Welcoming Muslims for the love of Christ


Heartsong Church welcomed Memphis Islamic Center

In the small Tennessee town of Cordova sits Heartsong Church, who welcomed their Muslim neighbors in a time of distress. The church's act of generosity is deeply gratifying to me as a Muslim.

This story was not found in mainstream media, but rather on an Arabic website whose name translates as "incoming traffic," and was filled with heartwarming pictures of the event.

It all began shortly before the holy month of Ramadan, when the mosque across the street from Heartsong could not meet its renovation deadline in time for evening prayers, or "taraweeh." So the imam asked the church's pastor, Dr. Steve Stone, if his congregation could use the church for their prayers. Permission was granted.

Church members welcomed the Muslim guests

What makes this noble act by this man of God unique is that it happened during mass anti-Muslim hysteria that swept through our country last summer. Violent crimes targeting American Muslims, their homes and institutions were at a peak and the media was obsessed with so-called pastor Terry Jones of Florida who threatened to burn copies of the Holy Qur'an on 9/11.

It is ironic how Jones managed to capture international media attention with his provocative act, as well as posting a sign in front of his church that read, "Islam is Evil." On the other hand, Heartsong put up a sign that read "Welcome to our new Muslim neighbors."

Had the media devoted the same amount of time and energy to the Heartsong story, people in the Muslim world would not be chanting, "Death to America," but would have waved Old Glory instead.

Pastor Stone has 800 followers, whereas pastor Jones had only a few dozen. I spoke to Dr. Stone by phone to express my gratitude and visited the Church's website and his own blog. I learned a lot.

This man of God lost 14 members as result of his act of kindness, but gained more. Among the newcomers was a total stranger by the name of Richard, who wrote the pastor to say, "Your act is an inspiration to me. It has been over 30 years since I regularly attended church, but I may join Sunday." 

Islamic Center of Memphis

Nadeem, a man from Memphis's Muslim community was among 100 Muslims who attended the prayer at Heartsong. He wrote, "Heartsong to our community is now well known as the house of love and respect for our (Islam) and other religions." Nadeem, who was deeply moved by the hospitality that he and his Muslim friends received at Heartsong, reminded Pastor Stone of a similar story where Christians showed true Christian love to Muslims by stating, "When our Prophet asked the persecuted Muslims to migrate to Ethiopia, then ruled by the Christian King, Negus, he provided them a home and respectful welcome."

Not all the reaction was positive. An angry Helen Edwards wrote to Dr. Stone, "I hope you will be the first one on those savages' list for beheading."

By the end Ramadan, Heartsong's congregation invited their Muslim neighbors for dinner. The guests brought flowers in gratitude to their hosts. People hugged each other with tears of joy in their eyes. Above all, they referred to each other as "brother" and "sister."

Pastor Stone eloquently explained his church's decision in one of his interviews: "This place does not belong to us; it's God's place and we're just sharing." Pastor Stone and his congregation have welcomed Muslims for the love of Christ, peace be upon him, who said to "love thy neighbor as thyself." 

*****

Mahmoud El-Yousseph is a retired USAF veteran. He resides in Westerville , Ohio and  he can be reached at elyousseph6 [at] yahoo.com.


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  17 Comments   Comment

  1. MOHAMMAD ABBAS from USA

    FIRST OF ALL DR. STONE AND ALL WHO SUPPORTED THIS ACT MUST BE APPAULED FOR THIS HEROIC ACT KNOWING THE SITUATION OF THAT TIME.

    HISTORY IS FILLED WITH THE FACTS ABOUT THE WARS BEING FOUGHT ON RELIGIOUS GROUNDS AND OF NO GAINS EXCEPT LOST OF LIVES. HAVING LEARNED FROM IT SHOULD WE NOT LIVE IN PEACE WITH EACH OTHER IN LOVE SO THAT WE MIGHT ACHIEVE GOODNESS FROM EACH OTHER......COS' WARS DID NOT GIVE US ANY THING CONSTRUCTIVE.

    JUST LOOK AROUND TO WITNESS THE WARS AND THEIR EFFECTS ON ALL.

    DR. STONE AND YOUR CONGREGATION............THANKYOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR IMMENSE GENEROSITY YOU SHOWED AND BESTOWED UPON A FELLOW HUMAN.

  2. RASHID KHAN from PAKISTAN

    AS A HUMAN BEING FIRST I APPRECIATE THE GESTURE OF Dr. STONE WHO SHOWED THAT IT IS INCUMBENT UPON ALL OF US TO RESPECT RELIGIONS BECAUSE ALL PROPHETS WERE SENT BY ALLAH (GOD THE ALMIGHTY) HOLY BOOKS WERE BESTOWED AND HUMANS IDENTIFIED BY RELIGIONS. ALL RELIGIONS ARE SACROSANY. AS A MUSLIM I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST AND ALL PROPHETS.ALL OF US MUST RESPECT EACH OTHER AND EACH OTHERS FAITH.

  3. Shipa Sultana from Canada

    Reading this article make us think once again we are for each other for the sake of Almighty regardless of our faith.A inspiring story indeed of neighborhood , brotherhood and sisterhood. May God bless us all.

  4. ajdar from malaysia

    As the Quran rightly said, the closest to the Muslims in faith are those who called themselves Christians, because among them you will find those who truly submit to God and are not arrogant

  5. noel spencer from USA

    This is a fantastic story. As a Catholic Christian clergyman, I was shocked, delightfully so, to read about how this Christan community acted like Christians are supposed to act. I salute this very brave pastor.

  6. Dawood from USA

    Thank you Pastor Stone and your blessed congregation.May God bless you all and grant you a place in heaven.

  7. MUHAMMAD KHAN from USA

    ALL PRAISES FOR ALLAH SWT, WHO CREATED BEST OF HIS CREATIONS!!

  8. Ajani from South Africa

    I was shading tears while reading this article.

    In this modern day, Muslims and Christians are world apart, people in the world are also world apart, even when they sleep in the same room.

    On the other hand, the world is more becoming a global village.

    Ironically, those who are championing the globalization of the world are fueling hatred among people, they seem not to realize the need for the unity, tolerance and love among the people of the world for globalization to succeed.

    Let there be love, let there be light in the world we live.

    I love you all.

    Ajani

    SOUTH AFRICA / NIGERIA

  9. Dr Waseem Ullah Malik from Malaysia

    Pastor Dr Stone has acted and done the correct action what the prophet Jesus (PBUH) would have done and the Pastor Dr Stone has got great knowledge about his religion by saying and by acting that this house is not his or any other persons house but its GOD'S house and any religion who has the holy book can worship there. Keep it up Pastor Dr Stone , you have done a wonderful GOD fearful act what a true practicing Christian should do .May ALLAH shower HIS blessings upon you and on your other followers .

  10. Brenda Holston from USA

    I am all for love thy neighbor. I am a multi-racial person, meaning I have several different ethnicities in my DNA makeup. I believe that most of us do.

    However, if you peel back our top layer of skin we are exactly the same. We are created equally, it is whether or not you allow your self to follow this belief.

  11. EUgene S. Jones from USA

    The actions of both parties, in my opinion is what love for Our Creator and Sustainer is all about. May Allah bless them all. I pray that all of America adopt their attitude.

  12. Samin from USA

    For Kam,

    Three things:

    First: The Islamic Center is not in Cordova, but in Memphis, it's much larger city.

    Second: Churches are every where, in every intersection or corner of the city, so they don't need larger churches to accommodate the congregation. Different story with mosques, because it's small population, not every muslim community in a city have capability to build a mosque. Moreover it's much more difficult to build mosques (permit etc) compare to churches. So not every city have a mosque, therefore mosques need larger spaces to accommodate people from surrounding cities. Generally, the funding to build mosques still come from donation from the mosque members/goers. Yes there are few mosques that given by "outsider" but the number is very small, majority of them just from the "local" communities.

    Third: Mosques' building follow the "market law", "driven by demands", so you never find a mosque that there is no muslim there. Or you never see a mosque on a Friday afternoon, that the capacity is much larger then the congregation, you see the other way around. So, again, this is a prove that a mosque building is based on necessity, not extravaganza.

  13. Muhammad from USA

    Pastor Stone is a real Christian who followed the values of Jesus Christ.The teachings of both religion express the same values for the society. (though some values are dormant/active in one or other community).

    The history of the two religion is same so there is commonality. The misunderstandings can overcome by coming together and talking to each other with respect and dignity.

    God likes our actions with humility.

    Kudos to Pastor Stone.

    Thanks,

    Muhammad

  14. Mohammad Syed from USA

    Thank you Pastor Stone, members of your community and all the Christians who love God and fellow human beings. Christians are generous people; I am grateful for their generosity. I have similar experience: When I came to the United States as a student in 1970, Pastors and Christians came to visit Muslims. They provided Muslims place for worship in their centers. I will always be grateful to them. Thanks for sharing this beautiful event.

    Mohammad

  15. Kam from -

    In a small town Cordova in Tennessee, such a nice mosque. It looks as though it was not built by donations. The building would cost say a million dollar atleast to build. Where do they get all this money from? Just passing thoughts!

    Kam

  16. Defender from Asian

    I'm very happy to read this beautiful article.Quran says Christians are close to Muslims. But everywhere hatred spreads nowadays. Even among Muslims, one group is intolerant towards the other. I believe the same is the case with Christians also.People preach something and practise something. Thank you for writing this article. May Allah reward you. aameen.