|Posted on June 16, 2017 at 8:55 AM|
LOST OR FOUND
Last week, “Mslms” started the R_madan fast around the world. Here where we live, with a population of about 98.5% Mslms, it is no exception. This month-long fast is done once a year based on the Isl_mic calendar, which means that it changes yearly. This year the fast lined up with the hot season. The hot season gets up to 115 degrees in the afternoon and is an incredibly difficult time of the year – the hardest, really. This year's fasting also coincided with the beginning of the rainy season, which happens to be the planting season. It takes a lot of energy to plant the crops in the fields. Most people have at least two or three acres of land that they farm. I have heard that a lot of people die during the fast, especially older people whose bodies cannot handle it as well.
During this month, most Mslm men and women (from about 13-15 yrs. old and up) fast from sunup to sundown. Here that means from about 6:03am to 6:55pm each day. During this time, you are not supposed to eat any food or drink water. I have heard that it is taboo to even swallow your own spit. An interesting fact is that most people doing the fast put a stick in their mouth to chew on and to also show everyone else that they are fasting.
The amazing thing about the “fast”, though, is that as soon as the sun goes down, the feasting begins! Most stores here are empty because everyone has bought up the food supplies in preparation for the nightly “celebration”. The food prices soar during this season. Everything jumped by at least 20% or more in one week, just because everyone is buying up all of the food. You might say, well, it is a fast, right? During the day, that is correct. But at night there is feasting that continues through until early morning. There is more spiritual fervor during this time as well, since people stay up at night listening to messages being preached via loudspeakers on the streets.
Because people tend to stay up basically all night feasting, the whole nation here goes on “night shift” for one month. Basically, many people stay up at night and sleep during the day. People tend to do their work only in the mornings since it is a bit cooler and they have just had breakfast before the sun came up. By early afternoon, they try to sleep through the hottest part of the day until the sun goes down. Thus, the cycle of life changes to almost the opposite of what it is the rest of the year. Up all night, and asleep during the day. This is a month that is difficult to get anything done, since most people view fasting as their primary “job” during the day, and try to just get through until they can eat and drink at night. So this is the most unproductive time of the year for getting paperwork done for work, school, businesses, etc…
This morning, one of our neighborhood youth came to greet me. He is probably about 15 years old and usually goes to school. I asked him what he was doing today. His response? “I'm fasting!" He is not going to school or doing anything else all day – just conserving his energy and fasting until the sun goes down. This is typical. Many times parents tell their teenage children that they have a choice of either fasting and then feasting with the family at night, or not having any food to eat for the month. This helps to motivate youth to start fasting, knowing that they are guaranteed food with their family each night.
“Azumi” is the Hausa word for “Fast”. This month, the most common greeting in the marketplace is, “Yaya azumi?” which is Hausa for asking how the fast is going.
We are thankful to be a part of the growing Christian community here. Because the church is growing, most people in the larger cities know that Christians do not participate in the Rmadan fast. This is a great witness to the Mslm people here. Many of our Christian friends use this month as an opportunity to share with their friends why they are not participating in this fast - that they have been saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, not because of doing any good works. Christians also share with their friends the real meaning and purpose of fasting for the Believer from the Bible (fasting is between you and the Lord, not publicly to get praise from man). Thus, this is a very important time for the church around the world in Mslm nations to be a shining light and testimony to the grace and goodness of Jesus Christ.
Please pray with us this month for the Mslm world, that they would experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ, who has already paid the penalty for our sin. So many are hungry for a true relationship with God and are trying to do many good works to obtain their salvation, but are trying to do it in their own strength and in fear that it is not enough to save them from judgement day. It is truly a horrible thing to live in fear all of your life, not knowing if you did enough good works to save yourself from going to hell.
Ultimately, there are just two categories. Lost or found. Not "Mslm" or "Christian". You can condense all of the different religions and beliefs of people around the world and they come into one of these two categories: lost or found. It is hard for us to understand why so many Christians are afraid of Mslms, knowing that many are still in the lost category and need to come to know Jesus. We should be filled with love and compassion for anyone who has yet to receive Christ, knowing that one day, each one of us will stand and give an account of our life before the Lord. Just like the thieves on the right and left side of Jesus when He was dying for our sins on the cross. They both made a decision about Jesus at that point. One believed and opened up his heart to receive Jesus’ love and forgiveness; the other one mocked and rejected Him. One was found; the other was lost. We all fit into one of these two categories. Do we know Jesus Christ, and have we accepted His gift of salvation that He paid for with His own blood? Or do we trust in our own good works to redeem us?
Lost is living in fear of death. Found is living in victory that Jesus has conquered death. Lost is living with hopelessness. Found is full of hope and expectation that all things will be made new. Lost is filled with fear and anxiety. Found is trusting in the One who holds us in His hand. Lost is wandering aimlessly and without purpose. Found is at peace in the one weaving the threads of our lives, the good and the bad, into the greater tapestry that will one day be made perfect in Him. Lost is looking at ourselves. Found is looking at Him. There are just two categories. Lost or found.
Pray for those who are still in the lost category. Let our lives as Christians be full of the love and compassion of Christ for those who are lost. Pray for those around you that might not know Jesus yet. Ask the Lord to make you ready to show His love in a tangible way to those who need a revelation of who Jesus really is. Let us remember what it was like to be lost. It is only by God’s grace we have been found. There is nothing left for us to fear. Let us use the time that we have left in this world to be bold witnesses to the love, grace, and truth that is found in Jesus Christ alone. At anytime, anywhere, any person can come to know Jesus and go from lost to found. Amazing grace…
“The Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).
“For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13).