KILLEEN, Texas --- Jerry Jewell had visited there before, conveying a
heartfelt message: "Jesus Christ loves you and He desires to save you, and that
is why I am here." Most of the Muslims at the Islamic Community Center of
Killeen had been friendly, even eager, for dialogue, said Jewell, pastor of
Living Hope: The Church in the Field in the nearby town of Copperas
It had been a year since Jewell last visited the mosque, but he
said he felt the Holy Spirit nudge him last Friday, "You should go
Then a phone call -- from a Christian friend who had accompanied
the Southern Baptist pastor to the mosque to engage his Muslim neighbors --
confirmed it. "You might want to check in to see how they are doing," the friend
told Jewell in an unsolicited call.
News reports said alleged Fort Hood
shooter Nadal Malik Hasan had visited the mosque the morning of the attack. "I
figure the best way to keep someone from going out and doing other people harm
is to bring them to Christ," Jewell said. "If we hate them, then we are denying
So a day after Hasan allegedly gunned down 12 of his fellow
American soldiers and a civilian, caused the death of an unborn baby and wounded
29 others, Jewell said he somewhat reluctantly drove to the Muslim mosque housed
in a red one-story building in Killeen. Once there, he saw that news reporters
had filled the lawn and a police officer was screening those wishing to enter
"Are you a member?" the policeman inquired as Jewell
approached the mosque entrance. "No," Jewell answered. "I am a Baptist pastor.
But I visit with these guys and wanted to come in and see how they are
The policeman opened the door and Jewell discovered even more
press inside. Shoe-shod journalists, male and female, apparently unfamiliar with
Muslim worship practices, roamed freely inside, with some of the women in areas
reserved for men.
Jewell said he gave his regards to several mosque
members he had previously talked with.
"I met one young man who was new
there and he asked as we were talking if I was a member of the mosque. I told
him, 'I am not a Muslim; I am a Baptist pastor.' He asked for my card and said,
'I want to come and visit your church.'"
Jewell said the man called on
Saturday and told him he wouldn't be able to attend church services that weekend
but said he still planned to come. "It will be interesting to see if he shows
Jewell said he witnessed a mosque official reading a press statement
condemning the shootings at Fort Hood while the imam spoke about "how God likes
people who do right, not people who do evil."
Even though most of the
people he has met there have been polite and even charitable, Jewell said he
knows such bold outreach has some risk. Yet many more people die in traffic
accidents than are killed by Muslim terrorists, he noted.
"None of them
has shown up at Living Hope thus far," the pastor said. "My major concern is not
whether they show up at Living Hope, but whether they show up in
Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist
TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas