time.
– Ben Doster, Global Gates Director of Communications, email@example.com
*In case you missed it, you can find the rest of our multi-part series covering important topics author and missionary Nik Ripken spoke on during an interview with Global Gates by reading Nik Ripken, Muslim Background Believers, and the West: “Should Christians Pray for Persecution to Stop?” (Part One of Six); Nik Ripken, Muslim Background Believers, and the West: “The Pearl of Great Price or a Bucket of Pearls?” (Part Two of Six) and Nik Ripken, Muslim Background Believers, and the West: “Do Not Fear” (Part Three of Six). Stay tuned for our next segment.