Thursday, January 31, 2013

Summoned from the margin

Lamin Sanneh's story is an interesting one. He is professor of World Christianity at Yale and the author of several books including his recent memoir. Sanneh grew up in a Muslim family in Gambia, West Africa. He was educated through high school in Muslim schools. He was intrigued by the character of Jesus who appeared in the Koran. He tried to find out more about this prophet who was killed and then rose from the dead. He asked some of his Christian acquaintances who only made him more curious. After high school he moved to a bigger city to find work. He met some other Christians there. One Christian family who he roomed with was uncomfortable with his Muslim prayer rituals and asked him to leave. One colleague from a Christian charismatic background tried to evangelize him and gave him a Bible but he was put off by her emotionalism. He never opened the Bible. Yet, the question of Jesus still nagged at him. Who was he? What did he want from Lamin? He wondered about it every waking moment it seemed. Finally, he came to the point where he submitted his life to this presence of Jesus which was so persistent and so real. He told some of his Muslim friends who thought he was crazy. Christianity was not respected in that part of the world. It was seen as a weak faith that attracted weak people. Some younger Muslims followed him and threw stones and rocks at him. He decided he needed to be baptized and join a community of faith. There was a Methodist, and Anglican and a Catholic church in his town. So he went to the Methodist Church and told the pastor he wanted to be baptized. The pastor sent him to the Catholic Church where the priest seemed less than excited to fulfill his request. No one knew what to do with a convert from Islam. No one wanted to have anything to do with one who had. His Muslim friends said, see they don't even want you so why do you want them? Good question. He wanted to follow Jesus but he didn't figure his first steps would be this hard. He had an acquaintance who lived in Germany and he decided to visit him. So, he had a plan - baptize me, he told the pastor, and I will get out your hair. I am going to Germany! And that's what he did. Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of an African is the name of his book.