As I got on the plane to Brussels, I found my seat, stowed my bag and sat down. I'd pulled out a book, my Bible and journal, figuring I would read a little before sleeping the rest of the seven-hour flight. If I slept this first long flight and stayed awake on the second, I'd be on schedule when I arrived. Little did I know I'd spend the next four hours talking to the African man next to me about Islam, Jesus, forgiveness and Christianity.
Mohammed quickly introduced himself after I sat down. He's from Guinea, has worked in Sierra Leone, studied in Germany and Spain, and now lives in the U.S. He was coming from Tennessee, where he now lives with his wife and five children, ranging in age from 12 to 27.
We had briefly shared about our religious backgrounds. He asked me about the purpose of my trip but I told him I was just visiting friends (to be consistent with my visa). I closed my eyes so ready to rest and started praying, asking God to just lead me in what to share and asking that if I had been too vague in sharing the purpose of my trip, that he would tell me what to share.
I didn't even have to open my eyes before Mohammed says, "There's this famous atheist writer… do you know of him?" (He was referring to Christopher Hitchens.) "He is very sick with cancer, and he just doesn't believe there is any God. I can't believe some people believe that there is nothing more than this and that God did not create us. It's so sad that some people go to hell."
Talk about an opening!!!!
So we spent the next four hours going back and forth, most of the time with me asking him about Islam and genuinely trying to fit the pieces together but being honest when I didn't think it added up.
Eventually, he brought up natural disasters. He suggested I watch National Geographic and then think about how powerful God is and the fact that he will use natural disasters to destroy the people who don't love him.
I told him I believe God is powerful enough to do that but that I don't think he will destroy the earth like that. "For example," I said. "In the story of Noah, God promised he would never flood the earth again."
"Did you read that in the Bible or did someone just tell you that?" Mohammed asked me.
"It's in the Bible," I said. "I can show you."
And all of a sudden we were reading God's covenant out of Genesis. Mohammed asked me to read it out loud to him.
Later, Mohammed mentioned a few times that no one could know God, and as he was telling me about the prophet Mohammed in Islam, he said that the prophet Mohammed was the only one who really was with God.
I asked him about Adam or when God revealed himself to Moses. Mohammed pointed out that God was speaking to Moses when he gave him the 10 commandments, but I told him I was talking about when God let Moses see Him after he passed by and so we looked up the story in the Bible and this time Mohammed read it out loud!!!
This story got me excited to think about how powerful God is and how close Moses got to be to Him, and the great thing about Mohammed was it was completely comfortable to show him my excitement in the Lord.
I told him one of the things I love about God is that He is relational. He cares about relationship and that He tells us we will seek Him and find Him when we seek Him with our whole heart. While we can't completely understand Him, He does choose to reveal Himself to us.
Mohammed could not stop himself from saying his god (Allah) is good. "God is wonderful," he would say over and over.
I told him I bet he'd like Psalm 136 and turned to it and read the first few verses to him. I told him he made me think of this passage.
The overwhelming thing to me about this man was that he loves who he thinks God is. And my heart just kept thinking of Paul in Acts 17, sharing, what you worship as something unknown, I know who He is!!!
So many of the things Mohammed believes are true of Allah are true of God. And yet there was such a void, especially in the area of forgiveness and eternal life and trusting God's character. Mohammed thinks god can do whatever he wants but that he is not necessarily just or fair. When I started asking about this, he said he couldn't answer out of fear that he would sin.
I'm sure this post is driving some of you mad, especially those who are well-versed in theology and apologetics. I know I'm pretty inadequate in this area. But I do believe this conversation was a blessing from God. And the thing is, the Gospel of Jesus was shared and God's word was spoken and read, and God says His word will not return void!
So I don't know what His purpose was in this meeting, but I'm excited that I had the chance to meet Mohammed that I had the chance to experience that conversation with God.
Mohammed said he was so glad god worked it out so that our paths crossed. I said I was too and that it was very good to talk to him.
"It was excellent talking with you," he said.