Three Things Christians Can Learn From Muslims: A Trip to Pakistan and Back

by Dr. Dave Coryell, General Secretary World-CE and Executive Director CE-USA

I recently returned from Pakistan. There has been great discord between Christians and Muslims because of our differences and our history with each other. I thought my readers would enjoy a positive spin on the relationship so below you will read three insights Christians can gain from Muslims before I offer one parting word.

Insight #1: Generosity

I had numerous encounters with Muslims during my stay in Pakistan. Since this is the country’s dominant religion and the country’s name is “The Islamic Republic of Pakistan” you should not find this surprising. Uber drivers, hotel workers, vendors and people serving at tourist attractions tended to be Muslim people. When introduced to these people I was unsure how they would respond to a tall, white, bald foreigner. First I met a family that owns several manufacturing plants including denim clothing, rice mills, bottled water and confectioneries. Following my tour I was given numerous pairs of jeans, boxes of candy, water and many smiling selfie pictures. When I inquired with my host his comment was, “In my experience the Muslims out-give the Christians.” Another day I met a Pediatrician from a local hospital. He learned about medical missions being run by a local Christian pastor. After going through a screening process he began volunteering his time a few times a year to do eighteen hour days, seeing one hundred children patients, and writing numerous prescriptions. This young Muslim doctor was willing to do this alongside Christians because people needed help. A generous spirit runs through the hearts of many Muslim people.

Insight #2: Devotion

The news media has taught us that Muslims are all fanatics lurking at our doors waiting to bomb our public places and fire machine guns into the air. My experience in Pakistan was that Muslim people are very kind and devoted people. Please understand, I believe their devotion is misplaced. They pray five times a day and carry out other behaviors because they believe they need to keep the vengeance of Allah at bay. However, it was encouraging to converse with a taxi driver who gave all the praise to his god for providing his taxi. He also discussed how after he dropped me off that he would be pulling into a parking spot so he could do his afternoon prayers. I silently prayed for this man because I realized that a proper understanding of God could make this devoted person a great asset for Christ and the Church. It is imperative that we look at Muslim people as people. Yes, there are fanatical Muslims just as their are fanatical Christians, but the people I met were kind and devoted to the god that they know.

Insight #3: Innovation

Many people believe that anyone living in a country ending in the letters “stan” must wear a turban, veil, ride a camel, and daily avoid dust storms while giving the middle name Ishtar or Muhammad to all of their children. This is so far from the truth! While I was in Pakistan I walked through three story malls with hundreds of brands. I sat in a food court with most of the fast food chains from the USA. I went through a store that would have rivaled any of the Walmart, Target, or Costco superstores in my home country. Along with this there are trampoline places, mini-golf courses, large cineplexes, amusement parks and more. I walked through a seven story electronics mall with 900 computer stores. Yes, contrary to your thinking, these people communicate with smart phones and not just carrier pigeons and falcons! Our media has caused us to have a false impression of the innovation of places like Pakistan. I am interested to see where this innovation takes them in the next ten years.

Final Thoughts

Now, before I receive countless emails and “unfriend” requests, let me part with this statement. Muslim people do not know the way to God. They believe by doing enough good things that their god, Allah, will be appeased. We worship different gods, but our approach should follow 1 Peter 3:15 where we are always prepared to give a reason for the hope that we have in Jesus Christ and we will share this with gentleness and respect. Pray for Muslims to have visions of Jesus in their dreams. I have one friend that came to Christ in this way from a Muslim background. May God grow us in our ability to love all people as God’s creatures and then lovingly direct them toward Him with our attitudes, words and actions.

Travel to the Land of Many gods: What a Christian Learned in Kathmandu Part 2: Three Insights

by Dr. Dave Coryell, General Secretary World-CE and Executive Director CE-USA

*If you didn’t get a chance to see last week’s blog, check that out first for a better understanding of this blog.

While in Kathmandu, Nepal, I observed individuals practicing their spiritual rituals in hopes that doing just enough of the right things in the right way, they could appease their god.  Looking back, here are three insights from that experience.

Insight #1

I have been thankful for God’s grace displayed through the death of His Son and co- equal Jesus Christ since I was a boy. I have grown in my understanding of what it meant for Jesus to come, die, rise again, and prepare to come again, but the fact that grace is integral to Christ cannot be avoided. Ephesians 2 says we are saved by grace through faith, not by all the stuff that we do! No amount of chanting, spinning, painting or jumping is going to bring me closer to perfection. Thank you God for your grace through Jesus Christ that saves those who call upon your name!

Insight #2

I do not have to “Do” in order to meet God, but it is wrong to think that once I know Christ that I am supposed to do nothing! My love for Christ compels me to act. I do not need to scrub lime on an ungodly altar, but I do need to live my life in a way that the world can see me and fully recognize that there is something different about me.

Insight #3

Finally, I came to a much clearer understanding of Acts 19. In this chapter we read about Paul’s work building the church and God’s Kingdom. Miracles occurred and people began coming to know Jesus. Demetrius, a Silversmith, recognized the economic impact Paul’s ministry was beginning to have on their business. People traveled great distances to worship at Artemis’ temple on of the Wonders of the World. Silversmiths made a great profit by fashioning idols and artifacts required for this pagan worship. Suddenly, Paul’s work was bringing the worship of Artemis into question which also threatened their livelihood. Walking around the Boudha Stupa, I was able to picture Acts 19. What would happen to Nepal and specifically Kathmandu if Buddhism was exposed as a truly empty religion? Poor vendors would go out of business. Revenue from tourism would dry up. A country with little income would face an even more impoverishing situation.

Good news! After a week in Nepal and many great conversations in the morning with my waiter, I learned he was a Christian converted by travelers a few weeks before. I was able to guide him in how to read the Bible and connect him with a contact who began taking him to church.

In the Land of many gods- there is still only one God whose grace guides us, gives us life, gives us hope, and surprises us when we least expect. God, YOU, are the one and only true God!

Travel to the Land of Many gods: What a Christian Learned in Kathmandu Part 1: Observations

by Dr. Dave Coryell, General Secretary World-CE and Executive Director CE-USA

Stories. I thought they were just stories. Tales have been told in books, movies and legends of men and women reaching mid-life crisis only to part with worldly possessions in order to journey to Kathmandu, Nepal or neighboring Tibet, China. The goal is “finding oneself” or discovering some inner peace that had remained unapproachable or at best impossible to attain in the western rat race.

I rose early and ate breakfast. I had an outstanding conversation with an especially joyful waiter at the hotel restaurant before heading into a temple touring day. Each temple had just a few westerners that matched every stereotype my brain had been trained to picture. The majority of the people, however, were sojourners from countries where the Hindu or Buddhist religions are strong. My experience at the Boudha Stupa was especially telling. The Boudha Stupa is a World Heritage site and is the destination point for Buddhists wanting to trek to their most sacred site in the world. I paid my fare (which was significantly elevated for foreigners) and walked toward the large round white structure with eyes painted on top.

I observed a huge festival in process. People were going around Stupa in a clockwise fashion which was apparently important to know. Hands were reaching out to touch and turn numerous prayer wheels that were inset into the temple walls. At a key point I found an entrance into an inner temple ring. I walked through the entrance and saw where lime could be purchased to rub on the temple’s inner ring wall. Just beyond the lime shop I came upon the place where I could pay to write my prayers on colored flags that would be pulled on a string close to the eyes of the Stupa. Large vats with incense were waiting to be purchased so these pungent leaves could be burned in temple fire places for a small fee. I began to walk the inner ring, whispering the name “Jesus” toward any person who walked by.

Reaching the Temple front I looked down upon a special section set apart for people to do spiritual exercises. When I say “exercises” I mean it! Yes, a few could be seen with criss crossed legs and a meditative pose. The ones who surprised me were the ones who were doing what I could best describe as a spiritual burpee (burpees are physical exercises used for intense training). People were going up and down, up and down, up and down.

Physical posture, breathing incense, spreading lime, prayer pennants, spinning prayer wheels with incantations along with groans and moans by monks in orange robes made for quite an experience. Religion- the hope that doing just enough of the right things in the right way while making a god appeased, approachable or even, attainable in a microscopic way. People go through all these steps and celebrate with exuberance when they claim a minuscule amount of calm.

How is the way of Jesus more fulfilling? Be on the lookout next week for part 2 of this blog, which will explore three insights from my observations in Nepal.