Recently I have been helping a young church planter who is in the process of starting a Mandarin speaking congregation in Daly City, California, a city bordering San Francisco. As the planter was putting together his prospectus, I assisted him with research about the city. This was a fun project for me, since our San Francisco home is close to Daly City. My efforts were greatly rewarded in that all kinds of amazing pieces of information surfaced. The best discovery, while not directly helpful for the Mandarin church, was a website that pointed me to a new musallah— a Muslim place of worship not yet formally sanctified as a masjid.
Let me diverge. For a long time I have been noticing a number of hijab wearing Muslim women frequenting a shopping center in Daly City. I had tried to speak with some of them, to no avail. And I prayed, “Please God, help me to know these new neighbors and share Your love with them.” I had previously checked two websites I use to discover halal markets and restaurants locally and globally. (www.salatomatic.com and www.zabihah.com) But there were no listings for halal markets, restaurants, mosques or prayer rooms in Daly City. The only place mentioned was an organic halal meat selection in a local chain grocery store. So many followers of Allah in this city and no listings! So I prayed, “God, help me discover who these neighbors are and how I can connect with them!”
The website I discovered for the new musallah was an answer to that prayer, and a call to action. It was the week of Lunar New Year, and various Chinese friends had given us New Years gifts. (I am Caucasian.) We were also invited to celebrate with the new Mandarin speaking church. An idea surfaced “Let’s bring a New Year in the name of the new Mandarin church, and give it to the newest Muslim religious organization. My husband drove to the musallah on the next Friday when we knew there would be people there praying. Our knock on the door was a surprise, but we were welcomed. Greetings, names, smiles were exchanged, and there is a pathway for us to return. Thank you God! Happy Lunar New Year to all!
A little unorthodox? Well, yes. I also remember staring a Cambodian church by bringing salvage groceries to the manager of an apartment complex and promising to return with a weekly delivery if we could have Bible clubs for Cambodian children in the courtyard of those apartments. I launched a ministry to new Somali refugees after chasing down some women who were doing their best to avoid me. A few weeks ago a new San Francisco church had a preview service that was not well attended. They took boxes of unused donuts to the people on the city streets and in the nearby laundromat, rather than dividing them up among the core group. These are certainly not approaches one reads about in church planting textbooks. But how do people learn to love their neighbors, and share the love of Christ with them without taking the first step? Isn’t that where church planting starts? What are the first, even desperate steps, you and I are called to take?