By Shane McNary
Monday in Prague was free day for the team from Highland Hills Baptist Church, Macon, Georgia. After a week of ministry in Vazec, Slovakia and two days of history lessons around Prague, we figured they really needed a break from us! This also gave us an opportunity to meet our colleague, Rachel, and her family for lunch.
Because Prague is much more metropolitan than just about any place in Slovakia, there are opportunities to learn about the world from the experience of others you may meet in such a place. On Monday, that other person was Omar. I looked up the meaning of his name. Omar means eloquent, speaker.
Omar’s Czech was flawless. His English was excellent as well. He even picked up very quickly which of us at the table were native English speakers and which he should speak Czech to. Amazing talent. I asked him where he was from. “I was born here in the Czech Republic.”
I didn’t want to assume too much about Omar, but because of his darker complexion, I figured I could initiate the conversation by asking what it was like for him to grow up in the Czech Republic. “It was OK. There are jerks everywhere though. It was really difficult after 9-11. Kids can be mean.”
“I do not want to assume, but, you are Muslim?” I asked … the nose ring thew me a bit. “Yeah. I mean, I am not as into it as my father, but yes. I do like to drink . . . too much whiskey to be honest.” Omar shared that there is a mosque and other meeting places for prayer scattered around the country. Omar’s father immigrated to the Czech Republic from Tunisia. He never mentioned his mother and I didn’t ask.
After an interesting conversation, Omar needed to get back to work and I really wanted to finish eating the barbecue ribs on my plate, I attempted to end the conversation, “Well, it may mean more for your father than for you, but I hope you have a meaningful Ramadan.” Omar looked surprised. Even more surprised than when I told him that three of us were missionaries.
“Thank you. And so you know, I am fasting this year. I may have to have some tea today because I am getting a cold. But I am really trying,” Omar confessed with humility.
“All the best to you, then. Stay strong, Omar,” I offered. He responded with a smile.
Connecting with another’s experience by hearing their story is an excellent way of giving witness to the transforming love of God. Where will you find your “Omar” today?
Shane McNary and his wife, Dianne, serve as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel with and among the Romany community in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Connect with Shane at the CBF Romany Ministries blog.