A Beautiful Soul

10 Jun

Ali Mahta or who I like to call “Ali of Babua” (part of the fun we have of giving him a nickname after the movie Aladdin) has become a brother and teacher to me. His arm of influence extended deep into our community as well. This is a small piece of his story.

Ali grew up a Shi’ite Muslim in Iran. In an effort to complete his studies as a doctor of neurology, he moved to the United States about three years ago. His whole life is in Iran; family, religion, tradition, friends, home.

After moving to New Orleans, Ali met one of the couples who are now on staff with our NieuCommunities team in San Diego. Although coming from two very different backgrounds (Iran and Washington state), they immediately connected and became close friends. More than anything, Ali became intrigued by this Jesus their lives revolved around. Within his Muslim tradition, Jesus is a prominent and highly respected prophet, but to believe in him as God is to commit shirk (holding anything/anyone as equal with Allah/God); the worst sin of all.

In fact, Ali became so intrigued by the Jesus he saw in his friends that when they moved to San Diego to go on staff with NieuCommunities, he asked if he could come with them and be part of their missional church community. After finding a neurology position in San Diego, Ali packed his bags and not only moved to San Diego, but moved into our neighborhood of Golden Hill (where all NieuCommunties participants have committed to live).

As I watched Ali live, his traditions and values planted themselves on our doorstep. Fear and revere God. Devotion to prayer…faithfully, 3 times a day. Everyday. Surrender… he’d turn his palms face up every single time during prayer as if receiving all that God has for him in each moment.

Although a brilliant doctor and having lived a life devoted to Islam, Ali was a humble learner who made the most of every opportunity to hear and experience the Jesus of his friends. Ali dove deep into our Christian community as he prayed, worshiped, listened and practiced alongside of us. He wanted to encounter Jesus, so he chose to expose and submerge himself deep into a band of believers whose lives had been submitted to their King, Jesus.

Through the lives and worship of his new friends and the profound work of the Spirit, my friend Ali did encounter Jesus in his time here in Golden Hill. After a recent worship gathering, Ali said to one of the members in our community “Yes, I am a follower of Jesus.”

Having accepted a position at Temple University in Philadelphia, Ali moved away from his new family in Golden Hill last week. While it was hard for us to say goodbye, both Ali and our community knew this was not the end of our story together.

After taking Ali surfing for the first time in his life, we all gathered for a meal just hours before his flight took off to Philadelphia. We shared the ways he had impacted us and thanked him for all that he had taught us. He came to us as a student, but his humble devotion ended up teaching us so much.

In a most recent email Ali sent me he said this, “David, my brother, you are a man with beautiful soul and I want to ask you to continue our brotherhood for the years to come and forever. I promise to come back again to visit you.”

Ali gave me a tangible glimpse of what it looks like to pursue holiness. So often I come into a foreign context believing I have it pretty much figured out.  I think “well maybe I can pick up a few nuggets here and there”.  Despite the fact Ali’s brilliance and faithfulness stretches beyond my yard stick his posture is humility. Ali honored God in his time with us and he gave me a lesson or two to say the least. He is my friend, my brother, and a teacher to many. Ali is a beautiful soul.

Before Ali walked out the door to catch his flight, we all turned our palms to the sky and thanked Jesus for our friend; our brother. (see pictures below)

I am extremely grateful to the brilliance of my friend, my fellow community member, and author Jon Huckins for giving me permission to partake in this and share many of his thoughts with you all. For a fuller story of Ali check out his blog: http://jonhuckins.net/?p=622

Img_0330Ali

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