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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Givens

With no Pretense

Recently I received a video of an Iranian woman being baptised. She was at the Maria Skobtsova House (MSH) for several months at the end of last year before crossing the the UK. I also received another message from an Iranian woman who moved to another European country after her stay at MSH. She asked if I could help her find a way to learn more about Jesus Christ, because she wants to become a Christian.

A message I received from an Iranian woman

These are only two examples of the power of true Christian witness. We have also had women describe to us how Jesus appeared to them in dreams, and how peaceful they felt and how their anxiety left them after seeing him. Even among those people who remain firmly within the Islamic faith, we have heard talk of how good Christian people are. “Christians are good people. They have helped me on every step of my journey,” one woman told us.

And the are just a few examples. We have had many conversations about Christianity. We have given Bibles in various languages to people who have requested them. How many of them have chosen to convert is something we will never know, but we have been able to plant seeds. We have tried to demonstrate the love of Jesus every day to every person at MSH. This includes volunteers we have had who were nonbelievers. For many young Europeans, their view of Christians is shaped heavily by the hateful, harmful rhetoric that is often shared in the name of Christ. At MSH, however, they have the opportunity to see the Christian faith in a simple form, seeking to love God and the neighbour in a real, tangible way. This has caused several of them to comment that we are not like other Christians they know or that our faith isn’t what they expected.

Micaiah loving his neighbour by playing Uno

Make no mistake. Evangelism is not our primary goal at MSH. Our primary goal is to recognise the humanity in every person who comes to stay and to love our neighbour, as our Lord commanded us. The house is overtly Christian, with various icons, crosses, and paintings on the walls, and Christian prayer taking place several times each day. To us and other workers at MSH, our faith in Jesus Christ is the reason we do what we do. However, there is no requirement that guests join in our prayer times with us. We often have discussions about faith with guests, but we never present our faith in such a way that they feel invalidated or that they must convert to maintain their bed at the house. This is not the goal.

All of that said, our evangelism takes place in our actions. Our lives and our desire to love our neighbour demonstrates our commitment to our faith. People can see this, and it causes them to ask questions. In a few cases, it has even led to conversion. From the beginning of our mission, we have chosen to use the Calais light house as a symbol. We seek to be a light for love and peace in Calais, both amongst the exiles and the Europeans. We are far, far from perfect, but we cling to the fact that people will see our genuine, unassuming love for our neighbour and understand where that love comes from.

A message left for us on a canvas on the wall

“And no one lights a lamp and puts it under a clay pot. Instead, it is placed on a lampstand, where it can give light to everyone in the house. Make your light shine, so others will see the good you do and will praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:15-16, Contemporary English Version).

“But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:33-34, CEV).

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