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Learning to Love a Culture Close to Your Own

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Sarah* was born into a Christian family in a country similar to Malaysia, surrounded by Muslim neighbors. As she grew up being scrutinized by people from another religion, she learned to resent Islam and the people who follow it.

“I grew up in hatred of Muslims,” Sarah admitted. “They see Christians as very bad.”

Things only got worse when Sarah’s church was bombed by a radical Islamic group when she was 18 years old. After that, she and her Christian community had to be under tight security, always having their belongings checked by police when they entered the church. These things just added fire to the flame of Sarah’s feelings toward her Muslim neighbors.

One day, Sarah met Christian workers who said they love Muslims and want to serve them. “But you’ve never had to live with them,” she argued.

These workers invited Sarah to study the Bible and pray with them regularly. The more she studied God’s Word, the more she understood that those without Christ are lost and in need of a Savior, even Muslims.

Soon enough, Sarah felt God call her not only to love Muslims but to share the love of Christ with them. She moved from her home to a neighboring city known for its strict Islamic laws. In the five years she served there, God taught her how to be salt and light to people she used to hate.

Eventually, God gave Sarah a vision to see Malaysia reached with the gospel. She heard about the challenges that people face in sharing with the ethnic Malays and the persecution that ethnic Malay believers have to endure. In the vision God gave Sarah, she also saw Malaysia as a catalyst for the gospel getting to other Asian Muslims.

“From Malaysia, the gospel can be sent to all Asian nations,” she explained. “The Muslim world could really be affected through Malaysia.”

While it hasn’t always been easy for Sarah in Malaysia, she continues to overcome challenges and share the light of Christ with Muslims. Being from a similar culture, she is able to communicate and relate to Malaysians in ways that Westerners never could. She spends a lot of her time loving people whom society has left behind and counseling former Muslims who have chosen to follow Christ.

Like Sarah, Christians from cultures similar to Malaysia can have a great impact on people hearing the gospel and coming to faith in Christ. While some “near culture” believers are taking steps to reach out to the Malay with the gospel, many hesitate out of fear.

Sarah explained, “When we share the gospel, they can sense our fear. My Christian friends are so afraid to share their faith, but the gospel we have in our hearts is overflowing. My prayer for Christians here is for them to not be afraid.”

Pray for more “near culture” Christians like Sarah to reach out to Malays with the gospel, trusting God over the fear that they may have. Pray also for more opportunities to open for people from similar cultures to live in Malaysia and be salt and light to their Muslim neighbors.

*Name changed for security purposes.

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