When the Walls Come Down

Gloria Furman lives in Dubai, where her husband Dave pastors  Redeemer Church of Dubai . Gloria enjoys serving the ladies in her community as a doula, and  is currently writing a book for Crossway on Applying the gospel in the mundane, based on her blog  Domestic Kingdom .

The homes in Dubai are surrounded by 10-foot cement walls. When we first moved Into This neighborhood to plant a church some years ago, I prayed That God would help me to reach my neighbors in Spite of These obstacles. I was so intimidated by walls and Those Struggled to see how I would ever be invited inside.

Privacy and modesty are highly valued in the Middle East, and traditional culture here dictates That Should women cover up When They leave Their houses. This is why it was so egregious for King David to wander about on his palace roof where his gaze extended into the privacy of others' homes.

That I never imagined God would Facilitate gospel conversations by having one of my neighbors watch over our family from the wall That separated our homes.

I first tried to introduce myself to my neighbors by baking some cookies and bringing them next door. I put the cookies on a fancy plate, the kids dressed up, rang the bell ... and got no answer. Dejected, the kids and I walked back through the gate.  The second time, a maid answered the gate. She did not speak much Inglés, but she said the lady of the house Was not home. I asked her to give the family our greetings, and She Smiled and said she would, but I was not sure we had Understood one another.  A few days later the bell rang on our gate. It was the maid from next door, and in her hands she held my plate, que was now full of baklava-style sweets. In this culture you never return an empty plate to someone. I love this custom!


The next weekend we hosted a church potluck at our house. My husband likes to say That if you have not been to an international church potluck then you're missing out on a little taste of heaven. Shish tawook, vegetable curry, pizza, scones, puddings, kabobs, noodles, biryani ... we get to eat some world-class food in our church!

The next day I finally got to visit with my neighbor. We shared some traditional coffee and dates and Talked About Our families and her favorite show on the cooking channel. Then she tossed a question into the conversation That our chat turned into completely uncharted territory.

"Last night I was watching through my window upstairs. I saw all These People from many countries country turning into gate carrying your food, "she began.

"Yes! We had a potluck dinner. Have you heard of a potluck dinner before? The people in our church all prepared some food at home and Brought it to share, "I Explained.

Then came an onslaught of questions from my neighbor. "Why Were all of those people eating together? How do you know all of those people? Does everyone eat everyone else's food? "She fired question after question at me until she finally asked what was really on her heart. " Why  would you want to eat with people who are not from your country? "

Racism runs deep where we live. My neighbor's question to door swung wide open for me to talk about the gospel. I shared with her about God the Creator who made human beings in his image. I Told Her About what happened in the Garden and the trajectory Toward destruction That we set for ourselves When Adam and Eve sinned. I told her about Jesus and his cross and how saving faith in him not only reconciles us to God, but to one another. That Jesus Told her I was Given the nations as his inheritance and how he is delighted to be the Shepherd King for every tribe and nation.

She was astonished. "This is not what I thought your religion was. My religion Also includes people from all over the world, but we would never do something like eat meals with one another. "

Through more careful questioning and clarifying, i helped my neighbor understand how the gospel distinguishes Christianity from the other religions. This was earth-shattering to someone who sincerely Were Believed That All religions basically the same and That We Just have culturally different expressions of it.

I left her house that afternoon amazed by the power of God. Over time I have been invited inside Those walls to talk with her more about the gospel. The truth of Christ is just that captivating and can even break into the seemingly impenetrable Most places.

One thing I've learned From this relationship with my neighbor is That I must my confidence Maintain physical and spiritual walls That can not hinder the gospel. And big plates of chocolate chip cookies Certainly can not hurt!