Where would you say the largest concentration of Muslims would be in the world today?
Saudi Arabia? Or some other place in the Middle East? Pakistan, maybe?
For the past several months we’ve been treated during church services here at the Gallatin Baptist Church with Biblical instruction provided by interim pastor Dr. Thor Madsen of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. That’s about to change with the arrival of Bro. Garrett Trunk scheduled later this month. A special appreciation dinner is planned for Bro. Thor at our church. He is an exceptional teacher and so much more, now being called to another church family elsewhere in leadership transition.
It’s been a couple of weeks or more since Thor returned from a missionary trip overseas. But the brief summary about the trip that he shared lingers, perhaps because we read and hear so much in the news about Muslims on the world stage and yet know so little.
Bro. Thor was part of a group that visited in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. It is huge – with a population of 10.1 million, it is roughly 10 times the size of greater Kansas City (the greater Jakarta area is populated by 28 million people!) Thor described this city as thoroughly modern but with significant poverty.
Two students of the missionary group actually went into the jungles of the island Java to conduct youth missions. Thor and most others on the mission, however, engaged and encouraged Christians living in that city. While there they had the opportunity to visit a Muslim mosque.
This was no small thing. Thor describes the mosque as the third largest in the world – so big that the multi-layered structure and facility can accommodate about 200,000 persons at a time! The pictures that Thor shares are impressive but pictures probably do the mosque an injustice.
Like many of us would be, Thor was full of questions. He conversed with a lady from New York and found her a knowledgeable resource about Muslim worship. So, he kept asking her questions. Eventually, she confided that she once was a practicing Muslim before her conversion to follow Jesus Christ. Perhaps their acquaintance and focus was not by chance.
Do Muslims ask God for things the way we pray to God? Thor was told, “No, the Muslim god doesn’t hear petitions.” Their belief centers on one supreme being, Mohammed the Prophet. But theirs is not a loving god; there is no assurance of salvation, and many Muslims die not knowing whether they are to descend into hell or to ascend into heaven, according to Bro. Thor.
Food is always a concern, particularly when the trip is abroad. Although dinners were often variations of rice and somewhat familiar food choices, Thor was forewarned about one particular sauce. When he inquired as to why he shouldn’t eat it, Thor learned the sauce was made with blood. Then he chuckled, saying he was there in Indonesia to learn firsthand about Muslims – not about foods preferred by vampires!
This missionary trip was more than one year in the making. I only jotted down a few notes on the margin of my church bulletin as Thor shared his experiences before leading the regular worship service. After all, we gathered to worship and not to be intrigued by Thor’s travels.
But …well, you just never know what you miss if you decide to skip church on a Sunday. When Thor gave thanks to our Lord for the privilege and freedom of worship, he meant it. His recent trip brought new meaning to such thanks. I suspect even those in the routine of seldom missing a Sunday service take this precious freedom of worship for granted.
Thor’s perspectives serve as a reminder of how it’s such a big world out there. There’s so much to learn and understand.
Thanks for reading. But if any of this interests you, you really should go to the church of your choice this Sunday, especially where they teach and preach from the Bible. From that foundation of truth, inquisitive minds go far.