Fah is bellicose and says whatever enters into his mind. Ahm is introspective and carefully chooses his words. Both 12 year-old Somali boys were with me in the front of the bus. We were talking about Ramadan, which is happening now.
Fah, in a voice much louder than it needed to be, boasted, “We fast for 50 days for Ramadan. You Christians don’t fast.”
“We do,” I answered. “I am even fasting tomorrow.”
“No you’re not,” Fah insisted.
Ahm’s curiosity was peaked, “You do?”
“Yes. Many Christians fast regularly. We even have a 40 day fast. It is in the spring and culminates on Resurrection Sunday, one of our most holy days. We call it Lent.”
“So you fast from sunrise to sunset?” Ahm asked.
“No, tomorrow I will fast completely from morning until morning the next day.”
“Wow, we get up before sunrise to eat as much as we can and then eat right after the sunset. Why do you fast?”
“I fast because I want to. I want to take a day to set food and other distractions aside so I can focus on Jesus,” I said.
“That is the heart of Ramadan,” said Ahm, “we are supposed to remove distractions, focus on God, and change our attitude towards other people.”
“What happens if you don’t fast?” I asked.
“You get in trouble,” Fah blurted.
“It is allowed in some cases, but you are always supposed to do it after you are 15 years-old.” Ahm clarified. “What is Lent?”
“For 40 days we fast. Not all Christians do it though—like not all Muslims fast for Ramadan.” I explained, “We usually try to sacrifice something that specifically distracts us. Some people give up television. Some give up Internet games. Some give up a food group.”
“That’s not real fasting!” interrupted Fah.
“I didn’t know Christians fasted,” Ahm responded.
That led to a conversation about what Christians believe. Ahm was asking thoughtful questions and Fah was interrupting with senseless boasts and taunts.
This year, our fifth, is a breakthrough year for our soccer camp. We have been serving kids in the community for whom a soccer camp like this would not be possible. And after five years we know these kids. We’ve watched them grow up. Alan and I can have a conversation like this because he has learned to trust me. What had been very foreign to him is now seen on familiar terms. As an ambassador of Jesus, I first enter into another culture with an attitude of serving. Then I give expression to the beatitudes as Jesus taught.
This is why we have come to such a breakthrough. There is trust. The kids are curious about who we are and why we do what we do. In fact, this year a few of the kids who aged-out of camp (turned 15) have returned to serve as coaches and helpers. It is our hope that some of these kids will come to know Jesus and will one day carry the gospel to their own kindred.