A Cultural Adventure

Strange names were written on my white board and the number of names on the list  increased or decreased each time my son called with a revision.  The names were nothing like I had ever seen before and I wondered a little about each of them as I read and re-read the names and the countries listed by the names.  

It all began when my son requested an international student as a college roommate.  It grew into a bigger phenomenon when five of the internationals had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving break.  Our home became theirs and for four days  faceless names suddenly had homes, families, cultures, lives and languages.  Strangers became friends, acquaintances grew into friendships that changed everyone’s life.

Nikolay

From the first moment that my son and Nikolay made contact, they were immediate buddies.  We were in the car driving home from Denver when Nikolay contacted my son on Facebook.  They chatted for about 30 minutes and afterwards my son said, “He’s so awesome.  He’s going to the be the coolest roommate.”

Nik

Nik and Jacob

Nicolay is from Armenia.  Armenia is a Republic located in the southern Caucasus mountains of eastern Europe, western Asia.  Mt. Ararat, famous for Noah’s Ark, is in Armenia.  Armenia was also the first country to accept the message of Jesus and Christianity. The Armenian church  doctrine of ‘we choose‘ comes from this geographical place.  Nicolay doesn’t consider himself religious at all; in fact, he considers himself atheist and doesn’t really understand the idea of faith.  His favorite question regarding any faith statement is to ask, “Why?”

I honestly don’t remember the first time I actually met Nikolay in person.  It seemed every time we visited our son,  Nik was out on his own adventures.  Perhaps the first time was when we went to a football game in a blizzard.   He was such a sport to bundle up and sit in the drenching wet snow while having no clue about what was happening on the field.  In reality, this is Nik’s personality and why he has had a variety of experiences in his short lifetime.

Nik is a very smart young man and has several years of higher education already accomplished at 18.  He is studying international business which includes economics and finance.  During the tax season he worked for a firm in the college town learning about our income tax system.  He even helped my son with his tax return.   He speaks Russian, German, French, English, and of course Armenian.  I read an intensive research paper he wrote for a finance class  about IKEA and why their business practices are successful in America – in near-perfect English.  He loves chess and beats everyone he plays!

The country of Armenia used to be much larger than it is today.  There have been many wars with Turkey and Russia over the centuries that have chipped away at its land and annihilated millions of its people through mass murders.  Today, Armenia is in a perpetual state of conflict with its neighbor,  Azerbaijan.  Border patrols that actually do kill ‘tresspassors’, keep Armenians out of Azerbaijan and vice versa.   When Nik was about 15 years old, he realized that young people in both countries do not desire the war nor want to kill each other.  He wanted to find a way to help end the conflict so he developed a group that included young students from both countries who met in an undisclosed place to discuss diplomatic ways for their two countries to work out their differences.  Each year this group continues to meet and develop creative ways to end conflict between the two countries.  They submit their ideas to those who have authority in government.    As my son said, “Most 15 year olds that I know are more worried about their video games and what brand clothes they are wearing, not about conflicts and diplomacy with neighboring countries.”

Nic and Jacob - The Snake and the Charmer

Nik and Jacob – The Snake and the Charmer

Nik wrote in our guestbook that friends are our most valuable asset in life.

Rawan

Jemi and Rawan

Jemima and Rawan

Rawan is an Arab Israeli who lives in the West Bank of Israel.  In 1948 when Israel became a nation, some Arabs were given the choice to stay in Israel or leave.  Her father, like all of her ancestors who had lived in the West Bank,  decided to stay and become an Israeli citizen.

Rawan is 20 years old and is studying physics and nanotechnology.  She speaks English, Arabic, Hebrew, and Korean.  She is one of ten children and falls somewhere near the middle.  She says that her parents were very sad because for the first several years of their marriage, her mother did not get pregnant.  They believed they would have no children, ever.   Then, boom, boom, boom, they had ten.

We met Rawan aka ‘Sunshine’ during Thanksgiving break.  She is quite outgoing and is always talking and laughing about something.  My first real memory of her is arm wrestling José (a California student who came for Thanksgiving, too).  When she ‘won’ the match, she didn’t let José forget.  They became great friends.

Rawan cannot tell a lie.  While here, the whole group loved to play “Mafia”.  If you know about the game, it’s all about lying and deceiving other players.  She had to work so hard to keep a straight face and lie which always gave her away.  She kept saying, “I don’t lie.  I can’t lie.”  Since I don’t really like liars, she and I became instant friends.

Each of the exchange students had to give a cultural presentation at the college.  Rawan was insistent that our family  come to her presentation.  Because it was an evening event, my daughters and I spent the night in Rawan’s dorm room – a surreal experience for me since my college days are in a distant era of my life.  I sat on the floor, chatted with her friends, and ate  hummus and pita.  I went to bed long before everyone else who played Mafia until 5 a.m.  Rawan missed her morning class for the first time ever.  She ran to her professor’s office to explain what happened.  He not only gave her an A for the course, but a paper commending her on her perfect attendance.  We all had a good laugh about that.

RawanDebkaRawan loves music.   She loves to dance and dance.  She dances an Arab type of  line dance with hops, and jumps and skips called Dabke.    It is high energy.  She had fun trying to teach me and my daughters the bouncing (and confusing to me) steps.  However, I did grasp them well enough that she invited me/us to dance with her during the presentation.  It was a crazy moment to go to the front of the room and dance Dabke with Rawan.

While rushing to get ready for the International Food Festival in February,  she slipped on some snow and ice and broke her arm.  My husband and I happened to be there for the event and spent some time in the emergency room with ‘our daughter’ Rawan.  Weeks later, we returned to the college to celebrate Rawan’s twentieth birthday with a dance party.  She was double celebrating because the cast on her arm had finally been removed.

Rawan’s perspective of Israel was very fascinating because she is an Arab Muslim and an Israeli citizen.  She loves the country of Israel and speaks of its beauty and its wonderful opportunities even though, as an Arab,  there are some limitations.    She has the right to vote, but cannot be in the Israeli Defense Force.  She can live and work anywhere in the country, but may not attend certain Jewish universities.  She loves her country, yet she struggles with the Arab Israeli conflict and  perceives the conflict differently than a Jewish Israeli.   She views the Israeli flag not as a Star of David on a Talit/prayer shawl, but as the shield of David between the two great rivers: Euphrates and Nile.  Her interpretation of the flag  is that Israel wants to conquer all the lands between both rivers.  From her viewpoint, Israel is the aggressor in all of the conflicts and never hesitates to kill young children.

Rawan is a Muslim by choice.  She has studied Islam and has chosen to follow the religion of her family.  Her family is friends with many Jewish people as well as Christians and so she respects everyone’s personal religious convictions.  It was during her first visit with us that she asked a hard, but honest question.  “If I don’t  believe in Jesus, will I go to hell?”

From further discussions with Rawan, we learned more about her Muslim faith.  She doesn’t believe that Jesus died on the cross, but at the last moment God removed him and put someone else there (most likely Judas).    This is why Jesus can and will  return to earth – not because he was resurrected, but because he didn’t literally, physically die.

Rawan also believes that the Spirit of God went into the womb of Mary and this is how Jesus was conceived.  However, this does not make Jesus divinely God in any manner.  He is just a prophet born differently than the other Islamic prophets who were born through light like an angel.  Jesus was a miracle baby by the evidence that when he was born, he spoke.  As an infant he explained that his mother, Mary, was a virgin.  If  he had not spoken this, they would not have believed his miraculous conception.

Rawan wrote in our guestbook that we gave her love and made her smile from her heart.  

 

Salah

Salah is from Morocco.  He is 20 years old and studying Journalism.  My first memory of him is that he must be a photographer because he took pictures of everything that happened during Thanksgiving in our home.

Salah

 He has been fascinating for me to talk with because of Morocco’s love for the Jewish people.  He explained how throughout its history, Morocco always supported, protected and defended the Jewish people.  A little history research proved this to be true – especially during the Spanish Inquisitions when Morocco offered asylum to Jews evicted from Spain.

Jewish artisans handcrafted many objects that became synonymous with Moroccan culture.  In 1948 when Israel became a nation, Morocco allowed all the Jews to return to their homeland with their blessing though many terribly miss their Jewish friends and neighbors.  Even today Morocco has laws that do not allow people to speak ill of the Jewish people or hurt them in any way.  Unfortunately, when the Jewish people left Morocco, they took their craft skills with them and Morocco lost part of their unique Jewish culture.   Some Moroccans have tried to imitate the artisans such as the small bellows (below) with a photograph of Salah’s village.

Moroccogift

Because Morocco is an Islamic country, Salah is Muslim; however, he is searching for Truth. He, along with the others in the group,  had never heard anything that Jesus/Yeshua said, ever.  He was very intrigued by ‘love your enemies’, ‘don’t lust in your heart’, and ‘anger is the same as murder.’  In an unforgettable moment (for me) his eyes seemed to open when he said, “Yeshua is dealing with the deeper heart issues of man.”  He admitted  that to know someone else died for you so you didn’t have to earn your own salvation through works  would lift a huge burden of guilt and bring great peace and joy.  He asked for a Bible.

As part of our dialogue, he wanted me to read a book by a Muslim cleric who interviewed a Christian so we could discuss it.  I read the 100-page book and gave him 30 pages back –  misconceptions and corrections from both  the Christian who obviously didn’t know his Bible and the cleric who was twisting Scriptures in order to convert the Christian to Islam.

It is tragic that Christianity promotes such a skewed view of the Scriptures to those who understand more succinctly the cultural background of the Bible and Yeshua.    It is these misrepresentations that keeps many Muslims from coming to know Yeshua’s  true deliverance and redemption from sin to eternal life.

Salah wrote in our guestbook “one can pay back a loan of gold, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind.”

 

Ferhat

FerhatFerhat is from Algeria.  He is the first of his family to ever leave Algeria.  In fact, his family doesn’t even have internet so his communication with them is very limited.    He is studying history and English.  He is 23 years old and has two brothers.  He was constantly amazed at our kindness and has been very open about how different his culture is from ours.  I think the most profound difference between the culture  in Algeria and America  is that there is a lack of demonstrative love.  In fact, in his native language of Berber, there are no words or terms of endearment so no one says, “I love you” – especially fathers to sons and sons to fathers.

My first impression of Ferhat was that he was quiet and shy.  He is.  He is also a very gentle soul.   He loves to be on Facebook and his friends called him Sir Facebook Alot.  Because of this he tends to appear anti-social, but he’s really not; he’s communicating in English, French, Arabic and Berber with friends around the world.   He loves to play Mafia, probably because he is so quiet and easily deceives everyone around him.  He is always the one instigating new or more games that grow into large groups and last into the wee hours of the morning.

Ferhat is a Muslim, but doesn’t seem to practice or if he does, he doesn’t speak much about it.  Like Salah, he tends to be more culturally Muslim than religious.  He had many questions about Christians and Jews.   He wanted to know which part of the Bible we (our family) used –  the front like the Jews or the back like Christians.  Tearing the ‘dividing page’ out of a Bible, I explained we used both parts as the Jews need their Messiah and the Christians need their Hebrew roots.  I’ll never forget his response, “You just tore a page out of your holy book!”  He also didn’t understand why Christians consider Jesus a blond-haired, blue-eyed man when he’s Middle Eastern.

Salah and Ferhat traveled together over their winter break to New York City.  I was completely amazed and touched when they returned and had a small gift for our family from Chinatown.  It is a ceramic fisherman.

Ferhat wrote in our guestbook that he learned that we should never judge people according to stereotypes.

Kholoud

Kholoud is from Cairo, Egypt.  My first memory of her is a phone call that I received from my son.  Kholoud’s mother had died and she returned to Egypt for the funeral.  After two weeks, she was arriving back in Denver and needed a place to stay for the night before her morning flight back to the college.

Egyptian Belly Dancing

Egyptian Belly Dancing

My mother died while I was in college and I was the same age as Kholoud – 20.  I could only grieve as I thought of her traveling across the world and back under such  emotional circumstances.  I found a place for her to stay and everyone – Kholoud and the other family – were extremely blessed.

Kholoud is studying law and will make an incredible lawyer if her actions as a moderator for Mafia are any indication.  She is direct, firm, and makes everyone follow the rules or they’re ‘out’!

She has a younger  brother and a sister who are about the same ages my brother and sister were when our mother passed away.  I can only imagine what their lives will be like and hope that they help each other deal with the loss.    According to Kholoud, her mother and father were still sweethearts and her father was struggling deeply.    Kholoud is not a Muslim, but Ba’hai faith.  There is no assurance of salvation in her faith and one must do good works in this life in order to enter heaven.

She is a vegetarian and she belly dances.  Of course, she’s Egyptian!  All Egyptian girls belly dance! Yet, the ethnic group known as Egyptian is dwindling down to almost ‘extinct’ and most Egyptians today  have Arab bloodlines.

Kholoud and I  spent a couple of precious moments together crying about her mother and mine.  So often when tragedy comes into our lives, we question the reason why.  I understood immediately why my mother passed when I talked with Kholoud and could encourage her with the encouragement and hope I always received from the Lord.  I know her journey ahead will be different without the unconditional love of her mother, but I also know she is a strong young woman and will achieve her goals.  Her relationship with her mother will always give her the strength to go forward and she will ultimately bless her mother.   She invited our family to be at her graduation in Cairo in June 2014.

It was right before Thanksgiving break that there were the civilian uprisings in Cairo against the new ‘president’.  We had a chance to talk a bit about the Muslim Brotherhood and how devastating it is for Egypt and its people.  Kholoud hates the Muslim Brotherhood because they use Islam (religion)  to incite people to riot and cause civil unrest.  She personally knew people who were killed or injured during these riots and actually said she wished she was there with them demonstrating.

It was in a little discussion with Rawan and Kholoud that I asked if Barak Obama is a Muslim.  I will never forget Kholoud’s expression and words, “Of course he is, don’t you know that?”  Her shock at my ignorance was astounding.    Rawan’s response to my question was, “His father was Muslim and that makes him Muslim.”

It’s difficult to explain to those in the Middle East (and other places) who respect Barak Obama as the American president who is bringing together the east and the west,   how he lies to the American people.   It became apparent he doesn’t lie when he’s in Egypt or other Middle Eastern countries.

Kholoud wrote in our guestbook that it felt warm and good to be in our home.

 

Group Memories

the group

Nik, Jose, Salah, Jacob
Rawan, Kholoud, Ferhat

Several days before the group arrived, I thought about questions I could ask them.    I came up with two ice breakers: Why did you come to America? And, Is America what you expected? The answers to the first question differed as each one had a unique reason for coming to America: to study, to learn English, to understand the culture, to meet new people, to travel.   The answer to the second question was surprising:  America is not like Hollywood!

They were shocked at how nice and friendly Americans were and were disturbed at how shallow American young people are.  They couldn’t believe the ignorance of college students as to what was happening in the world or even how world events can and will affect them and their lives.   Each of these young people  live in nations where war is always a possibility and conflict a daily event. They felt that American college students were  more concerned with video games, sports, music and clothing than the realities of life, education, economics and politics.   Most of them also know and understand the Constitution of the United States better than their American counterparts.  Kholoud and Nik had the greatest understanding of democracy and the Constitutional Republic government of the United States than most adult Americans.   Kholoud and I also discussed the large numbers executive orders being signed by Barak Obama and how they should be reserved for times of emergency and not to override the Congress which is supposed to represent the people.  Coming from countries where the people’s voice isn’t listened to, they voiced their concern about this overuse of power.

Not long after they all arrived, they stood in my kitchen nook reading the Scriptures I have painted on my walls.  When they came to the Shema,  they began discussing how it would be said in Arabic.  I listened to their little language debate and though they asked my opinion, I couldn’t begin to help because I don’t know a word of Arabic.  It was just so amazing to have a group of Middle Eastern young people stand in my kitchen discussing a Biblically Hebrew phrase – one that honors Yahweh above all other gods and unites His people together under His Name.

When it came to music and dancing, this group was non-stop.    Whether it was the girls belly dancing to some Egyptian song, everyone hip hopping to a rap song or waltzing to classical music,  I just watched (and sometimes danced) in awe at what was happening in my family room. Though some of these young people knew Arabic and others knew French or Berber,  the only common language they had between each other was English.  What I watched was a group of young adults, who in their normal cultural circumstances, would never have met.   I watched a group of internationals on student Visas develop deep and lasting friendships in my home.  When I asked about where and when they will all meet for a reunion, I learned a sad truth.  When each returns to their own country, they cannot meet again except in Egypt.  Countries that do not acknowledge Israel as a nation refuse to allow their people to visit countries that do.   If a couple of the students receive an Israeli stamp on their passport, they cannot even return to their country – ever.

Because of the relationships we established with these young people, they invited us  to their International Food Festival in February.  Of course, we made plans to go, but we had no idea the enormity of the event or that we were considered ‘special guests’ who did not need to pay for tickets!  In front of 300 guests, my son played piano and my oldest daughter belly danced with Kholoud and Mercy (from Togo).  My youngest daughter was supposed to hip hop with Rawan, but with Rawan breaking her arm moments before the performance, that little performance was cancelled.

During other visits to the college, we met several more young international students.   Leena and Fathima were invited to our home for Thanksgiving, but hesitated.  After hearing about all the fun everyone had, they were very sad they didn’t come, but fortunately, we still were able to meet them and learn about their lives, too.

 

Leena

LeenaLeena is a Palestinian who now lives in Jordan.  In 1948 when Israel became a nation, her family chose to leave (or were forced to leave depending on viewpoint)  and made their home in Jordan.  Leena still has relatives in Palestine, but cannot visit them because Jordan doesn’t recognize Israel as a nation.  Though she has Palestinian bloodline, she truly considers herself Jordanian and Jordan is her homeland.

I met Leena at the culture presentation night as she was one of the presenters.  She is a quiet, soft-spoken and very sweet young lady.   She is a devout Sunni Muslim and covers her head all the time.  She shouldn’t even be wearing jeans, but she compromised while she is here since that is what everyone else is wearing.  She explained to me that men may not see any part of your feminine figure so everything is kept covered to hide the curves.  She is not allowed to touch a man so she keeps her distance when everyone hugs everyone else in greetings or ‘see ya laters’.

She is the only Muslim I met to show me the Koran and read from it.   It was a passage about the importance of mothers as we had been discussing parents, specifically mothers.  She explained to me that when she dies, she will be judged by how she treated her parents; and even after she is dead, if something is revealed that brings dishonor to her parents, she can be sent to hell.

It was during the cultural presentation that Rawan asked me to explain what I had learned about how Israel became a nation from the British Mandate – probably because I spoke clearer English not because I’m an expert.  At the end of World War II, the British Mandate ended and the British-controlled land was divided into Jordan, Syrian and Lebanon and Israel.    The Palestinians were also offered land, but refused it hoping to go to war with Israel and claim it all.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and through the war,  Israel actually gained more land/Palestine lost all their land.  It was after this explanation that Leena came to me and asked, “Is there something in your holy book that says the land belongs to Israel?”

Suffice it to say, at that moment I answered her question simply and then told her I would find the places in my holy book and write them out for her which I did.  After she read the five pages documented from the Hebrew Scriptures,  she commented to my son that she had never seen or heard that viewpoint before.

I was blessed to be able to take Leena along with Rawan to Denver to catch their plane to San Diego for winter break.  It was during this drive that Leena spoke to my youngest daughter about how Muslims view the ‘end times.‘  From what I could glean from the conversation, their Messiah will come, turn the world upside down, and bring peace.  Everything they believe as representing the Messiah’s arrival mirrors the descriptions by the Hebrew prophets and Yeshua as the activities of the  anti-messiah and the events surrounding the Tribulation.

Leena didn’t write in our guestbook because she never visited our home, but I will always remember that the prophet Mohammed said in the Koran, that we are to always honor our mothers first, even before ‘the prophet’.   I’m sure with how she carried herself here in America, she has honored her parents, especially her mother.

 

Fathima

FathimaFathima is from India.  She is a sweet young lady and always smiling.  My memory of her is that she kept me from getting lost while trying to find Rawan’s dorm room at 1 a.m.  We spent a couple of hours chatting about her life and family in India.  She also is Muslim and covers her head.  When I explained that the covering on my head was Biblical, we had some ‘girl time.  She Showed me how she wraps her head and taught me a few tricks of the trade.

She told me that she will have an arranged marriage.  For many people that brings a shudder, but she was at peace about it.  She completely trusts her parents because she believes they know her inside and out.  She knows they will make the right decision for her.  However, if she doesn’t like their choice, she is free to give valid reasons why she doesn’t like the young man, and they will not force her to marry.  A valid reason does include that he’s fat or even ugly.   She had one man brought to her and she told me he was ‘ugly’ and so it was not pursued.  Her parents are concerned, however, that since she has lived in  America, and it will be harder to find a man who can accept that knowledge and experience.   I assured her there are probably many young men in India who have come to America and are also looking for someone who understands how living in another country changes your perspective about life in India.

A little FB thread chat we had just before she returned to India was about Prince Charming.  She was growing so sad that her fairy tale of coming to America was ending.  I reminded her that all fairy tales have a prince and she is now on her journey to meet him.  She laughed and then told me something shocking.  She had changed her view on arranged marriages and was not looking for a prince charming.  She was deeply concerned about returning home and having to tell her parents that  she could no longer support an arranged marriage.  She knew it would be very difficult to convince her parents because she would be challenging the very traditions in which she was raised.  Once again I tried to encourage her by telling her to give her parents time to understand her new viewpoints.  She wasn’t trying to disregard all of the traditions of her family and culture, just this one.

Fathima came to America to learn English and learn it well as she desires to teach English somewhere in India or another country.   She speaks English fluently and without any accent whatsoever.  That was one of her goals –  she didn’t want an Indian accent!  She wants to teach English to children and asked for ideas since she knew I home schooled and my daughter is certified to teach English as a second language.

Regarding whether or not America was what she expected, she had the most unique answer of anyone.    She said that most people think India is like Bollywood and it’s not,  so she never considered that America would be like Hollywood.  She felt that the people were nicer than she imagined, but she tried to come without any pre-conceived ideas.  She just wanted to learn and experience life in America and cherish every moment.

FathimagiftFathima gave our family a little wooden masked man representing Kathakali or one of the oldest forms of theater in the world.  The costumes, makeup, actors, in the productions are based on Hindu mythology.   These group productions originated in the state of Kerala in southwest India where she lives.  Unfortunately, she has never seen one of the plays and now hopes to have the chance to attend.

Fathima did not write in our guest book, but she did write a little note to me before she returned to India:  “Thank you so much for being as a support always!! I am feeling so sad right now!! You are one among our inspiration, may god bless you and your lovely family.” 

 

 

Nurani

NuraniNurani is from Pakistan.  She was at the college for the first semester and we only met her near the end of her stay.   Pakistan sends students for only half a year so twice as many get the opportunity to travel and study abroad.

We met Nurani at the cultural presentation evening as she was presenting the culture of Pakistan.  She was lively and comedic.  In her presentation, she had Pakistani words on her powerpoint.  She had us all learn to speak them slowly, then more quickly until we could say the phrase like native Pakistanis.   Then, she said, “Thank you” as she went to the next slide.   We were all saying, “You are very beautiful!” … and she was.  She wore the most beautiful Pakistani outfit and did look absolutely stunning.

After the presentations, she was another shutter bug taking photographs of everything.  At breakfast the next morning, she was very sad as she was having to pack her belongings and leave all of her new friends – most of whom she would never see again.

It was on one of her FB posts that I read about the women in small villages who need money to survive.  They are learning to sew and old sewing machines are brought to them so they can create beautiful wall hangings and clothing to sell.  Because of this video, when my old sewing machine gave up the ghost, I had it re-furbished and sent to Pakistan.

 

Ashraf

AshrafWe met Ashraf at the International Food Festival in February.  Ashraf arrived at the college for the second semester after Nurani left.

The first words that Ashraf said to me were:

 “I’m going to be president of Pakistan.”

At first I thought he was joking, but that really is his goal.  He is that outspoken and bold.  He comes from a wealthy, political family and he is the only one of his many brothers (and one sister) that desires to go into politics.  According to a story he told my husband, he was abducted by the Taliban and held hostage for several weeks.  Because of this event in his life, he hates the Taliban, and wants to do something about their activities in his country.

We only spent a little time with Ashraf,  but as I said, he’s outspoken and leaves  a lasting impression.  He is not for gun control and loves to hunt.  He actually wanted to go hunting somewhere in Colorado.  He has a very generous heart and after we had breakfast with him, he gave me a sari from his country.  Several weeks later when my son came home for a break, he came bearing gifts from Ashraf: flowers and a stuffed animal for my daughters, a planter with flowers for me, and a Pakistanian cap for my husband.  He considers himself a cultural ambassador from Pakistan to America.

Ashraf is a devout Muslim.  My son said that when he arrived, he would be kneeling on his mat in the lobby of the dorm praying toward Mecca every day, several times a day.    After a week or so, he was asked to do it in his room and he complied.

 

Personal Thoughts

What I gleaned from each of these young people is that they want peace in the Middle East.  They cannot understand why governments, not people, have to fight.  None of them believe Islam is a religion of conflict, but that there are fringe groups, zealots who give Islam a bad reputation.   I never heard any of them say that the world needs to accept Islam or Sharia, however, when I asked one to define jihad, the subject was avoided with the comment, ‘it’s difficult to describe.’

None of them like the Muslim Brotherhood and see it as a problem for the entire Middle East and ultimately, the world.   They do not like the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood uses their religion to promote political dictatorship.   On the other hand, they all support President Obama and think he’s the answer to the issues in the Middle East.  They see him as someone who is bridging the gaps between America and the Muslim countries.  Throughout their time here, we were able to give each one a little different perspective on the president, especially after they learned that Obama doesn’t admit his Muslim religion.   Those who know and understand the Constitution were not shocked that he may not have legal status as President because they know and understand Islamic culture.    One young woman had a serious financial issue with a hospital and began to ask me about Obamacare.  Thinking it was socialized medicine/health care like in her country,  it was a rude awakening when she learned that it’s government regulated forced insurance and most people (including herself)  can’t afford to pay.   As for the Second Amendment and gun control, several of the young men learned to shoot guns while they were here and enjoyed the experience.    They understand the problems in their own countries, but do not think that Americans should give up their gun rights, especially Ashraf who is a hunter.

They all had questions about Christianity whether it was Jesus’ ethnicity or the three gods that are embraced through unbiblical doctrines.  For me personally, I am sad that Jesus Christ has replaced Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel.  These young people know enough about Abraham, Isaac, Moses, and some of the other prophets from their own religious studies that they recognize serious discrepancies especially in Christian culture vs. Biblical culture.    They definitely do not understand why Christians eat pork when it is forbidden to eat and why Christians do not obey the laws given to Moses by God.  Yet, they do not drink wine and they have some beliefs about Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Yeshua that are completely twisted and confusing.  The believe it’s because the Koran is the oldest book and the Bible is newer.  In this instance it is important that believers understand that their Bibles agree 100 percent with the Dead Sea Scrolls which were written before the time of Messiah, put into clay jars before the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, and found in 1947-48.  From this viewpoint, the Koran, written in 600 A.D. is quite new and is the twisted holy book.

To be told you’re going to hell if you don’t believe in Jesus is a sad state of the gospel message in Christianity.  To have Christian friends who say such things to an unbeliever, especially a Muslim,  is presenting a judgmental Christ rather than a loving, compassionate Messiah who died a bloody death for each person’s sins.   I specifically told these young people that I would not judge anyone’s heart regarding Yeshua.  It was more important, in my opinion, for them to have a comfortable place to ask questions and receive answers.  As for ‘theology’, it was important for them to realize that everyone’s destiny is to be separated from God for all eternity (or hell).    It is only because of Yeshua’s atonement that we do not ‘go to hell’ ; not we’re all going to heaven unless we reject Messiah. None of us can work hard enough or good enough  to reach the goal of heaven or paradise.   It was actually nice to converse with people who understand ‘works for salvation’ vs. those who think obedience to commandments is ‘works’.   These young people work for an uncertain salvation and they will be obedient to do those works until they die (still separated from Yahweh).

These young people have touched my life forever.   I love each one of them as unique men and women created by the God of Israel.   I will continue to pray that one day the Spirit of the Living God opens each of their eyes to the  joy of salvation in Yeshua.  The greatest hurdle for them to overcome is accepting Yeshua as the Son of God.  Yet, with Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, all things are possible and the seeds have been planted.

Before they met our family, they had not heard the words of Yeshua; now they have heard and read many of His words.   Before they met our family, they did not know about the Sabbath; now they have celebrated Sabbath with Yeshua as the center: light, joy, bread of life, blessing.   Most knew nothing about the Jewish people; now they have met some Messianic believers who love the Jewish Messiah and Jewish people.  Before they met us,  they did not understand the conflict in Israel is about sibling rivalry between Ishmael and Isaac; now they know  there was a promise given to Isaac and Jacob through Abraham.    None had never seen or opened a Bible; now a few have actually begun to read the Words of Yahweh.

This past school year has been a cultural adventure for our family.  It began when my son requested an international student as a college roommate and came to a close as each of these students packed their bags and decided what must stay behind and what could go with them.  May 3 came with tears of goodbye as they boarded different flights to different parts of the world.  They said final good byes to amazing friends and wondered what their futures held after their dream ‘fairy tale’ cultural adventure to America. Today,  they are all home in their familiar surroundings in strangely named cities greeting their parents and wondering if the friendships filling their minds were really real or  just a dream.  I wonder too, until a phone vibrates with an international text of a safe arrival.

The Group

Fathima, Ferhat, Kholoud, Salah, Leena and Rawan
Last moments together

©May 2013 Tentstake Ministries

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