As we shuffled through the form together, figuring out where my signature went on her passport application, our conversation turned to Mecca… I shook my head, “Wow, what an opportunity that must be for you!”
The young lady before me was brimming with excitement, and hoping like crazy that her father would agree to take her across the world with him on his religious pilgrimage early in the new year.
The Hajj is a holy, once-in-a-lifetime trip, mandatory for all adult followers of Islam – if financially and physically able. I could see the importance and anticipation that such a trip held for this father and daughter, and listened as they explained their expectations of what it would be like.
Conversation turned to the family remaining at home, and of their littlest heading to school for his first classroom visit that week. He jumped about with 4-year-old restlessness, pushing the chair that I was sitting on, much to their embarrassment. They broke off into their own dialect, chiding him for being disrespectful towards me, their visitor.
Soon they in turn, asked after my family, and I dived into an open account about our youngest’s recent tummy pains and the medical investigations that were ongoing. They empathised deeply with my parental concerns, and *Zain the father, offered generously to pray for my child while they were on their holy trip. I thanked him for his sincere concern and prayers, then I turned to his eldest daughter for further clarification as I was not understanding adequately what his continued message to me was through the language barrier.
She explained that he would be glad to make a sacrifice and pray for my young child’s health. He added comfortingly that this would be ‘easy to pray for,’ given how young my child was and that she was still fairly ‘clean from sin.’ I couldn’t stifle the laugh that erupted from down deep, as I assured startled Zain that ‘my daughter is full of sin.’ Inside my head, I knew a small goat sacrifice just wouldn’t cut it! And out loud, I added by way of explanation that we ‘rely on God’s mercy’ for these sins.
After leaving, I thought of some of the clever things I should have said about Jesus and His complete, once-for-all sacrifice for us all, or of the shared foundations we have to our respective faiths, that we also agree that sin must be atoned for before a holy God who does not take wrongdoing lightly.
But instead, I have to trust that Zain and his daughter now ‘have a pebble in their shoe’ to mull over, having witnessed my raw account of our family’s plentiful sin, but also my relaxed confidence that the God we follow can be depended on for His mercy.
who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.1 Peter 2:24 (NKJV)
*We have used pseudonyms to protect the identity of our Partners and their work.