Southeast Asia: Lessons from Ramadan

Indonesian Muslim men attend Friday prayer at Istiqlal mosque, the biggest in Southeast Asia, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Sept. 12, 2008. Muslims around the world are now in the second week of Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar. (AP Photo/Irwin Fedriansyah) *** Local Caption *** JAK103_Indonesia_Ramadan.jpg

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I am living in one of the largest Muslim-populated countries in the world. I’m only here for two months, but it’s been an interesting time because I got to experience life here before, during and after two of the biggest Islamic holidays—Ramadan (fasting month) and Eid al-Fitr  (festival of breaking the fast). While I’ve studied and read lots of about their faith before I arrived, it’s a whole different experience when you are actually surrounded by it day in and day out. 

southeast asia425The call to prayer is heard loudly five times a day. It’s a common occurrence that my friends will stop what we are doing to go pray. It doesn’t matter if we are at an art gallery or a coffee shop, there is mostly like a musholla (a prayer room) there. During Ramadan, my friends and the majority of this city refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, marital relations or getting angry during the daylight hours. They are supposed to practice self-control and refrain from bad things like lying and bad language.

My friends wake up early, anywhere from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m., to cook and eat before fasting starts. To respect our friends, we do not eat or drink in front of them while they are fasting and try to plan our day around when they can hang out and eat. The call of prayer wakes the city at by 4:45, and it’s normal to shoot fireworks or beat on drums or make other noises to make sure your neighbors are up. 

On the last night of Ramadan, the call to prayer went off all night, and fireworks were constantly going off.  Since it was nearly impossible to sleep with all the noise, all the people in my house—my team, another team from California, and two national believers/partners— decided to go light sparklers and have a worship season on our roof. We sat on the roof listening to our worship music, which seemed so quiet compared to the call to prayer playing on the loud speaker. Watching fireworks light up the sky, I had time to reflect what I’ve learned. 

Earning salvation

My national friends believe that they can earn their salvation by doing enough good works. Their religion offers no assurance of salvation. I have never been more burdened for the lost than I am now. Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5 are verses I have memorized. I have prayed over and over again that my friends would come to know the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ alone and not anything we can do.  

I’ve been brought to tears multiple times, as God has shown me just how lost my friends are and how much the enemy has blinded their eyes to the truth. One of my closest friends here had dreams that I know were sent from God, but she resists thinking about them. She will start to question her belief system. But then she admits how afraid she is to question, because she knows her family would not accept her if she believes anything other than the Muslim religion.

It’s so heartbreaking to see God pursing her but her running away, because she’s terrified about what her culture would say or do to her if she believed in Jesus Christ. 

Important verses

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As I stood on the roof praying for her, I was reminded of these two verses:

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

I don’t think I’ve ever fully understood those two verses until living in this city during Ramadan. There is a spiritual battle going on for the souls of my friends here, and I’m so thankful God has allowed us to join in on this battle, even through the good and hard times. I’ve never been more thankful for the assurance of my salvation. I know I can’t earn it or lose it, and it comes only through grace through faith. Please lift up this city. Prayer the people here come to know the love of the Father and the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ.

Kris, a student at Texas A&M-Commerce, is serving with Go Now Missions in Southeast Asia. Here last name is withheld for security reasons.

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