This past Friday, I had the great experience of visiting a mosque. I didn't know really what to expect when I jumped on the bandwagon. The wheels in my head were turning more in the direction of "this will be a cool thing to check off my cultural immersion list", which it totally was, but it was a very special and eye-opening day.
I went with a group, and we showed up for an afternoon service. The mosque has a dress code, so the women have to cover their arms, legs, and heads, and the men are required to wear pants and sleeves. The women don't enter through the main doors, so we entered through a door in the side that took us up to a tiny room upstairs. There's a little area to take your shoes off in, and then all of the women and children sit in a smaller, carpeted balcony area. There was a screen so they could watch the Imam preach downstairs and there was a glass on one side that overlooked the men sitting downstairs. The floor in the service areas was just like a normal carpet but, but lines that form a little carpet square for each person to sit and pray at, that all together sort of make a giant grid.
Muslims pray in the direction of Mecca, so the carpet squares were all at an angle facing in that direction. Upstairs where we sat, the women sat in the front, closest to the screen that was streaming the sermon downstairs, in an area that was roped off. Behind the roped area sat young boys from a Muslim school that came for the service, and behind them sat the little girls.
I'll be honest, I made a lot of assumptions and judgements before I got there, that really had no basis, so I thought everyone would be really standoffish to our group. But God used the kindness of those around me to remind me the dangers of assuming and judging people I've never even met. Everyone was so kind to us and super welcoming. A really nice woman welcomed us showed us where to sit, and she sat with us and explained the prayers to us. Everyone invited us to ask any questions we had.
I had a lot of ideas, that I really just made up in my head, about what the inside of the mosque would look like, but the inside was actually really similar to a non-denominational Christian church. The walls were a tan color and besides the windows and chandeliers, the only things that was really inside were some bookcases, chairs, and a prayer clock.
After the service the Imam was very nice and gave us a tour. He answered all of our questions and encouraged us to ask more. It was interesting to hear his story and hear how he got where he is today.
It was so important for me to see how dangerous it is to make decisions and assumptions based off of the fear of the unknown. Jesus wasn't afraid of the people who were unlike Him; He crossed the cultural bridges and ignored the labels that society gave to others and met those people where they were to love them. Jesus got to know people, he sat with them, ate with them, listened to their stories.
That is the kind of ministry we need to lead as Christians. We need to cross the bridges. We need to meet people where they are, hear their stories, learn about their cultures, appreciate them. We need ignore the lies the world tells about people without even getting to them and get to know people for ourselves.
If you have questions about any group of people, talk to them, visit them, become friends with them.
You can't love people who you haven't met..