New Neighbors

By David Lyons

 Stock Photo by iStock

Stock Photo by iStock

"Have you met the new neighbors?” The young man who lives with us had just met our new neighbors, and he wanted us to meet them also. Meeting neighbors is one of the most important skills of insiders who seek to make Christ known in their neighborhoods, whether in Colorado Springs or in the Middle East.

Burhan and Rima (not their real names) are Arab Navigator disciples who moved from their home country to another country in the Middle East. They moved with the purpose of being the presence of Jesus among Muslim neighbors.

Then conflicts in the country heated up and bullets started to fly. One day their daughter ducked when a bullet hit the wall above her head on their balcony. Other people fled the neighborhood, but Burhan and Rima stayed, in Jesus’ name.

Ahmed and Ayesha (also not their real names) grew up in a nearby village, where some were known for being fiercely Muslim. Growing up, Ayesha was an outstanding student, especially in Islamic studies. But one day her Imam (Muslim teacher) offended her with a lewd insult, and she became open to new ideas beyond Islam. Ahmed, a young man from the village, won Ayesha’s heart and hand in marriage, and took her to the city where he was starting a new business. They moved in across the hall from Burhan and Rima, glad to escape the smothering atmosphere of their village.

Soon Ahmed, Ayesha, Burhan and Rima were doing life together, raising babies and becoming close friends. Rima was gifted in sharing Christ with strangers, but cautious about coming on too strong with Ahmed and Ayesha, knowing the fierce reputation of some in their tribe. But eventually she couldn’t help herself. She began sharing her living, personal relationship with God.

Eventually, Burhan and Rima sensed that their close friends might be open to reading the Bible. After much prayer they invited them to go through the “99 names of God,” well-known among Muslims, but to do so using the Gospel of John in Arabic. In time, other neighbors also joined their weekly discussions.

One day Rima asked Ayesha, “Do you believe that Jesus died for you?” Ayesha said, “No!” This is one of the hardest things for Muslims to believe, because they are explicitly taught not to believe this. Later that night, Jesus appeared to Ayesha in a dream, showed her the scars in His hands and side, and asked, “Why don’t you believe that I died for you?”

Early the next morning Ayesha could hardly wait to cross the hall to tell Rima what had happened. “I believe!” For the next few years Burhan and Rima poured their life into Ahmed and Ayesha as new followers of Isa al-Masih (Jesus the Messiah). Ayesha focused her passion for study on learning the Bible.

Recently, Burhan and Rima were led to move away. A few months later, when I met Ahmed and Ayesha, they expressed how painful it was to not be near Burhan and Rima. But they were sharing Christ with their family and neighbors.

Ahmed sometimes complains that his wife spends more time in the Scriptures than with him. But he’s glad that she does because when he shares Christ with his friends and family he brings them home so that she can answer their questions. Who knows where this will lead?

So, here in Colorado Springs, I’m eager to meet our new neighbors. It might lead to a great adventure. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.”    

David Lyons is an International Vice President of The Navigators. He serves our 5,000 staff in more than 100 countries by coaching leaders and leading change. David is author of Don’t Waste the Pain.