We were walking down the street in Malindi, following a meal at a local restaurant. We should have left the restaurant earlier in the evening, but conversation with friends kept us there up to the very edge of nightfall.
As we walked we were greeted by a group of Muslims who had just left their evening services at the local mosque. Some were dressed in white from head to toe. They gathered around a local food cart on the street like hyenas pouncing on gazelle carcass. They had fasted all day, going without food or water, since it is the month of Ramadan when observant Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.
On a side note... Kathleen and I did this once when we were in a training program for Muslim evangelism. Going without food wasn't too hard, but going without water all day was significantly more challenging. We were trying to repeat the experience of Muslims, to better empathize with their emotions and physical feelings during the fasting period. So, we went about our normal studies and street evangelism in Brooklyn, New York, all day, without any food or water. It was a hot clear day in Brooklyn, and by early evening we were parched for something to drink. We cut our evening evangelistic visits short and went to a cool place to sit and rest until we could eat when the sun went down. So, as you can imagine, after a day of fasting, a Muslim is ready to feast.
Back to present time, life in Malindi, with Bob Hall and Jim Watson, on our missions trip here in Kenya. As we walked by the Muslim men at the cart they suddenly started yelling at us. These were not threatening cries, but invitations to come and join their feast. It is customary for Muslims to do this. In fact, it is a part of their hospitality evangelism. They are in the midst of a month of spiritual renewal, so they naturally are eager to share their faith with strangers. And, what better way to do that than to invite people to a meal? We should have probably accepted their invitation, but we had just eaten a large meal, and we were trying to get back to our lodging before total darkness set in.
As we continued our journey on foot through Malindi we were approached by two young men, in their late teens. One tried numerous ways to sell me some Jambalaya music. Once he discovered that I was from the United States he started speaking every American name he could think of in quick repitition: Barack Obama, Snoop Dog, 50 Cents, Shaq Tapur (I'm sure I have some of these names wrong, well not Obama). I guess he thought that if he could impress me he I would buy the music. I told him I wanted some “Jesus music.” He had no idea what I was talking about, and primarily left me at that time.
The other young man who approached us was wearing one of the small stocking hat like the one that American teenagers sometimes wear (I think I've seen Tim Tebow wear one). He was a slender built young man, his features more Egyptian than Kenyan. And, indeed, his ethnic heritage is closer to Egypt than Kenya. He was quite animated and articulate in English for someone whom I would underestimate at first glance. His name was Musa, and he told us a bit of his story, which seemed to be true. He said that he had come to Kenya on a Dao (sp?), a small boat, from Somalia. There he had escaped from capture by Al-Shabab, a Muslim terrorist organization that recruits young men into their organization, sometimes by force. He had sailed south on the Indian Ocean until he arrived on the east coast of Kenya. Now, he lives on the beach, surviving as a homeless young person. Jim Watson, the more experienced of us, said that many young man from Somalia do exactly as Musa described, and that they eventually find some type of manual labor in Kenya.
Musa had plenty of energy, but he was thin enough that we decided to buy him a little food. He wasn't selling anything, at least not anything he was carrying with him. We weren't sure what he was offering to us beyond conversation. We bought him some rice and oil at a local grocery store. I asked him if I could pray for him, and he seemed moved by this, as we were too, to do so. Musa was enough of a character that it's been hard to get him out of my mind. I don't think he understood much of what we were praying for him, but at least he knew he was cared for on this night. What happens to Musa, and the thousands like him, from here? How does a young Somali refugee in Kenya come to know the gospel? How does he experience the love of Jesus? How does he survive? I don't know. God knows. So, I pray.