As we sit on the floor of Miram's home, I try to soak it all in. I love every minute of this: drinking tea, pulling apart pita with my hands, eating the Arabic dishes (with our hands, of course), and talking with our Yemeni friends. We came to teach English, but, today, we are pausing our schedule in order to eat breakfast together.
I feel the Lord tugging at my heart, telling me to not let this moment go to waste. I take a deep breath and plunge in. I ask, "So, why do you celebrate Ramadan?" My sweet friends begin to explain to me about fasting and our conversation evolves to an explanation of the Five Pillars of Islam. Miram and her daughters tell me that, especially during Ramadan, they pray, fast, and give money to poor people so that Allah will have mercy on them and let them into jannah (heaven). Again, I take a deep breath, and ask, "Oh, so if you died right now you would go to jannah?" My heart breaks as they give a shy smile and shrug their shoulders, saying, "Enshallah (God willing), but we don't know. We can't know. Only God knows."
I want to hug them and cry out, "But you can know! Isa Al Masih came to us so that you can know that you can have a relationship with God, that He loves you, and that You can spend forever with Him!" I think about when I was very young, how I spent hours and hours of my life trying to say the "right" words "enough" times, in hopes that at least one time it would "count" and God would accept me. When I think about how I tried to pray the correct way, in the correct position, saying the correct words in hopes that I would earn God's favor, I realize how much I empathize with my sweet friends.
I pray that, as Jesus transformed me from a religious person to a true follower of Him, He would also transform the hearts of these friends from trying to do enough of the right things to trusting in Jesus.