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Published February 2023
By Roland Clarke

I met Adnan and Sarah five years ago not long after they arrived in Canada having fled from war in their homeland. They were studying English as a Second Language (ESL) near our church. We provided a light lunch for the ESL students once a week along with an opportunity to practice English informally. Although we lost contact with Adnan and Sarah when the ESL school relocated, we reconnected with them last spring. Their teenage son Arif became involved in a recreation program we were holding each week for youth.

Over the last few weeks I have gotten to know Arif better through visiting him at home. We reminisced with his parents about the happy memories of eating lunch together at ESL. Interestingly, his parents are very committed to their culture and religion, indeed, so too is Arif. Last week Adnan explained how he took his son to hear a special lecture presented by a prominent 'priest' from their homeland. (Their beliefs are a mix of monotheistic ideas.) Since these beliefs are deeply embedded they pose a real challenge, nevertheless, we are encouraged to see Arif gradually opening his mind to explore spiritual things outside his comfort zone.

For example, mixed into the other activities we give 'fatherly' advice by explaining proverbial wisdom from the ancient writings of Solomon, e.g. “My son, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.” (Proverbs 2:1-2) Here's another example: during Christmas season we showed the Jesus movie to these youth. Interestingly, Arif was the only one who paid full attention throughout the movie.

Last month while visiting at Arif's home I showed him a wise saying of Solomon about God planting eternity in the human heart. Here is the full quote; “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end... A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume. And the day you die is better than the day you are born.”

More recently, Arif agreed to read a chapter of the Bible each week! My 18 year old grandson who also attends the recreational program, recently came with me to visit Arif at home. Our visit concluded by offering to help Arif with some of his school work. Our hope and prayer is that in the near future we can tell Arif about Christ's encounter with a Samaritan woman. Interestingly, Samaritans acknowledge a Divine creator, much like their Jewish cousins, yet they often felt the brunt of Jewish racial/religious prejudice. Indeed, when the disciples saw their master comfortably conversing at the well with the Samaritan woman they felt uneasy – clearly outside their comfort zone. Meanwhile Jesus was “full of grace and truth” having already appealed to her heart longing for eternity, i.e. living water. No doubt, the disciples were in for another surprise when these 'foreigners' (Luke 17:18) from the village of Sychar asked Jesus to stay longer and tell them more about these spiritual truths. Amazingly, after two extra days of discussion they all concluded; Jesus is indeed, God's Messiah the long awaited Saviour of the world! (John 4:42)

Hopefully this story will stimulate some interesting questions from Arif. This passage also raises questions that we would love to discuss with Arif, e.g. “What do you suppose Jesus discussed during those two days that might have caused the Samaritans to conclude: he is indeed the Saviour of the world? One example is Isaiah's prophecy that the Messiah would bring God's light and salvation to the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6) Pray that these kinds of questions will stir curiosity (and even spiritual hunger) in Arif and his family.


In recent years our cities have seen growing numbers of children, youth and international students in college (not to mention adults) from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Do you think God wants us, as 'mainstream' Canadians, to move out of our comfort zone and help them discover Jesus as the way, the truth and the life?