“The White Mosque”: A Pilgrimage of Discovery

Sofia Samatar has a unique family tree – Swiss German Mennonite and Somali Muslim. Discovering that her spiritual ancestors broke bread and found a home in a majority Muslim country inspired her to travel across the world to uncover an obscure story that has resonance today in a world where the boundaries of identity, belonging, and faith intersect. Then we revisit our 2020 conversation with San Francisco 49’ers chaplain Pastor Earl Smith, Jr on the way his own journey from gang life to pastoral care informs his approach to young professional athletes grappling with the demands of professional football and basketball.

“The White Mosque”
Award-winning author Sofia Samatar was raised Mennonite, but, with brown skin in a Germanic faith, she sometimes felt she did not fit in. Then she discovered the obscure story of a group of 19th-century Russian Mennonites who made a difficult and deadly migration to Uzbekistan. Samatar, a professor of literature at James Madison University, felt compelled to retrace their journey. The result is her fifth book, “The White Mosque,” a story of hardship and belonging among strangers in a strange land.

“We Build A World”
Our discussion with Sofia Samatar continues, exploring the link between her usual genre, fantasy and science fiction, and religion.

“Faith on the Football Field”
Rev. Earl Smith, Jr is the chaplain for the San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors. It’s a pastoral job that demands a different approach. Unlike most workplaces, NFL football team franchises are physically and emotionally demanding work environments where the average career span of a pro is 3.7 years. Drawing on his own spiritual journey, Smith shares his counseling approach to encourage the development of these young professional athletes on the field and beyond.

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