Hikmat Kashouh - "Following Jesus in Turbulent Times"
2:06AM Jul 8, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
Today it's our deep honor to be speaking with the Reverend Hikmat Kashouh, author of the texts that we'll be discussing today, Following Jesus in Turbulent Times: Disciplemaking in the Arab World available from Langan press 2018 and also pastor of resurrection church in Beirut, Lebanon. Pastor cashew, it's wonderful to be speaking with you today.
I'm honored to be with you, Dr. And what a privilege to be on your show. Thank you,
Pastor cashew in the opening of your book, you describe your growing up years and wow is is this an exciting story? exciting and trying growing up during the Civil War in Lebanon, studying theology in Prague and England, serving as dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, and now serving as pastor at the resurrection church. We understand that 70% of your congregation, a congregation of about 1300 weekly attendees are refugees. If I can ask you to focus in on that, what is the greatest challenge that you face in pastoring? A church that that's comprised mostly of a refugee population?
What a great question. And when we talk about refugees in our church, we're not just talking about refugees, there are also or used to be our enemies. I mean, if you know the history of Lebanon, and with the whole Civil War we've had for 16 years, Syria was one of our enemies. So it's it's not easy to have your enemies just in your church, and the way that God had moved RCB to serve the community and to serve refugees is a significant experience in the life of our church and God brought to us through loving our enemies brought to us our refugees are used to be enemies. And the major challenges really integration is how you integrate different backgrounds into one congregation. We are one church and everyone who comes to us. We feel that we love one another, we are part of a community. And this is the challenge. And the way we resolve that challenge is by having role models in the community in the church, those who move with passion to serve and to love refugees in an unconditional way. And I remember one of the stories we had when I invited one of the leaders to come on Sunday morning and he was with us. And he comes from a Syrian background, I invited him to sit in a high place, you know, and I brought the bucket and sponge and I washed his feet. And that was a great experience to to watch the feet of somebody that we used to consider our enemy. And by doing so, I discovered that when you really bow down to wash the feet of Your enemy, God bows down and washes your heart and heals your wound. So we've discovered the amazing transformation of God healing us to be able to serve. And that's really the transformation that happens. And the challenge of integrating these different communities together. So we do that by being a role model as much as we can by the grace of God. We do that by teaching the ways of the kingdom and what the Bible teaches about the Jews and Gentiles and how in Christ they become one. We do that by experience, by relationships by building relationships, through spiritual dynamics. When we pray together, worship together, walls fall down, and we experience great unity together.
I'm just amazed by your story. Many of us find our own paths in church service through through mentorship, somebody in the faith guides us in in the development of church work in your case. Were you modeling after someone in this work? Or? or How? How is it that you gained inspiration to begin this work with your former enemies?
Basically, God had called us to serve the marginalized before the war started in Syria. So that was about nine years ago, when we felt working on giving in our community and what God is really wanting us to do. We discovered that some of our people are so passionate about serving the enemies are serving the marginalized, the people are different from us, and a lot of sectarian violence in Lebanon that happened in the past a lot of divisions. So we moved out of our comfort zone to do that and one of our leaders with his wife, they went visiting different homes, sit on the floor with those were different from us and so on. And we felt that God is calling us into this ministry. We heard his voice through the passion of our leaders, and the calling that our leaders had to do that. And when we did it after that we didn't know that the world's going to start in in Syria and when it started, as if God had already prepared us to move and do that, I mean, we learn from the Bible we learn from Jesus, we learn from books we read all the time. So we're inspired by great history of the church, and other amazing leaders.
Reverend cashew, in your text, you give us some advice on how it is that we can minister to refugee populations in whatever context we live. And you provide some advice, maybe some advice that we've heard before and you also provide some advice that we surely have not heard before. One of the most surprising pieces of advice that you offer is you tell us that we we who attempt to serve refugee populations should invite ourselves to their homes. So when I read this as a Westerner, this seems to me to be an act of impoliteness to impose oneself on a refugee family. But you see this very differently. Why do you encourage us to invite ourselves into the homes of refugees,
refugees, when they when they come to a new country, they feel they're strangers. I mean, they have a lot of challenges, loneliness and other things that they go through. And so when you invite yourself to a refugee home, basically what you're doing is you're coming in and you're coming to their comfort zone to the area where they feel extremely comfortable, and you are giving them the permission to be the host. So basically, by doing that, you're saying now you're not a stranger in this land. I am a stranger, I'm coming to you. You're my host. You sit in the high place. And by doing this, you show a lot of respect. We live in a culture in the Arab world where hospitality is a core value. And we would love to serve strangers or visitors who come to us. So when you come and walk inside, of course you knock at the door you you, you wait to be welcomed in, but people would love to have you. And they feel that they are really the host now serving you it's dignifying to do that, it's it's the way they would show you love you with giving them the privilege to serve you. And everybody likes to give something and those who are refugees and they live abroad, they feel they have nothing to offer. So by doing that, you're actually coming to them, and they will be serving you they would be kind to you, they would be loving you they would be offering you something from what they have. And and you might feel uncomfortable to sit where they sit and be in a different context. But that's exactly the point. You're giving them the honor to be the host and you become their guests. Reverend cashew, can I ask you
how do you and your church Practice hospitality with these refugee populations,
in many ways, we serve them holistically. And we do that by providing food vouchers or parcels. We do that by education. We educate their children, children, who cannot go to schools, for many different reasons. We have two schools, we have a preschool as well. We have two clinics where we help them with medication, they come and see our doctors. So we try to provide a holistic ministry and that's sometimes challenging, but God is providing amazingly well. And so we do that and as well as different things. We do trauma counseling, so we care for their spiritual needs, for their emotional needs, for their physical needs for their relational needs. And when you do it holistically, it bears great fruits.
So our pleasure today to be speaking with Reverend Hickman, cashew, author of the textbook Following Jesus in turbulent times disciple making in the Arab world, Reverend cashew in your text, you discuss the conversion story of Cornelius from the book of Acts chapter 10. And Cornelius, of course, is the first Gentile to convert to Christianity and the book of Acts. And in this telling of the story that you give us, you state that it's not only Cornelius, who has converted, but also in a way Peter is converted. You right, this transformation is always a two way street. It never goes just one way, I can confidently say that we were transformed by the refugees as much as they were transformed by the message of the gospel and the work of the church. Would you share more about this? What do you mean when you say that both you and your congregation as well as the refugees experienced a conversion of sorts or a transformation
loving your enemy is a divine intervention or it's divine thing like You cannot do it you need the power of this spirit in you. And there are a lot of things in us that would stop the work of the Spirit. And so when we move to love our enemies, and I'm not talking about somebody you don't like at work returning but somebody or a history where our like my house, our house was hit six times in the war, we have been my father died as a result of the war. I mean, we've we've this our childhood was destroyed. So you when you have your those who caused all the damage and destruction in your life, who have come and become so close to you, if something should happen in your heart, you need to be healed from that. And sometimes we think that the war has ended in 1991 in Lebanon, but actually it had continued in our hearts. So a lot of healing had to take place in us so that we can significantly and with passion serve those who are Those who are in need. So loving your enemy we discovered by doing that, that we're extremely prideful, for instance. So God had to deal with our pride. When you face the face of your enemy, you discover your brokenness, you discover that there's an enemy inside of you, who is not allowing you to move with compassion, to serve others, those who are different from you. So God has to deal with this enemy inside of us with the challenges that we go through the pain that we had, and sometimes build a bridge over it, so we can stand and serve our enemies. So it's not something easy. It had it takes time and willingness for us to change and to be transformed by the power of the Spirit and the power of the Word of God.
Reverend cashew in many cases, refugees have suffered horrific and traumatic events. What are some of the things that we should keep in mind when seeking to minister to refugees In order to be sensitive to their past experiences,
that's a great question. Behind every person, there is a great story. There's a narrative. I think listening to them and listening to their needs and understanding where they come from, to have empathy towards them, like in feeling to just live with their experience and listen attentively, through what they've gone through. And I think that's extremely important. And we should, we should remember that they come, they're traumatized. They've seen horrific things, and they need somebody to listen to them. They need inner healing. They need somebody to pray with them, to love them, to care for them, to show them a better way of being a human being from what they've seen in their own experiences. So I think these are all important things to do, and focusing on what is strong in them instead of what is wrong and the bad things that have been through. I think There is potential in each refugee, those who come to us they have skills. They have great experience they've experienced even the presence of God or how God has been working through their pain. So I think there's a lot to learn from them. So they need to know that there are great they have great potential, we can learn from them. So it's not you should not look at them as or just people in need. We should look at them as people have potential and willing they are they're willing to serve, they're willing to invest time and resources, and everyone is able to give something and it's a me on my mind significantly,
Reverend cashew, you include in your book, a chapter on prayer, and in the chapter on praying, especially with those who are from a Muslim background. So I'm very sorry I haven't had my coffee this morning. And so I'm chewing up all these Questions. Let me restate that. Reverend killer, Reverend cashew, you include in your book a chapter on prayer and the Ministry of prayer in the context of a church composed in many cases with Christians of Muslim backgrounds. Now, of course, prayer is one of the five pillars of Islam. So Islam is also a praying religion. How is it that prayer is practiced in Islam is different from that practiced in Christianity? And in what ways? Are they perhaps similar?
I would prefer for Muslims to speak about their understanding of prayers, and I don't want to try to say something that they might agree or disagree, but I can tell you from our Christian perspective, we understand prayer as a relationship as a conversation with the Lord with the God who came and dwelt among us. And so it's an act of adoration. It's it's an expression of love. It's about a relationship so, so we teach our people to pray, and and thank God for all the great things he had done for us and, and to have our petitions as well and mean all these together. But it's very important to see him as a God of love. And that he is, we are in a relationship with him and we adore him. And we are towards him the the Greek word that is used for prayer one of the Greek words is process homie and process for me starts with process. And the Greek word process is towards, towards so it's really it's been toward God in a relationship and knowing him in adoration and respect in love and in expressing our feelings our need to him and our and all that is going on in our hearts. So this is how we understand it and we do it in different forms. It's not something we must do. It's something we would love to do because of this Enough relationship that we have with our Savior.
Reverend cashew, I have a friend who is a realtor who likes to say no, he says it tongue in cheek, but he says that the Middle East is the most valuable real estate in the world. And what he means by that is that the most decisive events in world history and in religious history take place in the Middle East and will take place in the Middle East. That's his view. How is it that you see the future of the church in the Middle East?
What I'm seeing at the moment that what's happening is quite unprecedented. If you know the history of the Arab world. In the last 1400 years, we have not seen what we're seeing today. What we're seeing in the Arab world at the moment is people wanting to follow Jesus. So people don't want to be religious. They don't want to be following rules and instructions. They are more about following the person Jesus Christ. And this is quite significant. People want a different way of experiencing life. People are tired from hatred from killing and all that was going on in the recent years. And we're finding that some people are becoming agnostics. And a lot of people actually are choosing to follow the teaching of Jesus the life of Jesus. And this is quite significant. So there's a great attraction to Jesus. So I'm extremely hopeful, I really believe that the Middle East will change and is changing because of the number of people choosing to follow Jesus. So there is a great promise in the future great hope. And we're excited about that. And the church is playing a crucial role in that. We are about inviting people to follow the person of Jesus Christ Christianity is Jesus is the person of Christ and this is what we try to create Our brothers and sisters, you can keep your social life you can keep the how you grew up and and all the ways you as an Arab in the Arab world you respect your parents how all the all the core values that you have and choose to follow Jesus and by choosing to follow Jesus your life, you will experience the life and the fullness of life. And there is a power and follow self is appearing to people through visions and dreams. So it's not as who's doing the evangelism. It's the Spirit of God who is appearing to people is coming to people. And and a lot of men and women are choosing to follow the person Jesus Christ which is not threatening to many, because Jesus is so loved by so many people around us,
Reverend cashew if I can close with a question that we've been asking all of the interviewees on this program and that is this What would it mean for the church to be united today? How would we recognize this unity?
And what is it that we can do to pursue the Unity for which Jesus prayed and john 17 I mean, unity is a great theme in the Bible. And I think unity is not meant to be uniformity. So we don't have to look alike. But we need to be united in our core values and our core being and in our core mission as a church. So if we're Kingdom minded, we are actually united and there's a great unity in the Arab world. A lot of churches are really united in different ways, and they work together. And Unity has to do with with the with the leaders with the integrity of the leaders. So if we are men and women of integrity, we seek to work with others and we seek a greater unity. And I tell my church, one of the ways to bring unity is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus in His incarnation where we learn humility, and by growing in humility. We grow in unity. And by following Jesus to the cross, the cross is about a selfless living. And it is when we are selfless, Christ centered, and we become more towards one another and not towards our selves. And this is how we we bring unity. And the resurrection of Jesus is a powerful tool. When we think of the resurrection, the victory over the deceiver, and we live a victorious life. We can do it together and we can slow our humility, selfless, and life of victory over the enemy, the deceiver, who want to destroy the church when destroy the work of God, the work of the kingdom, we can join in unity and be a powerful tool in the hand of God to impact the community and to bring about the kingdom of God in a powerful way in the Arab world.
Spent are honored today to be speaking with Reverend Hickman cashew, senior pastor of resurrection church in Beirut, Lebanon and also author of the texts that we've been discussing today following Jesus in turbulent times, disciple making in the Arab world, Reverend cashew, we're very, very grateful for your time and insights this morning. I'm grateful for you. Thank you for your questions and your insights. Thank you.