Midweek Musings: An Encounter with a Missionary | Opinion

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Living Faith United Methodist Church recently hosted a conference from “Paul,” a missionary from South Asia, who contacted me on Facebook to find a prayer partner. (For his safety and that of others, I cannot share his name or the name of the country where he is located.) Several years ago, he had inherited significant amounts of land from his father and grandfather. father, whom Paul sold. Instead of moving to a country where he could practice his faith openly, he used the proceeds to follow God’s call to open a Christian school for girls.

The country where Paul comes from does not generally educate girls beyond the fifth grade. This predominantly Muslim country still has blasphemy laws, and if two witnesses testify against you, you could face the death penalty. Despite the great risk, Paul’s conviction to follow God’s call was strong and after discussing it with his wife and children, they decided to go ahead. The school’s student body is 70% Christian and 30% Muslim. Paul believes that we all need to work together and that everyone should have access to education. Paul travels five hours from his home in the city to the rural village where the school is located. Paul works at school five days a week and comes home on weekends. He told me about the high walls surrounding the school to protect the children. Sometimes in the United States we take our education for granted – just spend five minutes listening to my children complaining on the way to school!

Paul also spoke to me about church life. He said that one Sunday a few years ago, a suicide bomber entered the church yard and tried to enter the sanctuary to kill everyone there. A member of the congregation recognized the bomb attached to the man and tackled him; the bomb exploded in the yard killing the worshiper and the suicide bomber. When Paul told me this story, he said it was more commonplace than we know. He said there was now security to enter the courtyard of the church and there were trained soldiers on the roof.

Paul brought his adult daughter “Naomi” with us for the visit to our church. Naomi will begin her PhD in the United States in the field of nutritional sciences. Paul and Naomi shared some of their story with our youth group at Living Faith UMC. One of our children asked Naomi what was the difference between a state college and a Christian college in Naomi’s country. Naomi shared the story of her best friend, who went to public school. Some people found out that she was a Christian and poisoned her. The children in our youth group were speechless. They asked again why Paul and Naomi hadn’t left. Naomi said she wanted to educate herself to come back and help her people. Naomi and Paul both feel they have many gifts from God, but they should not be used for themselves. They are to be used to help all of God’s people, whether or not the beliefs or ideologies of others align with their own.

After dropping Paul and Naomi off at the airport, I spent the drive home thinking how lucky we were here in the States. We have the freedom to practice the religion of our choice or to choose no religion at all. In this area, we have some of the best schools in the country. We encourage all of our children to receive a basic education.

Whatever your faith, I encourage you to take part in your community of faith and your community in general. Be happy that you have the ability to worship – or not to worship – as you see fit!

Reverend Adam Randazzo is pastor of Living Faith United Methodist Church in Beverly and Ipswich. Midweek Musings revolves among the clergy of the Côte-Nord.

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