No room in our city

I recently read the following legend, as told by Dania Ahmed:

There was a man who appeared before a great city, a wanderer seeking refuge in a new land.

When the king found out about this person, he refused to allow him in. He sent this person a pot of milk, and with it a message saying, ”See this pot filled to the brim with milk, this is how we are. We have no room for you in our city”.

The man smiled and placed a flower on the pot of milk, and sent back a message to the king, “I want to live among you like this flower floats on milk, to spread the fragrance of love”. And so it is said that this man was Lal Shahbaz Qalandar and the place Sehwan Sharif.¹


A dreadful atrocity committed in Pakistan on 16 February brought this legend to my ears. It is a travesty that the shrine in Sehwan Sharif, which is dedicated to the venerated Sufi poet and philosopher Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, should be the site of hatred and violence.

The legend captured my attention because it reminded me of the many places in Asia and the Arab world where our Partners struggle to gain access, due to visa restrictions. They experience the message “we have no room for you in our city”, even though they have come to offer the fragrance of love and life.

It reminded me of Paul, who described his presence among the Corinthians in these terms: “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God” (2 Cor 2:15, NLT).

It reminded me of a claim by an Interserve Partner in his recent book that “Only the motivation of love will never fail us. Love will guide us to the best response in every situation, whether we face opposition, government restrictions, or a lack of response from those who hear our message.”²

Many of our Partners offer their lives, and their love, as guests in cities where they are not always welcomed. As they live out their lives among the people in these cities, their desire is that a Christ-like fragrance might rise to God. Let us pray that this fragrance might be life giving for many, as they put faith and love into action.

Ruth Thorne PhD
Interserve Australia Board Chair


¹, 19 February 2017

² Hale III, T., (2016). Authentic Lives: Overcoming the problem of hidden identity in outreach to restrictive nations. Pasadena, CA: William Carey, p. 140.