An Unexpected Muslim

I prayed that God would allow me to meet a Muslim and make friends with him. I specifically prayed that He would allow me to make friends with an Iranian Muslim. I have been studying the Persian language and prayed that God would allow me to use it for Him.

Before last Thursday I thought the answer to this prayer was in the future. I did not realize that God had already answered my prayer.

Whenever I visit my parents we always go to eat at a certain Mexican restaurant. We always have the same waiter. E is an urbane man from Montevideo, Uruguay. He and I began an ongoing conversation due to our mutual love of languages. We chat in Italian and Spanish primarily but sometimes in English. We have talked of travel in Europe, of soccer (We are both Barcelona fans) and languages. He has told me about living in Italy and Spain. I have told him about my years living in Europe. We have traded stories of our travels through Latin America. Since we tend to go right after they open when they have few customers he has frequently spent thirty minute stretches at our table just chatting.

He is highly educated and accomplished but has fallen on hard times due to the breakup of his marriage. He and his wife met while they were traveling overseas. She is the daughter of immigrants but grew up in the small town in the rural South where the Mexican restaurant is located. After their divorce she moved back home. E left everything behind and took a job waiting tables just so that he could be close to his daughter and be involved in her life.

Since E had told me that he learned Italian as a “bambino” and he is from Uruguay which is a country with a high number of Italian immigrants I assumed that his ancestry must be Italian. I nonchalantly asked him in Italian last week where in Italy his family originated. I was not expecting his answer. “Non siamo della Italia. Veniamo dall’Iran.” “We aren’t from Italy. We come from Iran.” He told me that his family moved to Uruguay from a small town in central Iran.

Needless to say I was not expecting that my cosmopolitan waiter friend from South America who is waiting tables at a little Mexican restaurant in a tiny town to be of Iranian origin!

We then talked of the Middle East and his travels there to see family. It turns out that he and I have been to many of the same places in the Muslim world. Since we had been talking for some time and the restaurant was starting to fill up I had to say goodbye and let him work. As I was leaving he shook my hand and said in Italian “The next time you come we will talk more about the Middle East and Asia.”

I have traveled some through the Middle East, North Africa and Western Asia. I realize that Muslims can be stereotyped as being all bearded fanatics who wish to return the world to the Bronze Age. To be fair, I have met some Muslims who fit that description. However, a large number of Muslims are educated, cultured people.

I drew two primary lessons from my interaction with E.

1. God answers prayer! Sometimes before you even realize He has done it! I was praying for an Iranian Muslim to befriend and God had already answered that prayer. I was wondering when the answer would come but it already came.

2. Believers should be ready to be a witness to Muslims in every situation. Islam is such a large and varied religion with a multitude of languages and cultures that you never know when you are interacting with someone of the Muslim faith. They might be a bearded fanatic who only reads the Koran or they might be a multi-lingual globe-trotter who is an admirably dedicated father. They might speak one of the scores of languages spoken in the Muslim world. Or they might look like you and speak your language.

As I exited the restaurant I turned a corner and saw E again. He smiled and said in Persian “Salam va Khodo hafez!” (Hello and goodbye). Hello in Persian also means Peace. Please pray for E. Our friendship and mutual respect is already established. Please pray that God would now open the door for me to speak to him of Jesus the Messiah, the Prince of Peace.

— An American Believer