I didn’t see it coming, but in hindsight I’m amazed at the opportunities God provides. Let me explain.
Recently I was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—originally the home of some of our children, including Getenet, a senior at Trinity Christian College in the Chicago area. Getenet has been working for nearly two years to establish a Christian special education school in Addis because of severely limited opportunities there for children with special needs and their families.
It’s amazing what a college student in the United States can accomplish when the faith community comes behind such a project!
When I was in Ethiopia, I spent some time with the teaching staff at the school. (My varied career has included being a special education teacher and a psychologist practicing in pediatrics at a rehabilitation hospital.)
We spent some time on classroom management, probably something every teacher approaches with a bit of fear and anxiety. This teaching staff was no exception, particularly considering that these children had never had the opportunity to attend school, so they hadn’t learned to sit in their seats or line up for recess. Instead, they liked to run!
We spent a considerable amount of time on management skills, exploring the benefits of rewards for good behavior, modifying the environment (removing distractions) to help children focus, and using time-out and other methods to help diminish problematic behaviors.
Then I stopped and said something like, “You know, we’re interested in all of this management stuff so that these children realize more of the potential God has given them, and you do that first and foremost by showing the love of Christ.”
Then it happened.
The lead teacher wanted to say something, but I could tell she was a bit anxious about what she needed to tell me. Then she said it: “You know that one of the students is Muslim and we’re a Christian school.”
I hadn’t noticed, but upon reflection, it should have been evident to me when I met his mother and saw how she was dressed. More important than asking how I had missed the cues, however, I needed to recognize that this circumstance was a gift from God not to be squandered.
I responded, “All the more reason to show the love of Christ!”
We talked about how the witness the school could bring to a family that didn’t know Jesus as Savior by showing love and acceptance to those some would call “the least of these” is a powerful vehicle for opening the door to the Holy Spirit’s work.
Where is God opening a door for each of us? It doesn’t require a trip to a faraway country; instead, it means we should be engaged with all kinds of people. Sometimes we will know that God is calling us to a particular Muslim individual or family; other times we might discover an interfaith encounter after already beginning a relationship.
It does mean that we must step out of our comfort zones. Moreover, it means we need to know that in day cares, workplaces, and so many other places, we will encounter people of other faiths. In each of those places, and in the varied opportunities God provides, we’re called to show the light of Christ.
If you’re uncertain or anxious about how to do it, check out the resources listed on page 24.