JESUS LISTENED…………..Jesus’ example is truly remarkable.  Take a moment to think about the attention to listening Jesus gave the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28.  According to custom and tradition, he shouldn’t have been listening to her for two reasons:  she was a woman and she was a Canaanite.

This Sunday we are going to be talking about the importance of listening.  To be an effective listener some characteristics need to be in place:

Desire……….You can’t fake listening!  To be a good listener you have to want to do it.

Commitment……..Commitment shows that you care.

Patience………..If you are in a hurry or always have appointments or want easy solutions to problems, the more likely you are to fail ineffective listening.

For me…….more remarkable than the fact that Jesus listened to a woman who was a Canaanite is the fact that he showed desire, commitment and patience.  Once again, Jesus’ way is always best.  Let’s go and do likewise!

GOSPEL AND PIZZA…………Friday night Matt and Talia Neely are joining us again for dinner and a time of song.  Matt and Talia specialize in bluegrass and will be playing familiar tunes for our enjoyment.  Bring a side dish and drink for yourself.  Dinner starts at 6.

WIRED WORD……………….This weekend’s topic is below.  In light of all of the recent violence, it is good to hear of efforts to maintain peace.  The last Wired Word class will be February 1st.  Thank you, Brad, for leading us once again!  A new discussion class will begin on February 8th.  The topic we will be covering is conflict based on Bill Graybill’s book, Resolving Conflict: God’s Way.


Hard Times and Crisis Yield Unexpected Heroes

For seven years, Malik Abdul Hakim has been picking up corpses of enemy combatants on both sides of the conflict in Afghanistan to deliver them to their grieving families for burial: 713 bodies and counting, including 313 in 2014. The 66-year-old doesn’t discriminate but risks his own safety to collect the dead, whether they be Taliban insurgents or Afghan military personnel or law enforcement officers.

“He has stayed neutral,” said Mohammad Masoom Khan Qadiri, the district police chief in Hakim’s native district of Zhare, in Kandahar province. “He is not against us and he is not against the Taliban. He is very much loved by the people whom he has helped throughout these years.”

“All these years, I have done this for God,” he says. “I call both sides my brothers because they are Afghans and Muslims. I don’t want favors or position. My only aim is to help those in need.” (The news report about Hakim provides no information about whether he has had occasion to retrieve bodies of non-Muslims.)

Hakim’s actions are all the more remarkable considering two of his sons and a son-in-law were killed five years ago during what was supposed to be a routine water delivery to a road construction crew where Hakim had delivered two Taliban bodies to a commander only months before. But the commander would only tell him that the fate of his family members was in the hands of the rebel court.

It was about a week before the Taliban could be persuaded to take him to a bleak plain where they told Hakim he would find the bodies of his dead children by the smell. They were buried in a shallow grave, their faces no longer recognizable. He carried his grievous burden directly to the family plot. He couldn’t bear to let his wife and daughter see their loved ones in that condition.

“To this day, my wife cries to me that I never showed her our sons’ faces,” the gray-bearded man laments. “She tells me I buried them alive.”

No one would have blamed him if he had chosen not to help the Taliban retrieve their dead after that, but the bitter sword that pierced his own heart seemed to make Hakim even more empathetic and committed to his task.

“If it took me this long to find my sons, imagine how long it must take ordinary people,” he said, his eyes wet with tears. “I told myself I had to continue what I’m doing, for the sake of the powerless.”

Now Hakim treats his role of caring for the slain as a sacred duty, even though when he began the work, he didn’t expect it to consume him so entirely. “It never occurred to me to do any of this. I wasn’t expecting this war to go on so long or to carry so many bodies. I thought it would only be these first few,” he says. “Who would think about this crazy job for themselves?”

Still, he would welcome retirement. “Every time I see a body, I pray there will not be another,” he states. “I will be thankful when there is peace and stability, and I no longer have work.” He’s not sure that will happen anytime soon, however.

“They have been at war for 13 years, and if they fight another 13 years they will not see peace,” Hakim says with conviction. “They must sit down and speak with one another.”

On January 9, 2015, another Muslim became a hero unexpectedly when Hyper Cacher, the kosher grocery store where he worked in Paris, France, was attacked by a Muslim terrorist who killed four people. Lassana Bathily, who is from Mali, led about 15 customers to a basement walk-in freezer, urging them to be quiet to avoid attracting the attention of the attacker.

The dark-skinned Bathily, 24, turned off the power and lights before escaping through a freight elevator, where police cuffed him, mistaking him for one of the terrorists. An hour and a half later, when another employee at the shop identified him, Bathily was released and assisted the officers by describing the layout of the store.

After the siege was over, the hostages Bathily protected thanked him for his actions. He responded simply, “You’re welcome. It’s nothing, that’s life.” But many on social media suggested that the courageous young man should be rewarded with French citizenship; France’s highest award, the Legion of Honor; or both.

More on this story can be found at these links:

Death’s Ferryman in Afghanistan: One Man Brings Home the Bodies of Both Sides of the War. National Post
Muslim Employee of Kosher Market in Paris Praised for Hiding Customers From Gunman. New York Times
In France’s Muslim Community, Stories of Heroism, and Some Fear. NPR 
Muslim Worker at Paris Kosher Grocer Saved Customers from Gunman by Hiding Them in Walk-In Freezer. Yahoo! News

The Big Questions

  1. Were you surprised to learn Bathily’s religion? Why or why not? If you’ve ever been surprised to learn the identity of a hero, what was it about that person that made you look again at the story?
  2. What characters in the Bible might be considered unexpected heroes, and why?
  3. How have you discovered an unexpected vocation in work you initially thought was ordinary? How did you end up doing the work you do? Is your work the same thing as your job? Explain. In what ways might people in ordinary jobs become agents for peace in the midst of violence?
  4. What might God want to teach us through the lives of people like Hakim and Bathily?
  5. TWW team member Malia Miller writes: “There is such a strong theme of non-judgment in addition to service demonstrated by Hakim’s life that is so rare. … we all live in an incredibly broken world. Hakim is immersed in that brokenness yet still models God’s love. He must be a master at forgiveness.” Another TWW team member, Mary Sells, adds: “I think this Muslim man is living the example of Jesus.” Do you agree or disagree with Miller and Sells? Is it possible for Muslims who have a different view of the identity of Jesus to “live the example of Jesus”? Do they earn eternal life in so doing? Explain your answer.