Among expats, we have a joke – “Turn right at the mosque.” It’s a joke, because we all start out giving directions like that until we realize how many mosques there are! You can’t even say “turn right at the white mosque” or “turn left at the blue mosque” because many of the mosques have a decoration or two that could also qualify. Giving directions that include mosques, in a Moslem country, is just not do-able.
To get to our house, you turn right at the mosque.
This little mosque is just yards from our house. During the nights of power (during the last ten days of Ramadan) you can hear people praying quietly the entire night through. It never bothers me; if I wake up, it makes me feel safe and I go back to sleep again. It is a totally different sound from the angry sermon type sounds that you can hear from some mosques on Fridays – it is soothing and soulful.
I am sorry, it is beautiful at night, but I will have to work at getting a better photo for you.
In the back of the mosque, they have a garden, with vegetables growing, I am guessing to help out the poor in our neighborhood to have fresh food with their rice.
Back in Doha, church at the same time as always but for once, we are late because we didn’t realize the traffic pattern had changed, and we got lost, briefly, making us walk in after the service had started. As we walked in, we were greeted by a man we knew well when we used to attend, and he was so happy to see us! The congregation is about double the size as when we used to attend, may familiar faces, even after all these years, and there are our old friends, and they have saved two seats for us.
The service was a happy combination – familiar service sheet, familiar – and much loved – music, but some new things, too, more people serving, a little more formal service, and a priest-policeman who gave a powerful testimony. Soon, we understand, we will be able to start meeting on the new compound, where the big church will be built, and many congregations will share the same buildings, as they do at the Kuwait NEC.
Later, talking with my friend, we were talking about the policeman-preist’s testimony.
“I’m a little confused,” my friend started, “I got the impression testimony was an emotional story about how people get born-again, and he used those words, but it wasn’t like in the evangelical churches.”
“Yeh,” I responded, “being ‘born again’ encompasses a wide variety of experiences. You get the impression it has to come like a mighty wind, blowing you away, but this guy talks about listening to the gentle nudge, that is also the work of the holy spirit.”
“It was so gradual!” she exclaimed. “I thought it had to be like one great emotionally moving experience.”
“So what happens if you are born in the church, you are baptized and you believe from the time you are a little child?” I asked her. “And what happens if after being ‘born again’ you make some huge mistake, do you get ‘born again born again’?”
It’s all a question of style, how the holy spirit comes to each individual, how we believe. It isn’t right or wrong; it is how the spirit speaks to you. One of the things Jesus said over and over was to concern ourselves with our own relationship to God, and not with our neighbor’s short-comings. He said we each had enough of our own short-comings to keep us busy for an entire life. When he wants us to be involved with our neighbors – and we know who our neighbors are – it is with an open and helping hand, not a pointing finger.
The essence, in my mind, is the belief, and the listening, in your heart, for the whispers of the holy spirit. I pray to hear it, when it whispers. There are enough gales in my life – like moving, for example – I don’t need a mind-blowing, scales falling from my eyes experience, although the spirit has used one or two in my life to get my attention. I mostly just need to listen better.