We plant our picnic paraphernalia under a shady grove. Grabbing food to share and a couple friends, I breathe a silent prayer before greeting a nearby family. They invite us to sit.
We make small talk while grandma serves tea. She seems disinterested in conversation, but the young mother opens up. Our dialogue starts down a road I couldn’t have planned better.
Munira: Yours is a Christian name, right? What does it mean?
Sometimes it amazes me how a decision made before my birth consistently impacts conversation in this culture where nearly all names have meaning.
Me: It means follower of Jesus the Messiah. I follow the words of Jesus; I do what he said.
Munira: Interesting. So you’re a Christian. What do you believe about Jesus coming into the world?
I tell her we don’t believe God had sex with Mary, a common misconception here. Instead, God put part of Himself into Mary to create life that was born of his Spirit.
Munira: Like Adam, the first man, right?
Me: Yes! Except Adam committed sin. He disobeyed God and was expelled from paradise. Jesus left paradise to come to earth. He was born of the Spirit of God and committed no sins, not even one.
Our conversation detours into whether or not the prophets sinned. At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I choose in that moment not to mention how her prophet said he sinned but Jesus didn’t.
Me: Why do Muslims wash before prayers?
Munira: We must be clean before God.
Me: But why your body? Did your hand do the sinning? Did your feet do something wrong? No. If you do bad things it is because your mind told your hands and feet what to do. So shouldn’t your mind need to be clean instead?
Munira offers an illogical explanation about the necessity of clean hands and feet and face before God. However a clean mind is not important.
Me: Are there sins God doesn’t forgive?
Munira’s list includes doubt, unbelief, blasphemy, and other such transgressions.
Me: Jesus gave very direct instructions about this. He said God will forgive if we ask. Jesus said he is the Truth of God, and he is the Life that comes from God. He also said he is the way to having a relationship with God. But we must learn what he said and follow his instructions.
I knew this was enough for her to process for now. I gave her a CD with stories of prophets we share and promised to connect with her again.
And here, on this day when she had come to celebrate her country’s freedom, Munira asked questions that led her one step closer to freedom in Christ.