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Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Stunning Friendship

Nik Ripken's teen age son had died. He and his family were working as missionaries in Africa. Kenya was their base, but their focus was one of the most dangerous places on the planet at the time, Somalia. The organization they formed did humanitarian work in Somalia with a goal to share the gospel, but there were precious few converts. His organization hired Muslims to work alongside them in helping provide food, water, and shelter for people there, many who were in desperate need.
Here Ripkens describes something that happened to them the week of their son's funeral:
Probably the biggest surprise of the week came on Thursday when Omar Aziz, our senior Somali staff member still living in Mogadishu, appeared at the front door. I was stunned to hear him say: “I have walked here from Somalia. I had to come to help bury our son, Timothy.” As soon as he had received word of Tim’s death, this dear Muslim friend had started a five-day odyssey. He had walked through minefields, deserts, and mountains. He had crossed rivers and national borders. He had hitched rides and he had ridden on cattle trucks. And he then arrived at our home hundreds of miles later with only the clothes on his back. I have never been quite so humbled. And I have never seen such a demonstration of friendship. Omar Aziz would sit between Ruth and me at the funeral. 
from The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected (p. 132)
I mention this story because I'm spending time this week on the objection to Christian faith: Isn't religion the cause of much of the violence that's taken place in history? Of course, the answer is yes. Some respond to this by trying to outlaw religion, or ridicule it, or at least to intimidate people of faith to keep their religion private. But within the Christian faith itself lies the greatest hope for peace among people of different faiths. I think the story above is a powerful instance of how this works. Two men from radically different religions and parts of the world, one of whom had moved his family all the way around the world with the specific purpose of seeking to lead people like the other to Jesus, form such a strong friendship that one dramatically risked his life to be with the other at his son's funeral. To my mind, this incident flies in the face of the thought that the solution to peace in the world is to persuade persons of faith, Christians in particular, to not take their faith too seriously and by all means to keep it to themselves. Sunday at Bethany Place, we'll examine a passage that partially explains why this is so. You can see the text, outline, and discussion questions here.

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