A needed discussion

I’ve had several conversations recently with various people from this blog about how best to reach Jahar with the gospel, and it’s become evident to me that we really need to discuss our strategies that we might—with the help of the Holy Spirit—come up with the most effective strategy.

It’s very easy for us to fall into one of two extremes, both of which are likely fatal to our mission.

  1. We are so focused on not being too pushy and on not moving too fast that we never really get to the heart of the matter—the gospel of Jesus Christ—with Jahar because we are afraid we will harden his heart forever.
  2. We so fervently desire to see Jahar come to faith in Christ that we throw aside all caution and boldly preach the gospel to him in a way that only comes across as forceful and arrogant, which is counterproductive.

The key in reaching Jahar is the power of the Holy Spirit rather than our being perfect in our methods, but that doesn’t mean that a discussion of our methods would not be beneficial.

What do you think is the best strategy for us to take in reaching Jahar, in regards to how we go about writing to him?

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29 Responses to A needed discussion

  1. Bri says:

    The strategy I have taken with my letters to this point is to move slowly and not yet mention Jesus. I know that needs to come at some point, but I think we risk making Jahar be turned off completely toward Christianity if we move too fast. You have to remember that he’s being accused of killing four people in the name of Allah. If that’s true, he’s likely far from “ripe fruit” right now. If you were him and someone wrote you and very bluntly said, “Jesus died for your sins,” how would you feel? I’d probably harden my heart further toward Christianity and make it a point to never listen to what any Christian ever wrote me again.

    Jahar’s heart needs some time to be softened and prepared first before we take a step of faith and get into deep into the heart of the matter. So far my goal has been in every word I write to share God’s love with him in such a powerful way that he encounters a love that he realizes could never be from Allah because Allah is not capable of having the kind of love that our God has. I’ve also included Bible verses that, for lack of a better word, are not threatening. What I mean by that is that I’m not sharing verses like Romans 5:8 (“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”) that mention Jesus dying for us yet but rather verses that he’d probably take no issue with like Psalm 34:18 (“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”). The goal is to share verses that likely won’t harden his heart toward Christ and all that I have to say to him but rather will have the potential to stir up some curiosity in his heart with the goal of him picking up a Bible at some point.

    The most important thing I have done and that we all must not neglect to do, however, is pray before we write Jahar and rely on the Holy Spirit. In fact, I pray for days about what to write before I actually write a word. I may not perfectly know the most effective strategy for reaching Jahar, but I know that whatever it might be, prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit are at the forefront.

  2. Bri says:

    If anyone would like to see examples of what I’ve written to Jahar in order to illustrate how I’ve approached reaching him so far, I’m willing to share. Just let me know.

  3. taylorcali says:

    Not that I have an expert opinion on this whole matter, nor have I ever led someone to Christ that I know of, but I do believe I have a good sense at what DOESN’T lead someone to Christ. When was the last time you heard someone being attracted to Christianity because another person was shoving it in their face and spouting off verses that probably made no sense to them? “I came to The Lord because people kept preaching to me that they were right and everyone else was wrong!” said no one ever. I’m sorry but being preachy and arrogant never got anyone anywhere when it comes to showing them what true Christianity is. People are turned off by Christians for this very reason — they are known to others to be closed-minded, judgmental, and extremely ignorant to other faiths and people. I don’t want to show Jahar any of those qualities because honestly I don’t see how that will get anyone ANYWHERE. Imagine if someone of a different faith (doesn’t have to be Muslim, because it could be anything, really) started screaming at us and telling us that their way was the only right way and that we were wrong and started using a bunch of words that we had no idea what they meant. Would we think to ourselves, “Wow! Cool! I want to be a part of that faith!” Probably not. To me, it’s so important to tread lightly and to “preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” That’s my stance on it and what I’ve chosen to do personally, but I can’t control anyone’s actions except for my own. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t, but being pushy and preachy is just not my style and never has been, nor will it ever be.

    • Bri says:

      I agree with this.

      I do want to mention one thing I didn’t mention when we were texting earlier about that “Preach the gospel at all times” quote because it goes along with what I said about how at some point words are definitely necessary.

      Romans 10:14 says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

      If you no one preaches the gospel, how does he hear it? If he doesn’t hear it, then how can he believe?

  4. anncortez77 says:

    I can’t speak for anyone but me when saying this but all I feel I can do at this point is pray a LOT and Love a LOT. Honestly, what else can I possibly do? He doesn’t know me, it’s not like we were friends before all of this happened. I mean my nature is to Love everyone unconditionally so that is what I have been telling him in my letters. I don’t quote any scriptures or anything like that because at this point it is a one sided conversation. Realistically, it may always be. Of course I hope that he will write me back at some point and then when I feel the time is right I would begin to try to approach him about the Gospel. I have to keep reminding myself that he has had Islam for 20 years, he was born into it, whether or not he was practicing, he still identified with it for the majority of his life. I would be insulted if someone came at me trying to shove their beliefs down my throat and tried telling me everything I was ever taught was a lie. So, for me, praying is the key, I pray every single day that Jesus will reveal himself to Jahar in a dream or a vision or even through one of us. I feel like if I show him the Love of Jesus through my actions, maybe that will soften his heart and maybe he will want what I have. I write to him, I tell him I love him no matter what he has ever done and that I always will. I also assure him that he will never be alone as long as I’m breathing. I do tell him that I pray for him every single day and I always say God Bless You at the end of my letters. His mother told me in the couple of emails I have gotten from her that she tells him that we all Love him, Muslims & Non Muslims Love him and she said he is so appreciative and that he says he Loves us too. I have to say, I believe her when she says she Loves us and I believe him when he says it. I feel in my heart that they are very loving and sweet people. So I am going to continue to Love him and his entire family and Pray for all of them constantly. I have prayed about this a lot and I just feel like it’s the best approach for me at this point.

    • taylorcali says:

      Amen! I absolutely agree. This is the same approach I have felt as well. Loving unconditionally, TRULY unconditionally, is something that can only from Our God. Showing him something like that should speak volumes.

    • Bri says:

      I wish we didn’t have to censor ourselves so much about the case because I would love to be able to talk about forgiving him if he did this. If he find out for sure that he really did this, most letters are probably going to stop, but we’ll keep writing to him and talking about forgiving him and LOVING him. That’s got to speak volumes.

      We’ve got to emphasize characteristics of our God that could never be attributed to Allah, and as far as I know, the unconditional, pursuing, sacrificial love of our God is unique. I tried to emphasize sacrificial love in my birthday card to Jahar when I wrote that I wish I could suffer through all of his injuries instead of him having to. For someone who he’s never met who thinks he’s probably guilty to say something like that again speaks volumes and perhaps softens Jahar’s heart toward the idea of Jesus’ sacrificial love in the long run.

      “I pray every single day that Jesus will reveal himself to Jahar in a dream or a vision” – I think this is KEY. A dream is not enough to bring someone to Christ; they still need to hear the gospel. BUT a dream could be just the thing for Jahar to open up a Bible or to seek out the gospel in some way whether it be through some prison resource or through writing back to one of us. I wonder if he’s had any dreams about Jesus yet?

      I read today that Jahar is requesting Islamic literature, so it’s clear that he seems to be clinging tighter to Islam than he ever did before the marathon. That probably means that his heart is not ready for the gospel yet. But do NOT get discouraged; that can change. Pray, pray, and when you’re done, pray some more!

  5. 9lopez4 says:

    Honestly i think the best thing to do would be to just pray on it. He seems very committed to Islam and whether he decides to convert or not is entirely up to him. Regardless all we can really do is pray for him. Like anncortez77 said he was born into it, so it’s not like he’ll up and leave the religion he knows like the back of his hand for one he’s never practiced. Either way so many people of all different religious backgrounds love him and pray for him and that seems to be the best thing.

    • Bri says:

      Prayer is definitely our greatest weapon right now. With what I’ve read about Jahar’s words and actions since being in prison, he’s stronger in his Muslim faith than ever, so he’s probably not exactly “ripe fruit” that is ready to hear the gospel. I wish so badly that I could write him today and full out preach the gospel to him because I know that’s what he needs more than ANYTHING else, but I realize that that would probably be counterproductive and actually make things worse. Let’s just keep praying and following the lead of the Holy Spirit. I pray that He will make it clear when the time comes for us to be bolder with Jahar.

  6. Bri says:

    While I do for the most part agree with the approaches mentioned in the comments so far (which are all just slight variations of each other), I did think of two things that challenge our approaches, so I do want to play devil’s advocate for a moment because I think they’re good points to think about and address.

    1) For those of you who have read the book of Acts (if you haven’t, I recommend you do sometime), you know that Paul, perhaps the greatest missionary to ever live, was very bold in his preaching of Jesus. He didn’t go to a new city, spend time building relationships with people, and then once enough time had elapsed, shared the gospel with those people. No, rather he went to a city and began preaching the gospel. You can see how he tried to establish common ground with the people he was preaching to (see Acts 17:16-34), but by no means did he move slowly with his preaching of the gospel. The Holy Spirit still worked on hearts, however, and many were being added to the body of Christ everyday.

    2) Almost everyone lives with the myth that tomorrow is guaranteed. We believe we can move slowly with Jahar because we think there’s enough time. We think that probably the least amount of time that Jahar would have left would be if he were sentenced to death, and that would probably be at least a few years away. But do we really know that? Can we really justify withholding the gospel from Jahar, believing that we’ll be able to sometime down the road when we feel like his heart has softened? What if he doesn’t have tomorrow? You never really know. I’d be devastated if Jahar died tomorrow, knowing that I never shared the gospel with him.

    Even after thinking about those two points, I still feel like I’ve got the right approach… FOR NOW. The Holy Spirit will make it clear to us if we’re supposed to become bolder at some point, won’t He? I pray for Him to guide us along every step of this journey.

  7. Here’s my thoughts (albeit late):

    First and foremost: steadfast prayer. Pretty self-explanatory and already discussed…but definitely key.

    As far as writing him is concerned, I will say I’ve written Jahar only once so far. I’m not going to shower him with a letter a day telling him he needs Jesus, he needs Jesus, he needs Jesus. And in the letter I sent I did not mention Jesus. I did not mention the Gospel. I did not quote ANY scripture. I did not even mention that I was a Christian! Because to Jahar, I am a faceless person in a town he’s never heard of so why should he care what I have to write about my faith? I think that those of us who do send him letters need to be EXTREMELY careful with what we write to him. Is it important he is at least made aware of the Gospel? Absolutely! But forceful proselytizing has never really achieved anything but resentment, and nothing I’ve ever read in The Bible implies that souls are won by rubbing our faith in someone’s face and shoving it down people’s throats.

    When I wrote, I mentioned God in hopes he would see Him as a universal whole and not as a God of any certain faith. I just wanted to sort of *hopefully* connect in an unoffensive way in that regard. What I focused on talking about most was God’s LOVE for Jahar in hopes he will kind of pick up the idea that God IS very much personally involved in our lives and that He loves Jahar regardless of the dire mistakes he has allegedly made. Note that I said “hope” a lot. That’s really what this is here. Just a lot of hope that God will move because, in the end, this is between God and Jahar. We’re just kind of like…spiritual cheerleaders sitting on the sidelines cheering through prayer for an awesome outcome of a really intense game…(it’s 2:30 AM here, forgive the weird metaphors or whatnot…LOL).

    To be honest, I don’t know when the next time I write to Jahar will be, and I don’t know what that letter will say when I do. But I do know my words will be weighed out very carefully and guided by the Holy Spirit. With this said, I think it is absolutely necessary for us to pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, PRAY about the words we send to him; we need to be moved by the Holy Spirit when we send him stuff in the mail. If Christians push too fast, it will only harden his heart even faster. So pray about what you write…write the letter…and then PRAY about it again before actually sending it off!

    Prayer is really the #1 thing we can do, and keeping at it no matter how discouraged we get is crucial. We have to remember nothing is impossible with God. When I talk to Christians who have converted from Islam and I see testimonies from converts, it lifts my spirits, refreshes my hope, and gives my prayers new direction.

    These are just a little of my thoughts about it, anyway. God bless you all.

    • Bri says:

      Your metaphor made me laugh for some reason, but I completely understand it; it makes perfect sense.

      I LOVE your emphasis on prayer in regards to our letter writing. I pray for days before I even write a word. Then I pray right before I sit down and write and even pray during writing if I feel the need. Then I pray for the letter after I finish writing. Again I pray for the letter when I drop it in the mail. Finally I pray every day for a while for its safe delivery and for an amazing impact on Jahar’s heart.

      At least that’s what I do ideally. I’ve broken protocol a bit with the letter I wrote Jahar last week. I need to remember to pray for that letter still because chances are it’s not at Devens yet.

      The point is that by the time that letter gets into Jahar’s hands, it’s been prayed for several times over.

  8. Ada says:

    Wow! Is Jahar still able to receive letters and e-mails? I don’t think I’m ready to write or send a letter to Jahar. Before I found this website, and after Jahar was placed on my heart, I began to write letters, almost like a diary. To my recollection (I haven’t sent them yet), some letters sound weepy and, probably, angry/upset. I don’t know what, if I did happened to e-mail Jahar, I would sound like (in other words, if it would be to his benefit.)
    Again, to my recollection, I was trying/am trying to share with Jahar my testimony: a dream I believe I had concerning GOD, my pain/trials I face day-to-day, and the overall Peace I have been given despite these trials.
    I don’t know exactly how to approach Jahar….
    By the way, has anybody received a letter back from him? I read where somebody received an e-mail from his mother.

    In Christ,
    Ada

    • Ada says:

      I just re-read the comment I just posted, the part about what I’m writing (but not sending!). I didn’t mean to sound like I am depressed…I am not. It’s that sometimes I have a bad day, and I mean to be frank with him, whether or not I send the letters. Anyhow, I write about daily joys too.
      Smiles,
      Ada

    • Bri says:

      Sadly, they placed what they call special administrative measures on Jahar at the end of August, so we’ve been unable to write him since. I sent him four letters, a birthday card, and a postcard before then, but the last letter sadly got returned because it didn’t get to him before the restrictions. It’s actually standard procedure not to let a terrorist suspect or convicted terrorist receive mail, so I’m worried that we’ll never be able to write him again. I’m praying every day that somehow God would open those doors again and that God would use the letters that he was able to receive before all this. Many Christians wrote to him and presumably shared the Gospel with him. He never wrote back to anybody, though, because he had a hurt hand, he had far too many letters to reply to, and I’m sure his lawyers warned against it.

      As far as his mother, she does email some people who support Jahar, but sadly only those who think he’s innocent and who she can trust (people were sharing information she gave them, so she has a hard time trusting anyone). I emailed her four times and never got a reply (even though I don’t think I ever said I think he’s guilty), so I stopped. I know someone who at least used to hear from her, but sadly that person went and converted to Islam even though she was praying for Jahar to come to Christ.

    • Bri says:

      It breaks my heart that I can’t write him anymore because I want so badly to show the love of Christ to him, let him know people do care about him, and share the Gospel with him. I regret not being bolder with him when I did write. I was being super careful not to move too fast and just further push him away and harden his heart, but in doing that, I withheld from him what he needs to hear more than anything and what I might never get the chance to tell him ever again.

    • Bri says:

      One more thing: Do you check the email address that you use when making a comment on here? I want to say something to you that I don’t want on here for a certain reason.

      • Ada says:

        I check the comments using my Outlook e-mail and through this. If I don’t find your’s here or on a Plain Pathway comment, we’ll figure it out.

      • Ada says:

        I think I found your e-mail. Just sent you a quick message.

      • Bri says:

        I actually just sent you an email, haha. Haven’t gotten yours yet, though.

      • Ada says:

        Just got it…am reading it!
        Snail mail?

      • Bri says:

        Okay great! And oh wait, got it on my Gmail account. How in the world did you find that? Haha. I don’t get like any emails on that account and don’t really give it to anyone.

      • Ada says:

        It was on Plain Pathway (it lists e-mail addresses). I won’t give it out or use it anymore!
        Smiles,
        Ada

      • Bri says:

        Oh yeah, I forgot I used it there so my Gravatar with my picture wouldn’t automatically pop up.

        I think I’m actually going to start using that email more because my other non-school emails aren’t professional sounding. But I’m more apt at this point to check my Yahoo email.

    • brokenheart4whatbreakshis says:

      The first time we did a fast and all night prayer for Jahar, I wrote him a letter I knew I couldn’t send. I ended up ripping it up and throwing it away, and I kick myself every day now. I wish I still had it so that I could read it……and now that I have a P.O. Box and am “allowed” to write to inmates……I long to be able to write to him. Praying that by some miracle, that becomes possible again.

      • Bri says:

        I pray every day that we’ll be able to write him again, and I have no plans of stopping until we are.

        I wish you still had that letter. I still need to write that letter I wanted to write that would be what I’d say to him if I didn’t censor myself at all.

      • brokenheart4whatbreakshis says:

        Me too! Letter writing party? I need a week of vacation at home with nothing to do so I can actually get to all of this “some day when I have time” stuff on my to-do list. I spent all my vacation time this year visiting you. :-p

      • Bri says:

        Haha. And I need some free time when it’s actually possible to use it on a ridiculous amount of prayer.

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