I chose a purple and yellow skirt out of my closet, specifically because the person who gave it to me was coming to visit today.
We met last year, when she delivered her baby at our hospital. Her delivery was somewhat traumatic, since the baby was born with a rare malformation and ended up undergoing a surgical intervention a few days after birth. During that difficult time, I connected with the mother in such a special way that we continued to visit one another long after she left the hospital. Before I left for my furlough, she surprised me with the unexpected gift of a purple and yellow piece of fabric, which I had made into a wrap-around skirt. Even when I was in the United States, our friendship continued as we messaged each other with WhatsApp. This year, as we continue out friendship, the Lord laid it on my heart to talk to her more directly about Jesus.
So last week when I visited her, we rejoiced together over how much her baby had grown and how miraculous it was that she was even alive. I took up my little bit of courage and with the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit, began to talk about how everything done at the hospital is done in the name of Jesus and for his glory. That every prayer prayed over her baby was prayed in his name. That the nurses and doctors serving there are followers of Jesus and do this service for him. Could it be possible that Jesus is trying to show her how much he cares about her?
“I think about that very thing all the time, every day,” she said.
“Would you like to know more about who this Jesus is?”
I asked her if she would like to study the Bible, and she immediately proposed next Tuesday. “I’ll come to your house,” she said, and the plans were set.
When she showed up, I asked her if her husband knew that she had come. In an African/Muslim culture, a woman is always under the ruling authority of her husband…or if she unmarried, her father or closest living male relative. The man in her life has complete control over everything she does, purchases, and even believes. For the women here, this is their normal.
She answered by telling me that she had told him about my offer to study to the Bible, which he frankly rejected. “We can’t walk in two ways,” he said, to which I couldn’t agree more. “But I’m here,” she said, “I’ve made my choice. But if he knew, he wouldn’t allow me to be here.”
“What do they teach at the mosque about Jesus?” She gave a vague answer about how he was a good man who did good things. I expounded by giving her some examples of miracles and healings that Jesus did.
“Oh yes! I saw all of that on the film that you show at the hospital,” talking about the Jesus film that gets shown almost every day in every ward. “We all love that film!”
She got really excited talking about the Jesus film, and then suddenly paused and turned very serious. “But something about it really bothered me.”
I expected her to bring up a controversial topic about how Jesus claimed to be equal with God. What she said instead shocked me.
“All those people were terrible to him, the way they tortured and killed him. That bothered me so much.”
I paused before proceeding, “Do you understand why died that way?”
When she shook her head no, I began to explain that it goes all the way back to when God created the world and placed Adam and Eve in the garden…
As she bounced her baby on her knee, she listened to the gospel story. She nodded along and verbalized understanding all the way to the end, when Jesus was resurrected, proving he was God and calling us to a response to believe in him and receive eternal life.
“What you have said is received in my head,” she concluded, which was her manner of saying that she heard, understood, and would think about it. I reached over and placed my hand over her heart. “I pray that after it goes through your head, that it comes here to your heart.” I gave her an SD card that she can put into her phone to have immediate access to an audio recording of the Word of God. She was very happy to receive the gift.
I reached out my arms to hold her baby and take a turn bouncing her on my knee. The baby became fixated with the ring on my right hand, a James Avery ring of sterling silver with a small cross cut out of it.
“Look,” the woman said as her baby fingered the little cross on my ring finger. “Even she heard what you said about Jesus.”
“That’s right, baby!” I tickled her tummy, “Jesus loves you.”
Working in the maternity, I often pray that I’m not just helping birth Muslim babies into Muslim families, but rather, that these wee ones will come to know Jesus and be the pioneers of a generation that changes this city and nation.
And every once in a while, I meet a mother, too, and we make a connection that starts a friendship. And friendship is fertile ground for sharing the gospel. Pray for mothers like this one, for the gospel message and love of Jesus to reach both heads and hearts through the Jesus film, through the Word of God in print or on SD cards, through personal witness, and through the gentle nudging of his Holy Spirit.
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