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18 June 2015

Stories for Ramadan 2015 from Mahabba

Stories for Ramadan 2015 from Mahabba

The Mahabba Network, which equips churches and individuals in the UK to love their Muslim neighbours and build communities with them, tells us more about their work through Ramadan 2015. A new story will be added each day. 

Get involved with Mahabba by visiting www.mahabbanetwork.com/ramadan.

Day 01: Saris & Sequins

All we wanted to do was get home after being at church all morning.Rain was lashing down, so we were eager to dash inside our home as soon as the car stopped.Beyond the windscreen wipers and the grey rain, we saw a splash of colour.

Our Muslim neighbours were standing outside in fantastic traditional clothes – a multitude of saris and sequins. After waving from the comfort of the interior of the car we got to meet our neighbours for the first time.

It was great to share our breakthrough with the Mahabba group, and we continue to pray for them.

Day 02: Check out the checkout (Part 1)

"You're up and about very early!" said the checkout lady."Well, we're going off to pray with some friends before work," I replied. "We're part of a Mahabba prayer group, asking God to bless this town with Jesus' love and peace."

Moments later, a tall man approached me. He explained how God had led him to walk and pray early in the morning and asked God to lead him to others who are also praying.

"It looks like he's answered your prayer," I replied: "because we're just off to pray with our friends for the Muslim community, and you're very welcome to join us.

Day 03: Check out the checkout (Part 2)

"Thank you for always coming to my checkout," said Abdul while we were shopping at the supermarket.

We've been praying for him in our Mahabba group and asking for opportunities to get to know him. Over a few years a friendship has developed between us.Last Christmas we gave him chocolate for his children and with tears in his eyes he exclaimed: "You don't know how much this means to me and my family."

Recently he was not at the checkout as usual. Later that day I saw Abdul walk past the window. I called him over and discovered that he lived close by. He gave me his address and invited us to visit his home and meet his wife and children.

Day 04: Teaching the teacher a lesson

The people were from several different continents and spoke a variety of languages. English wasn't one of them.

With the help of a DVD, smartphone translation apps and some human translators, we struggled through a short passage about Jesus from the New Testament.

At the end I asked what people would like prayer for. One of the language learners said one word – "everything!" I was struck by his honesty, openness and desperation.

Suddenly I wondered if he was the teacher and I was his student.

Day 05: A boat in a solitary place

We had gone for a picnic to a local beauty spot. Once the sandwiches were finished we decided to go out on the lake in a sailing boat. A couple my Muslim friends came too. We busied ourselves with the sails, put on the life jackets and we were off.

Strangely the wind dropped and the boat stopped right in the middle of the lake.We started talking about Jesus. I asked if my friend would like to pray to ask Jesus into his life. He prayed a short prayer, inviting Jesus.

The sails filled with wind once more and sailing resumed –it was almost like something out of the Bible.

Day 06: Perfect day

It was a beautiful day, so my wife decided to sit outside on the doorstep while waiting to meet her friend.

We had recently moved into the neighbourhood and were looking for opportunities to get to know our Muslim neighbours.

We knew the next door neighbour, but unexpectedly the Muslim girl who lives diagonally opposite came to introduce herself and to welcome my wife into the local neighbourhood. 

It was a lesson in friendliness, but also a good reminder to make ourselves more available. We continue to pray for her and lift her up in our Mahabba prayer group.

Day 07: Holy Smoke!

One evening I looked out of the wind and noticed a large plume of smoke billowing into the sky from our neighbours' garden.

My first thought was how anti-social our neighbour was being, but then it occurred to me that it would be a good chance to get to know him more, as well as secure some wood for our wood burner.

I went round and later in the week was able to give my Muslim neighbour a hand, sorting through the wood pile together. The sun was shining and I enjoyed chatting with him and just enjoying the moment.

Perhaps it was Holy Smoke after all!

Day 08: Welcome to the neighbourhood

We were just moving in, struggling with unwieldy boxes and dusty furniture, when above the brick wall appeared the head of the neighbour's son.

He offered his help, but as we had lots of friends pitching in, we said we'd give him a shout later. Undeterred, he appeared later on with a box of chocolates in his outstretched hand.

The chocolates have been eaten and the box recycled. However, friendship with our Muslim neighbours is just beginning. God had put us in exactly the right place to meet Muslim neighbours – just what we had been praying for in our Mahabba group.

Day 09: Thank God for taxis

God showed me that using taxis would be the key to making friends with Muslim men in the town.

I discovered that one regular driver, a devout Muslim, had several daughters and a severely disabled son. I first met his son when he was seriously ill in hospital and have since visited him regularly. I asked his father if I could pray to Isa-al-Masih for his speech to be recovered and praise God there has been a slight improvement.

I'm now a regular visitor to this three-generational family home.

Day 10: Muslims are coming to churches and asking about Jesus

One Muslim was curious about Christianity after witnessing a miracle to a second Muslim who was telling him about his faith in Christ. Although the second had professed faith in Jesus, he had little discipleship.

Both men turned up at a local church and found that the speaker was the Christian who they'd agreed to study the Bible with. They met the following week and engaged fully with a Bible study on Genesis.

At that study, they shared some personal needs that were prayed for, and within an hour they both had already received answers to those prayers.

Day 11: Time for tea

We invited a Sufi Muslim couple around for a meal. The wife arrived in the UK six years ago as a political refugee, but her husband was unable to leave his come country for various reasons. He comes to visit her and their children a few times a year.

They were able to have the most open conversation about God's love for them, and her husband was in tears. They are now trying their best through the legal system to get him over here so that he will be able to be permanently with his wife.

Through our Mahabba group we are able to support them both in prayer and practically.

Day 12: Job club

One morning an Asian man walked in and asked the location of the job club, which took place in another part of the church.

"Where can I get a Bible in Urdu? Because it is a holy book and I would like to read it." I took a Bible to his house and my friend received it gratefully with both hands. He flipped through the Bible for many minutes stopping to read a little and then turning over a bit further.

Our prayers and those of our Mahabba group are with him as he reads the words.

Day 13: Meeting for better understanding

We hosted a meeting for better understanding between Christians and Ahmadiyyas, an Islamic movement.

I gave a short talk and then the Imam on the topic: How can our faith bring peace to society? This was followed by questions and answers and an Indian meal provided by the mosque. The event was a great success.

Imagine: there were about 30 Muslim men and women sitting to listen to a brief presentation of the gospel, followed by people sharing their faith personally around the tables. Moreover, everyone left as friends and is planning to come again.

Day 14: Back to school

A week before Christmas, I went with a friend to visit a local Islamic boys' school, at the time of evening prayers. My friend told the story from Adam and Eve, through the story of sacrifice, to Bethlehem and on to Calvary. They listened attentively and respectfully.

I then spoke about the meaning of the word Christmas – mostly the meaning of the 'Christ-' bit. After the half an hour had passed, the teachers asked us to carry on for another half hour. One of them asked about the possibility of some of the students going on a visit to a local church.

Day 15: The first time

Through home-visits, English lessons and cinema trips with the kids, we had befriended a Muslim lady and her children. The wider church community had dropped in on her for coffee and cakes.

She came to church and sat next to us. Before the sermon began, the Bible passage was announced. We got out our Bible, found the section and leant over for our friend to see. She had never seen a Bible before.What a privilege it was to be the ones who opened the Bible with her for the very first time.

Day 16: Reconciliation

Getting to the UK had been long and arduous, but since arriving, one young refugee tried hard to stay in regular contact with his mum. However, when she learned that he was now a follower of Jesus she stopped all contact.

There had been no contact for months.

The young refugee's friends prayed about the situation. After months of silence the phone rang. From thousands of miles away mum's voice could be made out over her tears.

"Jesus appeared to me in a dream. He said, "I must not cut off my flesh and blood," she said. "I'm sorry, please forgive me…"

Day 17: Hungry for more

The young Kurdish couple were widely-read, and interested in philosophy and religion.

After attending a morning meeting at a local church they asked if there were any plans to have a similar meeting in the future.

Before I could reply she motioned to the Alpha poster and said: "I could come to this."

Both Mahabba and non-Mahabba people continue to pray for the couple and invest in their lives.

Day 18: Trans-continental dreaming

Thousands of miles away from home I was staying with one of my Muslim friends.

My thoughts were interrupted by my phone;it was a text from England. A friend back home hadn't slept well and had used the time to pray for my trip. Through the night she had the impression that my host had a terrible pain in the lower left part of his back. I passed the message on to my host.

Incredulously he said: "Of course, I have a pain in my back. It's here, low down on the left, but how did you know?"

I explained that God had spoken to a friend in a dream and was able to pray for healing in Jesus' name.

Day 19: Prayer changes lives

His mum had been ill, so he hastily booked arranged a flight and visa. It was the wrong visa, but after a few phone calls, and because he was visiting his sick mother, he was allowed back into his home country.

After locating his mother in hospital, he laid a hand on his mother, who was unresponsive, and prayed in the name of Jesus.

When the doctors came in later on their rounds they were amazed to see the transformation. The lady was alert and responsive. "What's happened here?" the doctors asked incredulously.

"Her son came and prayed to Jesus for her!"

Day 20: Pursued in a dream

In a smoky coffee shop the Yazidi man told us about the vivid dream he had when he was 10 years old.

"In the dream", he said, "I was being pursued. People were following me. They chased me into a room where there was a picture on the wall. There were wicked things in the picture;I was afraid.

"Then the room filled with light and Jesus was there. The people following me fell away, and the wicked picture vanished."

He was delighted with the New Testament I gave him, thanked me profusely and asked if I had another for his friend.

Day 21: Jesus and the sheikh

As he was leading Friday prayers in the mosque, a very radical Muslim sheikh in Africa was suddenly confronted by a Holy God.

The windows shook and the mosque was filled with a thunderous sound as God shouted at him to surrender his life to Jesus.

He survived the intense persecution, even being shot, and found his way to the UK. Today his life is so filled with God's love for Muslims, that he has devoted his life to spread that Love in the Middle East – wherever people will stop and listen.

Day 22: The five year barrier

For years it seemed so hard to find young people who would count the cost and be willing to give their lives to reach Muslim people.

Yet mysteriously, within just five years of opening the first Mahabba prayer group in Oxford, 25 people from the group signed up to devote their lives to loving Muslims.

There is a health warning now to all who dare join any local Mahabba prayer group around the country: "Beware, this prayer will seriously change your life."

Day 23: Stabbed for Jesus

To some, faith in Christ costs them everything: one teenager surrendered his life to Christ after an encounter with Jesus.

News leaked out, which led to him being ritually stabbed on a visit back to Pakistan. Leaving him to die, they didn't realise the boy was to wake up with Jesus standing over him.

He was physically healed, and said he was "flooded with God's unconditional forgiveness": he now is raising funds to help build a much-needed medical clinic in the place where he was stabbed – an amazing overflow of God's love to his persecutors.

Day 24: Flower power

After the September 11 attacks, there was a tangible atmosphere of fear among the large Muslim population. They were so fearful that public anger would boil over against them.

Knowing this, members of a Mahabba group bought hundreds of flowers and as they crept out cautiously after Friday Prayer, we pressed a flower into everyone's hand: "Don't be afraid! We are true believers –people of the Bible, believers in Isa Al Masih. We are here to help you!"

The impact of that simple act of 'mahabba' love was extraordinary, leaving many in tears, and it changed our lives as much as it changed theirs.

Day 25: The power of a fiver

In 2012, five years after launching Mahabba, we were challenged to set up Mahabba networks across the UK, but we had no money.

A friend gave me £5 as the first 'seed offering'. At a prayer meeting that day, I was given £50, then my wife's charity gave me £500. The very next day an old friend from another city sent a donation of £5000.

With this we opened the Mahabba UK office, and shortly after this we had a remarkable donation of £50,000 from America.

Mahabba is now believing for the first gift of £500,000.

Day 26: Redemption, hope, resurrection and the cross

Growing up in South Asia, Mohammed became fascinated with classic English poetry.

At university he had no access to the Bible, but was intrigued by the poets' themes of redemption, hope, resurrection and the cross. Arriving in England to further his education, he saw a booktable offering free books, so took a Bible. He then decided to read it with a small group.

For the last five months he's been reading weekly and been encouraged to obey what he read. Mohammed has fallen in love with Jesus and when he read about baptism he asked to be baptised.

Mohammed is now very keen to take the good news back to his people in South Asia.

Day 27: A Minaret with a Broken Speaker

After reading an Injil – Islamic holy book believed to have been written by Jesus - I dreamt I saw a minaret with a broken speaker.

Suddenly the minaret shook. At the base I saw an axeman trying to destroy it. I woke up very shocked because when I saw the man's face – it was me.

I asked the man who gave the Injil what it meant: "You're going to win many sheikhs for Christ!" Deciding to follow Christ, I was sacked as leader of an Islamic Centre and my father tried to kill me.

Despite this, I later saw 400 sheikhs come to Christ.

Day 28: Eyes opened wide

The Friendship First course run by my Mahabba group gave me a safe environment to explore my own thoughts and feelings about Muslims and the religion of Islam.

The first session really hit a nerve, as I was confronted with a truth that God loves Muslims, but I knew I was not living that out in my thoughts and attitudes.

The course taught me that God Is already working in Muslims by the power of the Holy Spirit and how much I had in common with Muslims. This was very encouraging, and I later went to a meeting for better understanding with a church and mosque.

Day 29: A Christmas Surprise

Aabidah was new to the city –a recent asylum-seeker –so we invited her and her children to spend Christmas Day with us.

Her brother was unhappy that she was coming to church and had warned her off, emailing us YouTube talks from radical imams.

However, I was surprised that on Christmas Day to discover the man sitting next to me in church was Aabidah's brother himself.

To my astonishment he spent the rest of the day with us, eating, playing silly games, and going for a walk. "My best Christmas ever!" he declared late that night.

Day 30: Text message

Jesus' love for the lost and wounded motivated me to help asylum-seekers in my city. I received a text from one who had fled violence in the Middle East.

"I would like to tell you something. I am alone in this country with no mother or father or brother or sister or husband. But when I met you everything changed and you became my brothers and sisters. I love you so much. Thank you that you are in my life. I thank the Lord very much, because I know you."