After surviving 14 hours of travel and catching up on some much needed sleep it was time to experience the sights and sounds of North Africa. What better way to do this than to go to the medina, the shopping district, where vendors haggle, harangue, and hoax customers and tourists in loud, open-air fashion? As my sister and I walk through the narrow streets of the medina, shop owners call out to us in multiple languages in hopes to get our attention. Shouts of ‘Bon jour’ and ‘Gutentag’ mix with ‘Hello’ and ‘Hola’ in hopes of snagging a tourist customer. I even heard the occasional ‘Hey big guy!’ from enthusiastic vendors. We see shops selling fake Rolexes, leather-goods, handmade rugs and clothing, as well as stores that specialize in goods made of olive-wood. The medina is so tightly packed with people that you are constantly jostled and bumped as you try to find a stream of pedestrians to fall in step with. My sister says that today was a good day and not too crowded. I can’t imagine what that place is like when it’s “crowded.” This country boy was getting claustrophobic in the “uncrowded” medina.
After getting some gifts for the fam (and myself) we make our way downtown to see the largest Catholic church in the city. It’s an impressive structure, complete with a mosaic facade and stone statues staring down at you from 50 feet above street level. I couldn’t help but marvel at the irony of a church in a city in which less than 1% of the population is “Christian”. At the same time, my heart was broken at the realization that so many people in one place don’t know, or want to know Jesus and that their only impression of Christianity (if they even have one) is one that is just as cold and lifeless as the statues on the front of a church whose denomination at one time sanctioned the murder of muslims during the Crusades. For the first time my mind is starting to grasp the magnitude of the problems Christianity faces in the Arab world and the work ahead of those who choose to serve the Lord here in this culture. But God has a way of taking the harshest of soils and producing abundant crops with them. The fields are white, but the workers are few. Let’s lift up prayers for workers to come to such a field as this.