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, 2005

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Sponsored By:
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminarys
Lewis A. Drummond
Center for Great Commission Studies
P.O. Box 1889
Wake Forest, NC 27588
Ph: 919-761-2230 ext. 230
Fx: 919-761-2232

Dr. George Braswell Jr.
November 28
, 2005

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the oral history interview of Dr. George Braswell Jr.
in Wake Forest, NC by Michael Fry on the campus of SEBTS. No spoken words which were
recorded were omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the
transcriber. This is a transcript of spoken English, which of course follows a different rhythm
and rule than written English. In very few cases, words were too unclear to be distinguished. In
these cases, [unclear] or [?] was inserted. Both interviewee and interviewer would interject Uh
hmm or Uh huh frequently, but these were not transcribed unless they came at a definite break
in the conversation. In some sections of the tape, the microphone was apparently frequently
bumped and every occasion of this has not been noted.

... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence of
the speaker.

.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.

( ) Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.

[ ] Words in brackets are comments made by the transcriber.

This transcription was made by Michael Fry and was completed on .

NOVEMBER 28, 2005

FRY This is an interview with Dr. George W. Braswell, Jr. The interviewer is Mike
Fry. And this interview is for the Oral History Project at Southeastern Theological
Seminary, SEBTS. Dr. George Braswell, Jr. is the distinguished Professor of
Missions and World Religions at SEBTS, who is now retired. He and his wife
Joanne and their four children were SB missionaries from 1967 to 1974 working
among Shiite Muslims in Iran. Their last child happened to be born over there in
Tehran, Iran. So we are conducting this interview in Dr. Braswells office in the
Jacumin-Simpson Building at SEBTS, and the day is November 28
of 2005. The
recording number is labeled 11.28.05-GB. Dr. Braswell it is a pleasure to be here
today with you once again and I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

BRASWELL I did, I had half the family around the table.

FRY Great, Great. Well Ill begin this interview asking the first question, or just asking
you to summarize your background and what led you into teaching in the area of
missions, not just that but primarily how did God lead you to Iran to be a
missionary over there with your family?

BRASWELL Well I grew up in a missionary church, it was Mainstream Baptist Church in
Emporia, Virginia. Very mission minded Church not only in giving, and praying
but also in inviting missionaries to come each year who were on furlough with the
Foreign Mission Board at that time, of the Southern Baptist Convention. So I
heard a lot of mission sermons, a lot of invitations, not only to pray for
missionaries, but to let your heart be touched if God called you to be a missionary
to respond. So that was from early years growing up in the school system and the
church in Virginia. I went to college and went to seminary and in those days you
could major in an area of seminary and I majored in Christian missions. So that
introduced me to a lot of good missionary literature mission history. So I had an
interest but not really a call to be a missionary over seas. Left seminary and
became a pastor. Served for 5 years in a Baptist church in the western North
Carolina Mountains. And they wanted someone to come in fact I was the first
full time pastor of a church on the campus at Western Carolina University. So in a
sense the church had been neglected with the senior citizens and youth program
were very weak in terms of not much attention being paid in a part time
position. So it was my calling and the churches calling to pay a lot of attention to
the young people. So during those five years I took young people to Ridgecrest
each summer to Foreign Mission week. We would rent a cottage and a couple of
the parents would go and bring vegetables out of their gardens and we would go
and I would pray and hope that some of the young people would be touched by
the sermons, by the missionaries who were there. And I think they were touched
but no-one really volunteered for overseas missions. But I think thats how God
called my wife Joanne and I. Because we ended up being the ones called from
that church and from those summer experiences. So we left the church after five
years and went to be SBs first missionary couple appointed by the Foreign
Mission Board to the country of Iran in 1967. So I guess basically the short
answer is that I grew up in a church that was mission minded. Exposed to
missionaries in sermons and in life. Had interest in missions to major in it at
seminary and then to lead the church in mission and young people. And through
that kind of learning experience and making people available and myself available
and my wife and family we were called to missions! So thats sort of the

FRY OK For number two Id like you to consider missions of the past and present.
What are the greatest things the greatest events and observations that you have
experienced in your career as you have seen God move?

BRASWELL Well you know when I came along as a missionary in the 60s and 70s the world
you know was basically a lot of immigration was going on a lot of cultures,
people of cultures and religions were beginning to move out of their own home
countries and really become missionaries in their own understanding Hinduism,
Buddhism, Islam. Back after WWII these old religions began to say we want to
convert the world to our religion. So that was beginning to be a change in the
50s, 60s, and 70s when you had Hindus, Buddhist, and Muslims going into
other countries where as Christian missionaries, for the most part, prior to WWI
had been the foremost missionary movement. So I think looking at the last 40-50
years of my experience, Ive seen dramatic changes in the rise of world religions.
Not only in numbers but also in their outreach. Hindus have sent their
transcendental mediators and Hare Krishna to be missionaries around the world
including America. Buddhist have sent their missionaries and Zen Buddhist in the
Nichiren Shoshu of America the most militant form of Buddhist missionary group
growing in the western world. Muslims of all the world religions in the last 40-50
years have arisen to be the second largest religion in the world and growing the
fastest religion in the world growing. And especially now its coming to Europe
and to America its the second largest religion behind Christianity. So in my view
and my experience Ive lived through this. I think that we Baptists and other
protestant denominations in particular, but we Baptists have certainly had our eye
and heart on missions to win the world to Christ. But it has only been in the later
years, the last decade or two when we have really focused more on people groups,
and especially Muslim people groups. When I was appointed a missionary we had
a 100 adults and it seemed like 500 children in orientation that fall of 1967. We
were the only couple out of 100 adult missionaries, 2 out of 100 going to a
Muslim land as such to the Middle East to Muslim peoples. Now we had people
going to other countries but not focusing on Muslims. So you see if you look from
1967 to 2005 we have been very slow in not only trying to understand the Muslim
world in particular, but to reach out to Muslims. It has only been the last 15 years
or so that Southern Baptist have really acted on their heart in prayers to reach out
to Muslim peoples. So what have I seen? I have seen a tremendous transition in
religious pluralism with other religions growing impinging on Christendom on
Christians and churches. And I have also seen southern Baptist begin to awaken to
a new sort of methodology people groups that was not even a coined term
when I came along. Church planting really was not a coined term when I went
to seminary you did not have books on church planting, you did not have books
on church growth per say. We did church planting and we did church growth but
is was not qualified that way and described that way. So things have changed and
I think we are moving ahead and as we enter 21
century we have tremendous
kinds of challenges before us as we always have to preach the gospel in some
difficult and challenging places.

FRY You may have already answered this question but How are Southern Baptist
blending into the Modern Missions movement? And we may have answered that
in what you previously said.

BRASWELL I think that Southern Baptist in the last 20-25 years have changed their strategies a
bit have changed the way they viewed the world. Not that they havent always
viewed the world you know that those are lost people and we need to
communicate Christ to them and win them to Christ that has always been a
constant. But I think the way we view the changing world and I think the way
we have changed the institutions and structures to do missions and the way we
relate to people. I came along in a time that you had the old mission of each
country so that even though Joanne and I were the only missionaries for the first
four years in Iran we were the mission. I was treasure and the president and
Joanne was the secretary and we didnt have other missionaries with us. But that
was the old mission strategy of having a mission of missionaries often they
lived in compounds separate from the people to whom they went and they worked
probable much closer with nationals as the people came to Christ and they built
the local church. I think today our strategy has changed more to people groups.
We do dont relate in the same way we did to nationals that have come to Christ.
We certainly dont have the same structures in the old mission concept that is
mission-compound concept. So things have changed, but I have lived through all
that and I think, I certainly would hope that we can work as closely as possible
with Christians who are evangelical Christians who are committed to the same
kinds of ideals of mission strategy that we are and that includes both other
Christians who may be missionaries along side of us that are not Baptist but are
doing the witnessing for Christ as well as a national indigenous Christian. So
there have been changes.

FRY We have to find a way to work along side them for sure. OK Lets really focus
now in on Iran. How did you see God move among the Shiite Muslims in Iran?

BRASWELL Well you know in Iran, the Shiite are the great majority of Muslims. Iran is about
99% Muslim. Which means that you only have a few Jews, a few Christians, a
few Zoroastrians, Bahai. So it is overwhelmingly a Muslim nation. And of that
population probably better than 90% are Shiite Muslims. You have some Sunni
Muslims in Iran, but more that 90% are Shiite Muslims. So when we went to Iran
our Foreign Mission Board in 1967 did not know much about Islam, certainly
they did not know much about Shiite Muslims. In fact when Joanne and I got over
to Tehran to study the language the Commission Magazine of the Foreign Mission
Board came out and said the Braswells are going to Iran to study the Arabic
Language. Well Iranians do not speak Arabic, they speak Persian they speak
Farsi. So that shows you how much the Foreign Mission Board knew about
certain things in those days. Now that is a jab but Im just illustrating the point
that people didnt know much about the Muslim world among Southern Baptist.
And they could not even get it straight that I was going to study Farsi, and that
Iran is not an Arab nation and dont speak Arabic. That could have been a simple
mistake in publication but I think it illustrates a point. We were the missionaries
after the first four years. We prayed, we cajoled, we sent letters please send
missionaries, please send journeymen. The missionary journeymen program was
just beginning. We had tremendous openings we could have placed 30-50
missionary journeymen teaching English as a second language. Iranian young
people in college were crying out to learn English. Joanne and I were helping the
Presbyterians who had been there long before we Baptist had got there. I was
Associate Director of the Armagon Institute, which taught Iranians English as a
second language. The Foreign Mission Board had no interest in that. And so for
the first for years we had no other Southern Baptist missionary come. Four years
out there. So I say that not I think it is a critical analysis that basically speaking
in the 60s we did not really have a heart for missions. God had a heart for
Muslims. We did not have a heart for missions to Muslims in a real dramatic deep
way. Now that has changed but it was not that way in 1967. So we went out
Shiites and we can talk a little bit but let me say something about how you
got into the country. We went out there on a visa for 90 days. In other words I
went out there with three children and a wife of course our fourth child was
born later in Tehran. But we had 90 days, 3 months to get a residence permit, a
work permit which the Iranian Government required or else we had to leave the
country just no ifs ands or buts. Our backup was going to be Beirut because I
had gone there to do some student work. In those days you went out to do
categories of missions and one easy way in the 1960s was to go out and do
student work because where ever you went around the world students wanted to
learn English and they wanted to know Americans and so it was an entre. So we
had 90 days, Beirut was a backup. If we could not stay in Iran Id take my family
to Beirut and we would become student missionaries to the American University
of Beirut beautiful place in the Mediterranean. Well, the Lord answered prayer
and we got a teaching opportunity at the Muslim Seminary its called Faculty of
Islamic Theology at the University of Tehran. It was a Muslim seminary, for
example they offered masters and PhDs to Muslim clergy types to come and study
and get masters and PhDs to go on to the chaplaincy of the armies of Iran to be
Muslim Chaplains or to go on to universities and teach Islamics or to become
Muslim preacher, we call them Mullahs or to become high school teachers and
teach Islamic in high school. So I got the opportunity through sometimes very
mysterious ways to me. Its a miracle in some ways that I got a residence permit
from the Iranian government to teach in this faculty of Islamic theology at the
University of Tehran Comparative Religions. So they gave me the work permit
and they gave me the residence permit and we did not have to leave Iran. So I
really cut my teeth on Shiite Muslims by teaching in a Shiite seminary as the only
Christian, non-Iranian on the faculty. Its a tremendous open door we can talk
about some of the ramifications but So we did not know much about Shiites
when we got to Iran. But once we got there that all you have basically is Shiites.

FRY How do you see or how would you think today a modern strategy should be
developed to reach the Shiites in central Asia? Maybe looking even into the Iraqi
Shiites putting them into the picture what would be a good strategy to reach
them today? Would you use the same type of platforms or are those kinds of
platforms available or completely a different picture now?

BRASWELL Well the Shiites are a minority movement in Islam. They are probably maybe
12% to 15% of all Muslim are Shiites. Most Muslims are Sunni. The Shiites are
located for the most part in Iran thats the premiere Shiite Muslim country is
Iran. Then the second one is Iraq. About 60% of the population of Iraq today is
Shiite. Then you got Shiites thrown through other Gulf Sheikdoms and other
countries but very minority. So you are looking at Shiite populations, the huge
populations are in Iraq and in Iran and you got some in central Asia.
Who are the Shiites? The Shiites really are a group that split off of the orthodox
Islam when Mohammad the prophet of Muslims whom they call the prophet
died. So it was a dissident movement, it was an antagonistic movement to other
Muslims because they wanted leadership. They felt like that leadership should
reside in the prophets family. So one of the most famous names of Shiites is Ali.
Now we cannot go in detail a whole lot about their theology but basically
speaking to answer your question Shiites are looked upon by us outsiders sort of
as a cult within Islam. Its a folk movement within Islam. They say the same
prayers as Muslims they have fasting they go to Mecca on their pilgrimage, very
similar. But they have developed a whole tradition based on family members like
Ali who was a son-in-law of the prophet. Ali had two children, Hassan and
Hussein. These figures are honored, revered, in fact wed say venerated or even
prayed to by Muslims. Now this is anathema to Sunni Muslims thats the reason
Sunni Muslims look at Shiites as heretics. So Shiites have a different
understanding of the way their God, Allah, speaks to them. And if you look at it
closely Shiites believe that these people like Ali, Hassan, Hussein and others are
saints to whom they can pray. And they also believe that because the Sunni
Muslims treated their early leaders not only with hostility but also killed them off
the Shiites had developed this whole system of undergoing suffering. And they
are very emotional people. They tend to feel more expressive in their hearts their
religion than some others among Muslims. They develop stories that their leaders
like Ali and Hussein have been persecuted and have died and have shed their
blood on the behalf of Shiite Muslims. So in a sense there is this suffering concept
and they cry out, Oh god (Allah in their terms) help us. Plus they pray through
the saints like Ali and Hussein. They feel like there has been a vicarious suffering
on their part by the leaders. And if they pray to them and make them promises,
then these Shiites can benefit not only in this life, but in the life to come. Now
having said all that, basically speaking Shiites have a view and a practice that
lend themselves, I think to what we in the gospel have very preciously. We have a
Christ who died for us. We have a Christ who suffered on the Cross. We have a
Christ who offers us forgiveness of our sins if we come to Him in faith. We have
a Christ who was bruised for our transgressions suffering, vicarious suffering.
So these are concepts that a lot of times if you go to a Sunni Muslim they are not
even on the same wavelength. Not that the Holy Spirit cant reach out the a Sunni
Muslim, but if we are looking at caveats or entry points that you could
communicate the gospel the Shiites have this possibility of understanding. So
that if you go take the Christian gospel message to a Shiite, and build a
relationship, and have enough time to be able to communicate in some very
valuable ways when you then can share this gospel, this own testimony you
have to a Shiite, often you can get this resounding kind of, hey that is interesting,
let me hear more (or I can identify) does that really happen in your life he says
Did this Christ die for you, and you are saying he died for me? So it opens up all
kinds of numbers of possibilities. So I think historically and theologically the
Shiites have this openness that can be much more we can be much more
approachable to them with the message of Christ. Now you may ask me well what
does history teach us what have missions done? Well, if you look in Iran for
example you would see that one of the great missionary movements among Shiite
Muslims was the Presbyterians. The Presbyterian Church sent out its missionaries
in the late 1800s. And all the way through until about the 1960s they sent their
missionaries to villages and towns and cites and they helped spread the gospel
among Shiites to where you had a several hundred thousand member Iranian
evangelical community. And I met these Iranian Christians when I went there in
the 60s. Most of them had come out of the Presbyterian missionary movement.
Now the Presbyterian missionary movement then began to fall apart for all kinds
of reasons in the 60s and 70s. But that is when Southern Baptists began to come
into the country in 1960 through Joanne and me the first couple. We saw the
Iranian evangelical church made up of a lot, of course, Shiite Muslims who had
come to Christ. So it can be done. Now of course we can talk about this later but
you asked the question that was in the 1910s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, what about
the 21
century? And that raised a whole other question for us Missions to
Shiites in the 21
century. (24:41)

FRY Excellent, excellent. So that, I guess in taking that even in going down to even
now living possibly today I do not know when was the last time you have
been in Iran?

BRASWELL Well last time I was there was 78. The Foreign Mission Board asked me to go out
just for the revolution Ayatollah Khomeini. And I went out and spent six weeks
with our Baptist people there. By that time we had some other couples on the
ground. As I mentioned, the first four years we had no other Southern Baptist
missionaries. But we went back a second term we carried back really three other
couples went with us on the second term. Their main mission was to work with
English speaking Southern Baptists in oil fields. And in the military we were
helping the Shaw develop his government his people. And out of that of course
they had missionary opportunities. So 1978 was the last time I was in the country.

FRY The verse that seems among the Muslim or the missionaries to the Muslim world
the verse that really challenges us is for instance, 1 Corinthians 9 verse 20
through 23. Where Paul talks about to the Jew I become a Jew so that I might
win Jews. In applying that to Muslims, what would that look like for application
sake to the Muslims I become like a Muslim to reach the Muslim. How would
we apply that, his concept there today? (26:20)

BRASWELL Well you know I think the Apostle Paul had a lot to say about crossing over
cultures and how we relate to people in terms of having then the opportunity to
share the good news of Jesus Christ. Acts 17 in Athens a tremendous narrative of
Paul going down to the market place in Athens and saying I see that you are very
religious, and capturing their minds and hopefully later their hearts. He had the
opportunity then because he was interested in them he went to them on their
own home turf. He wasnt supercilious. He had the opportunity later on once he
built some relationships to even go up to the Areopagus. Of all things the
Areopagus in Athens was the key place that the leaders made decisions. He was
taken up to the Areopagus after awhile and had the opportunity to say once he had
sort of won their friendship but not altogether friendship, but a hearing he
said, I want to tell you about Jesus and the resurrection. So Paul has a lot of
things offering to us how you cross cultures. How you make those relationships
that can ease the way to present the gospel message in another culture. When I
came along in seminary and as a young missionary we didnt know the word
contextualization. If you go back and look at the books of the 1950s I mean
thats face it there was very little written. It was just beginning to emerge. We did
more with the history of Christian missions in textbooks and studies and all. As I
mentioned to you earlier we didnt have any bonafide literature on church
planting, church growth, contextualization. I can give you some illustrations of
what I went through, and that is I mean I had no map. Nobody was out there to
help me, to tell me. There were some older Presbyterian missionaries when I got
there. Baptist had not been in the country of Iran as missionaries. So I had nobody
to tutor me, I had no mentor. But I think that because God opened that particular
avenue of teaching at a Muslim seminary which is unheard of. When I called the
Foreign Mission Board in those days you know you had the wires going down
the trans-Atlantic telephone, which was terrible compared to today you know.
Sometimes youd get through, and some times you cant. And then there is always
the delayed signal. But I remember calling Dr. Baker James Cauthen, who was
Executive Director, the President as we know today of the Foreign Mission
Board. And I told him I said, Dr. Cauthen I have gotten a job teaching at a
Muslim seminary and theyve given me a work permit. He says, What! And I
can hear it right now, What! And of course then he said please, we thank the
Lord and hope youll be there for years to build those relationships with Muslims
and the Lord will honor that. Well that was a part of how How did I identify?
Number one is what you call today, whats known today as a platform we didnt
have, you know we didnt have a formal platform in those days. My platform was
to be a professor in a Muslim seminary of all things. Thats something you know
you got to think about and say, how do you cut your teeth on that one because you
dont have many examples to go by right, on that one. What did I learn right
away? Once the Iranians gave me the work permit to teach, they wanted me to
teach comparative religions. That meant I could teach Christianity. Now they
wanted me to do the history of Christianity. They didnt expect me to come there
and be an evangelist on the faculty. I would last maybe what, two minutes? Then
Im out the door right? And thats understandable. So I was there to be a professor
of comparative religions. They knew that I was a Christian. They knew that a
church agency had sent me, but they were willing to take the risk.
I learned for example to live in a Muslim part of the city. Now a lot of
internationals Americans and British and French and Italians, who were helping
the Shaw of Iran in those years to develop his country with oil and military might
and telecommunications they all lived up north of the city of Tehran. Joanne
and I said we are going to live downtown among the Muslims. So were
identified. Our kids went on the streets with them. They played soccer in the
streets with Iranian kids, not with American kids up next to the big hotels. Thats
one way you know is you live among the people. Now you can always do that
even today, you can choose where youre going to live. Try to live among the
native population. (31:22)
Number two is The students who were Muslim Mullahs they wore the turban
and robes. They would tell me drinking tea, hot tea during their breaks between
classes they sort of gave me the word that it would be nice if I had a beard. They
said, A beard is a sign of wisdom and maturity among Muslim Shiites. Well, I
though people could be wise and mature without a beard in the western world.
But I began to grow a beard, and they appreciated that. I covered my pale white
Anglo face a little but, and I grew a beard. Now my wife didnt like that so much.
But it was a way to identify to ease relationships and communication. Not that if I
hadnt grown it I couldnt have done it, but I did raised a beard. As you know the
Foreign Mission Board in those days, as I think is true now, provided us an
automobile. We bought the little Paycon, the national car, a little small car. And
the first couple times I drove it from my house to the Faculty of Islamic Theology
where I was teaching. But most of my students, 99.9% caught the double-decker
busses. They didnt have money to buy a car. After a while I said, why are you
driving your car, ride the double-decker busses and youll be able to meet Iranians
on the way. It took maybe 45 minutes to get from my house to the Faculty of
Theology and meet people. And when you get over there, get out like they do on
the bus and go on to the classrooms. That way youre not this, in their
terminology wealthy American who drives in with a little Paycon car who
lords it over in terms of economy. Now you know you can say, well this is a
whole issue that missionaries have to deal with economics and lifestyle. There
were little ways that I said we live in a Muslim culture we live where they are
our house is along side of other Muslims. In fact I dont know within blocks and
blocks and blocks that there was another as we say kharigia foreigner. We
were it. So we met Muslim, we visited Muslims, played in the streets with
Muslims our kids. So there are ways I think you work at. Not every way works
in every situation among every peoples group. But there are ways that you can
discover that then lend themselves to open up good relationships of
trustworthiness where after a while you have a chance to speak the word of
Christ. Now that sometimes comes fast and sometimes comes slower. We can sit
here and talk about the theology developing out of a certain contextualization
literature. Whereas you go into a mosque and you pray with the Muslims, but you
pray in the name of Jesus. You have an Esau Mosque, a Mashed-e Esau, a Jesus
Mosque that you adopt their clothing and you completely wear the same
clothing absolutely that either a Muslim woman or Muslim man would wear a
lot of things like that. Now I never got into that. Im not at this point passing
judgment on that. Im just saying my method, simple as it was, in the 1960s and
early 70s was sort of this way. (34:46)

FRY Thats great you had a great opportunity to be exactly who you were. Ive
learned over time in my own time overseas in the Middle East, that poetry and
wisdom sayings are highly respected in the Arab and Persian world. What to you
think about a Christian who went over there as a poet or maybe studying Iranian
literature? Do you think that would be a good possibility or feasible?

BRASWELL Well, you know in Iran the Sufi movement has been very popular for centuries
and centuries. In fact one summer when I went out to study the Persian language
called Farsi, we went out to Mashed, which is probably the most conservative
Shiite city in Iran. Its next to the Afghanistan Boarder, as far east as you can go in
Iran. And we went out and spent a summer to study Farsi. My Iranian teacher
took me one evening to a Sufi meeting. And I went in and found 15 or 20 Sufi
dressed in their turbans and robes and long beards and they all wanted to go
around room and they hugged me and buzzed my cheek kiss me on each cheek.
That was the tradition of Sufis. And they would play on their little sitar, their
little musical instruments, reciting poetry. Not just Islamic poetry, well of course
there is not much Islamic poetry. But certain things out of the Koran you probably
could recite in a sing-song way. But they were going back and doing the old
Persian poetry of Hafez and many others. So I would say in Iran in particular
there is a tremendous tradition and these are Shiite Muslims who are Sufis in
practice. They belong to Sufi brotherhoods and still are Shiite Muslims. There is a
kinship there on poetry. I said earlier that Shiite Muslims tend to be more
expressive in their hearts of yearning for something that they are not getting in the
traditional mosque or the traditional Muslim sermon. From just those five prays a
day thats just not enough for the Shiites. And so they have developed sort of
this parallel religious experience that we talked about. The Sufis add another
dimension to that. The Sufis are light hearted, they love to sing and recite poetry,
they can sort of be responsive to other traditions. They told me for example that
night when I sat there for two or three hours with the Sufis in their meeting.
They told me, they said, ah you bring the light of Christ to us. You bring the
Nuri Issa. That is Nur, Nur is light, Nur-i in Persian, Nuri Issa the light of Christ
to us. I was such a neophyte then I didnt know what they meant. What do they
know about Christ? Why are they talking to me about Jesus? Then I had a chance
you see, later on that meeting cause he said, Oh tell us about your, whats your
religious experience. And I said you know, yes Jesus said, Issa said, He is the
light of the world. So I played into that you see. So yes I think we havent paid
enough attention to these kinds of literature, poetry, music, in these various
cultures of Islamic peoples that we might be able to of course you got to be
specialized now. You just dont want to go into a country and say here I am.
Youve got to study the literature, youve got to study the poetry, youve got to
have the gift and talent and calling if youre a musician or if youre a poet. But I
see tremendous interfacing. Now the platform, you know I think can take various
shapes and forms. It could be a platform with depends on the country if you
developed somewhat of not only a reputation, that you might be able as an
itinerant go around to different places and do your specialty as a Christian. I think
universities still are a great opening. And there still may be more in the future.
When I came out as a missionary it was the university context that missionaries
got in. Teach English as a second language, or if youre offered a specialty in the
classroom just like they wanted me as a Christian to teach comparative
religions. They really wanted me to teach the Muslim preachers at the Muslim
seminary there Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity Judaism and Christianity.
They didnt want me to teach them Islam. You can understand that cant you?
Why would they want to hear from an American foreigner about Islam when you
had the great leading Ayatollahs on the faculty? They were my colleagues. But
they wanted a westerner to teach them about Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and
Christianity in particular. Well, there still may be posts like that out there we can
look for. So yes I think that your question about poetry, literature, and music
therere places that we ought to really examine theses out there. And especially
music and poetry tend to be universal expressions in languages that reach the
heart of people of other religions. So I say go for it!

FRY Speaking of things of the heart, naturally prayer, the prayers of the people even
though a lot of them are recited, ritual prayers there is a type of prayer that is
from the heart. I know from Sunni Muslims in the Arab world, I think the term is
Dua it means the heartfelt prayer. And so, you mentioned in your book To Ride
a Magic Carpet that one of the Shiite prayers is to be liberated from oppression.
Are there some other prayers that the Shiites mentioned to you that they would
ask in the Mosque or just express to you personally? What is on the hearts of
these Shiites over there?

BRASWELL You know the Shiites, the Shiite Muslims, whether they are Iraqis or Iranians
who know their history, who know their history within Islam, who know the
divisions from the Sunnis they feel oppressed. They feel like they got a raw
deal in the 7
century when Muhammad died. So they had to forfeit their
leadership and they got the raw deal. So for 1400 years the Shiites have
developed their theology, their practices in which they dont like the Sunnis
really. Persians dont like Arabs. Now the Shiites in Iraq are Arab mostly, the
Persian Shiites are Persian Iranians, so theyre different. Traditionally speaking
Persians have never liked Arabs, and Shiites have never liked Sunnis for their
history and theologically. So, I think that Shiites themselves well, for example
the men, the male Shiites have this sense of oppression knowing the history of
the Sunni denial of their leaders and killing of their leaders. They go out and beat
their chest and cry. Sometimes they beat their chest with chains and draw blood.
And they wear white sheets so that everybody can see the red blood and how
faithful and obedient they are to call in the name of Ali or Hussein and put down
the Sunnis that kill their leaders. This is a tradition, every year they go through
this. So they felt suppressed and oppressed. By the way that is one of the
dynamics you got to look at Iraq and present day history and politics and anything
in the future for missions. It is the Shiites have never liked the Sunnis in Iraq.
Although theyre the majority, the Shiites are the majority. Now so the men feel
oppressed and they have this rituals where they actually come out and say these
things and they dramatize it and they draw blood from their own bodies to show
that theyre willing to die for their belief in honor of Ali and Hussein against the
Sunnis who killed off their leaders. Now the women have also prayers you call
these Dua, I say Doa in Persian Doa prayers. But I have been to womens
prayer meetings when didnt know I was there. I was sort of in hiding in a home
hidden up behind Persian carpets hanging on the walls and so forth. And I could
see the women praying about 40-50 of them in their veils, their Chadors. Now
what do they pray for? When they were by themselves, away from their husbands,
away from their family members in an all womens group what did they pray
for? They are Shiite women. They prayed for please get my son out of prison.
Now they we not praying to Allah, they were praying to Ali. They said, some of
the younger women there said help my first born child to be a boy. Because in
traditional Islamic cultures they want a boy first right? A male is important. So
they were praying to Hussein, one of their saints, again to help me have a boy. I
heard a woman pray to Ali, please keep my husband from beating me. And you
see if you look at these, just these three examples of their heart prayer they
dont pray these prayers in the mosque because they got to memorize enough
Arabic right! And they are all formal memorized prayers, whether youre in
Indonesia, or Iran, or Saudi Arabia it makes no difference you say the same prayer
right! But in these Shiite, Persian lands, this is where they are hurting. Prison
get him out of prison, keep my husband from oppressing me, beating me, help
me to have a boy. Now what does that say to us in Christian missions? It says a
lot to us doesnt it? It says if we can get the entre If our wives or women
missionaries can meet women, Shiite women, and understand what these women
are going through in most lands its a universal thing. They are hurt. Build that
relationship where theyll share that with you. And thats entirely different from
orthodox Islam. So the Shiites I think still are a whole fertile field for missions. If
we can get to them, if we understand their background, and we can get that
relationship, I believe the Lord will honor that in evangelism and missions and
building His church among Shiites who would come to Christ. (46:30)

FRY I want to respect your time, are you OK well keep going. There are just a brief
few more questions. The Shiite Mullahs express their obedience to the teachings
of Islam verbally and challenge you to be obedient. Either you mentioned that to
me in a previous conversation or in your book. But how do you recommend a
follower of Christ, of Jesus Christ to respond to such a challenge in the eyes of

BRASWELL Well, you know Muslims in general see their religion, Islam, as a superior system.
When you talk to Muslims in general and you read their literature, you study
Islam youll see that basically its highly ritualistic, ceremonial, legalistic, and
the Koran itself says that Islam is a superior system. Now they mean by that, that
their religion is a sort of, its a theocracy. It combines religion, culture, politics,
often government, family matters, sex, hygiene, gender roles the whole shebang.
They look at that as a superior system. Now we in the Christian, biblical tradition
look at I believe we do we look at our system, we look at our religion as a
relationship to a personal God who sends His Son, Christ, to be the Word become
flesh Emanuel, with us. And who dies on the cross for us, raised from the tomb,
for the heart to have faith and to believe and to be obedient to that. Now that is a
relationship. Islam doesnt have that. So my answer to Muslims is I understand
your system, it is a system. If I am talking to a Sunni Id love to be able to get to
some point and say you know my Shiite friend went to the Mosque last Friday
and he said his five prayers he said his daily prayers and heard the sermon and
he fasted on Ramadan. But you know my Shiite friend goes out to a Saints tomb
to Ali, or Hassan Hussein. And my Shiite friend opens up his or her heart and
just lays it on the line to a personal being, he thinks or she thinks. And that is not
Allah. And thats interesting isnt it? But I think thats what happens. So
obedience to us is a relationship in faith through grace in Jesus Christ who is
Gods Son. Its not through a system its through a relationship. The gospel is
good news because it breaks through every system. It becomes personal. So
therefore, I have written several books on Islam in recent years, and I have been
on the radio a lot with interviews and there would be call-ins. And a lot of
Muslims would call in and say that professor doesnt know a who is that
professor youre interviewing? He doesnt know a thing about this. Then the
interviewer will put me back on the line and say, Dr. Braswell how do you
respond to this caller? Often Ill do this I wont say to the Muslim you have a
superior system in your mind, we have a relationship. Ill say, well you speak of
the Prophet Issa, the Prophet Jesus. And I said do you know when Jesus was in
the garden and the soldiers came and one of His disciples picked up a sword and
cut off the ear of one of the soldiers, a centurion? Did Jesus say cut off the other
ear? No he said put up your sword, we dont do things that way. Now that is a
message to the Muslims. And I give another one. Id say Jesus came into
Jerusalem on His last day your prophet Issa came into Jerusalem on His last day
before His death. And I said, He came riding on the back of a donkey a sign and
symbol of humility. Now dont say, your prophet Muhammad rode a camel with a
sword in his hand and had all those battles. I dont say that. I say he came on a
donkey. I hope that it registers. Im not trying to put them down, right. The last
thing I say, you know, is that Jesus dies on the cross well I know they dont
believe that. I say the last words that Jesus had as He was on the cross He had
his mother at the foot of the cross, He had His followers, some of the disciples
were around the cross, soldiers so did He say Father, kill them all who dont
agree with Me? No Jesus said what, forgive them for they know not what they
do. And that is my answer you see. Which is all very relational. It is not to a
system, its relational. So yes we are called to be obedient to the Christian faith. It
is faith through grace, and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God. (52:11)

FRY Before your closing comments, you can give closing comments if you have any
after this question. What do you see the big picture of missions looking like in the
contours of the face of Southern Baptist missions say in 2015 or even 2010?

BRASWELL Thats a decade. You know I sometimes think that if you look at decades what
happened between 1950 to 1960, a ten-year period. But keep on 60-70, 70-80, 80-
90, even 90 to 2000. That ten-year period had tremendous changes. Soviet Union
fell between 90 and what 2000 right? Soviet Union fell, dissipated into all these
different independent republics. Berlin Wall crumbled. Many things happen,
grand scales you see. So what in the world will I say about the next ten years,
about 2015? I think of course Im just beginning to learn how to use a computer.
That is changing all of the world. From the time we use to the way we
communicate. From young generations I mean kids now four, five, and six years
old around the world are using computers. They can get in there and get all kinds
of pictures, and information, and you can use it for all kinds of ways. And it will
certainly be changing the next ten years. Ive got several things I would say for
the next ten years for missions in particular. Were seeing in a sense because of as
we say the old terms of globalization and of inter-global communication. Thats
one thing instantaneous communication. So how can we use that to further the
gospel? Were doing it but that just blows my mind because its all out there. We
havent even scratched the surface of using this as a tool to spread the gospel. So
whatll happen the next ten years? I dont know but certainly its got to be
something I think of tremendous value if were going to give attention to it. I think
that the resurgence of Islam has got to be looked at. The last ten years Islam has
become a revival and resurgence to the extent that it is now impinging on most of
the worlds parts in many ways. Because of the oil and wealth that came on the
last 30 years in Iran and in Saudi Arabia and other countries, they have used that
money, these Muslim countries have used billions of dollars to spread Islam
their own brand. If it is Saudi Arabia its the Wahabi sect the most radical, anti-
Christian, anti-Jewish form of Islam you can find. And that spread through central
Asia, and Africa, the Middle East, Europe and America. Iran has spread theirs
through Ayatollah Khomeini's uprising revolution. And now they support, they
really founded Hezbollah and Hamas organizations that have battled Israel and
others, as many consider them terrorist groups. So I think the challenge of Islam is
tremendous and the church has just begun to scratch the surface in their interest in
it, and really praying about Muslim peoples, and asking the question, how are we
going to engage Muslim peoples? Not only over there now, but here. See what
we have seen Michael, in my last 15-20 years of teaching has been the advance of
Islam. Now you see if you look at Europe, where the old Christianity, Roman
Catholicism in particular, pretty well stayed and stymied. Protestantism in Europe
no revival yet weve prayed there will be, an Evangelical revival. Muslims have
been growing under their noses to where now youve got France, and England,
and Belgium, and Holland, and Italy is beginning to be concerned. Muslim
populations are just seething. Weve just seen recent things in France you know,
all the turmoil. Some people say France has probably got 12-15% Muslim
population. America now if youd given this interview to me 5 years ago I would
have said that Judaism was the second largest religion in America. Now its Islam
we think. Islam is the second largest religion in America. And it is rearing its head
with influence, with numbers, with political significance in American society etc.
So the church has got to pay attention, not only to this religion, but also to Muslim
peoples. Im sensing that were sending missionaries overseas to Muslim people
groups. Im not sensing a whole lot going on in the United States among Muslim
peoples. We got to watch our home base. When we step out of our front door of
our house, outside the rock walls of the seminary you enter a tremendous,
competitive age of pluralism in our own country. Youve got not only the
Muslims, but the Hindis and the Buddhist youve got, Mormonism is right
behind Islam and growing. In my book I wrote in 1991 I said, some people project
that Mormonism, Mormons, Mormon people, its a cult that if they continue to
grow the way they are growing that by the year 2040 there will be 90 million
Mormons. You see, so Muslims and Mormons just alone if they continue their
demographic growth patterns, unless the Lord comes before, or we get more
missionized and evangelized towards these peoples at least demographically
speaking we got a challenge. So then the question comes to our mission
agencies, all right then how do we view this kind of world toward 2015 and what
are we going to do about it? Go back to the question I raised a while ago I
prayed, pled, sent letters, made some telephone calls from 1968-69 to 71-72,
send us young people, missionary journeymen to Iran. We can put 25 or 30 right
off the bat, get them work permits, put them into English language teaching to all
these university college students. At that time there were 600 coming to the
Presbyterian student center across the street from the University of Tehran. The
Presbyterians had asked me to be the associate director, a Southern Baptist
missionary, and I was. Six hundred young minds who wanted to learn English.
We were teaching them English from the Bible and Tehran, Iran. Now somehow I
got to believe in the next ten years there are all kinds of openings out there. If we
have the view, if we are wise in looking at the ways, if we can put the call out
there, if God opens a heart and God will open the heart of people to respond. So
Im optimistic, every age has had to act differently. So the next decade, the next
ten years, I think the challenges are enormous. I cant end this without saying
something about terrorism. Because the terrorists from Islamic communities are
just the surface of the deep down radical Islam that is expressed all across the
globe. So it is just not those handfuls of terrorist that do the dramatic things in
countries suicide bombers and explosions and so forth. Youve got to deal with
the whole radical Islamic structure that has tentacles all the way through these
Islamic societies and is ready to burst wide open at a moments notice. So weve
got to be as wise as serpents, Jesus taught us that did He not? To be as wise as
serpents, and as gentle as doves. Now thats hard to pull off, thats hard to pull off
in missiology. But we got to be wise, we got to know, we got to understand. And
then once we understand the Holy Spirit will be given to us, I believe if were
genuine, to be gentle in our approaches to get into the minds and hearts of people
with the gospel.

FRY I think your right, gentle is hard but with His help is possible. Well, we defiantly
appreciate your time here today and pouring out your heart. So I just wanted to
mention a few other books that Dr. Braswell has written Islam: Its Prophet,
Peoples, Politics, and Power in 1996. Then, What You Need to Know About Islam
and Muslims in 2000. Are there any other books you would like to

BRASWELL The latest one came out in September called, Islam in America: Answers to the 31
Most Asked Questions. So thats just two months old.

FRY Very good, Ill have to go buy that one. Do you have any closing comments Dr.

BRASWELL I think not, I dont want to be repetitious. I think weve covered a lot of material. I
think of course each generation faces changing circumstances with a constant
gospel. We know where we stand with the gospel. Its a matter of us trying to
understand the world in which we live. Its becoming more challenging and
sometimes difficult to get into places as Christians, especially in international
settings. But every age of Christian missions has had to deal with these challenges
and they are fresh and they are often inspirational to us. And with prayer and with
the Holy Spirit and with a measured kind of understanding, I am optimistic about
the future.

FRY Amen. Well, thank you so much Dr. Braswell.