Loving like Jesus can overcome fear and uncertainty.

Welcome to The Weekender! Because the internet discourages focused reading, The Weekender series is designed to help you, dear reader, see the scope of God's story in all areas of life through high-quality, curated content. Every On most Fridays, we’ll have a fresh batch of resources to help you take a deep dive into one specific topic, theme or idea. Here’s to reading and thinking well.

W hen Shaun and I were first married, we lived in married student housing while he finished his master’s degree. Our next door neighbors were from Saudi Arabia—a husband and wife, Saleh and Maha, and their three boys. They were from a very strict Muslim background—Maha was always adorned in an abaya and niqab (black, robe-like dress, and head scarf and veil revealing only her eyes.) We could hear the calls to prayer through our walls.

I was intimidated. I wanted to be kind, but I didn’t know what to do. When I would see Saleh I wasn’t sure if I should say hello. When I would see Maha, the niqab in itself seemed to be a conversational barrier. I wondered if friendship was something they wanted, was appropriate or possible.

Then one day Saleh knocked on our door. He knew my background was teaching English to non-native speakers and he wanted me to tutor Maha in English. I walked into their living room that first time and encountered a woman with sparkling brown eyes and a shy smile that offered friendship. She had prepared a spread of hal (cardamom) tea, fruit, and sweet semolina cakes with lemon and rosewater, freshly-baked to share with me. She welcomed me with decadent treats and offerings every time we met. We shared our stories, we laughed and we both savored our time together.

When I told her I was pregnant, she celebrated with me. When we brought our son home from the hospital, Saleh knocked on our sliding glass door and proceeded to deliver a lavishly extravagant five-course meal. Best. Meal. Ever.

They had started as Muslim neighbors. They became, to us, unique individuals. Maha became my friend. I saw them as a family dearly loved by God. I recall this sweet friendship often to remind myself that my fear and uncertainty could have (and has) cost me God-given opportunities to welcome and reach the nations that have come to our shores.

An Evening With Tass Saada & Farah Saada Marvil” hosted by Maranatha Chapel, San Diego

Synopsis: Tass Saada, author of Once an Arafat Man: The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life, was born in the Gaza Strip and grew up as a refugee in Saudi Arabia. He became a PLO fighter and assassin for Yassir Arafat and came to the United States in 1974 to “know his enemy.” In this country, he found welcome and a friendship that began as he cleared a wealthy man’s dishes away. This man befriended him, treated him as an equal and led him to the Lord 19 years later.

Representative quote: Together, the Saada family now minister in the United States, Israel and the West Bank. Their heart is for reconciliation between Jews and Arabs and bringing Christ into both communities and cultures. I was brought to tears by the wisdom of these words: “My heritage is Palestinian. My identity is Christ. Therefore my culture is kingdom.”

Why you should watch it: This interview is an hour but it’s worth it. Tass and his daughter, Farah, share not only their story of how “people loved [them] into the kingdom” but also thoughts and insights on the fear and stereotypes that hinder our love for our Muslim neighbors. “[Muslims] are not going to come into our churches and to our church programs. We need to go and have tea.”

This Christian community opened its heart to its newest Muslim neighbors” — A Starbucks Original Series

Synopsis: A Memphis church overcomes fear and prejudice to welcome and befriend Muslims who were building an Islamic community center across the street.

Representative quote: “It is difficult time for Muslims in America. We did not expect to be welcome. We thought we have to work hard. One day we were driving by and we see a banner. And that banner says, ‘Heartsong Church welcomes the Islamic Center to the neighborhood.’”

Why you should watch it: It’s three minutes and six seconds. This is a vignette that serves as a litmus test: Do we love like the world loves or do we love like Jesus loves? Short, sweet, encouraging and convicting.

Interview #7: Showing Hospitality to Muslims in the United States” — an interview posted on The Serviette: Ideas for Cross-Cultural Hospitality

Synopsis: Elizabeth, along with her husband and children, regularly host Muslims in their home and have vibrant relationships in their neighborhood and community. She shares her experience and practical advice but also an abiding love for Christ, which fuels every interaction she has.

Representative quote: “When you come to a new country, you can figure out where to get food and shelter, you can figure out how to speak the language; what you can’t get by yourself is welcome.”

Why you should read it: I finished reading this interview and wished I had Muslim neighbors again. I hope that wherever I am placed or whomever God places around me, I will choose faith and not fear—that I will walk across cultural divides willingly to love my neighbor as Christ wants me to.