Making New Muslim Friends

Tim McDonell has recently joined us as our Southern California Regional Director, and we wanted to let you get to know him better by sharing with you a bit of his personal story. Here's what he has to say about how he first started building friendships with Muslims in his hometown...

While working for the Consultant for Muslim Christian Relations for the Vineyard USA, it hit me that I didn’t actually have any real Muslim friends. Since I was teaching workshops at our “Blessing Muslims" Seminars, I thought it might be a good idea to practice what I was preaching!

So one day, my wife and I decided to visit our local Islamic Center for their afternoon prayer. We were both nervous and unsure of what to expect. I didn’t know if it was appropriate for me to actually pray with them, so when they invited me to participate in the prayers, I explained that I was not a Muslim. I told them I was a follower of Jesus and that I didn't want to offend anyone. Instead, they welcomed me as a fellow "believer" and told me that I was welcome to join them in prayer. In fact, we were so warmly welcomed that I was soon enjoying regular tea with my new friends on Friday afternoons after prayer. We discussed things like concern for our families, our countries' political situations, and our faiths.

We were soon being invited to gatherings at people’s homes and to the feasts on Muslim holy days. The first time we were invited to dinner at one of our friends’ homes, we were nervous all over again. Should my wife cover her head? Should we bring food to share? Were we the only ones invited?

We arrived about five minutes after the time my friend Mahmoud mentioned we would start, and my wife Maria and I were the only guests there. About an hour later, others began arriving, and after another two hours, we finally started eating. It was then that we began learning about our friends' flexible approach to time!

As our relationship with the Islamic Center grew, we decided to have a “Love Your Neighbor Picnic.” We had a great time meeting new friends, and we all agreed that we needed to meet again.

The Islamic Center is now in the process of moving from their current building in the center of town to a residential area. Mohammed, the Center's president, asked if Maria and I would come speak on their behalf at the City Council hearing to consider their request. I was able to speak about what good neighbors they are, and Maria spoke about how our country was founded on the principal of freedom of religion. I feel very honored that our relationship has grown to this level, and I look forward to even deeper relationship in the future.