Friday, April 29, 2016

Spiritual Mothers

“We loved you so much that we gave you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.” I Thess. 2:8

Anyone ministering among Muslim women will see that evangelism and discipleship will be approached differently with their friend from Muslim background than one from Judeo-Christian background. For example, Laura invited Julie to church. As she listened to the pastor’s message her heart was moved and at the end of the service went forward when a salvation invitation was given at which time she was led in repeating a special prayer. Afterwards she was encouraged to attend Alpha meetings held every Wednesday for new believers. She primarily watched videos to learn and could ask questions. Initial spiritual growth for Julie revolved around a formal organized program in a church building and had a definite time frame to it.

Hawa, a Kurdish woman, grew up in a devout Muslim home. Before coming to the West, Hawa had never met a Christian, had not entered a church, nor had access to a Bible. She felt secure in her Islamic beliefs and traditions. She had never questioned her religion. Ruth, a Christian woman, began befriending her and visiting her regularly in her home. Gradually Ruth began sharing stories from the Bible and would offer to pray for her. Hawa slowly began to comprehend that Islam is a religion of works and requirements while Christianity is about a relationship with God, made possible through Jesus Christ, our Savior, and is obtained by faith and not achieved by good works and following rules. She watched Ruth’s life closely. She probably did not realize it that she was actually viewing Ruth as a spiritual mother figure. Ruth could not tell you at what moment Hawa consciously made a decision to follow Jesus. Hawa's husband still has not  allowed his wife to attend church but Ruth continues teaching her and praying for her and being a faithful friend – and spiritual mother. Her consistent long-term spiritual mothering influence in Hawa's life has produced a deep effect.  Hawa's informal and unstructured growth has centered around a Christian who is like a spiritual mother which hasn't had any definitive beginning or ending. It has not been held in a church building.

Hawa studied the attributes of God from the Bible; some of which are quite different from God in the Qur'an, learned how to read the Bible, and learned a new way of praying which is different than the required ritualistic memorized prayers she had to say in Arabic which is not her heart language. It has given her immense joy to pray in her own language.  She is being coached on how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speak to her. To learn how to walk by faith rather than works(or dreams or istikhara) has been a huge shift to make. She has a tendency to fall back on living by rules and rituals to please God. Folk Islamic practices have had to be understood in order to walk freely in Christ. She has been afraid of the evil eye and jinn and magic and had many superstitions. She had a charm that needed to be relinquished. There seemed to be an overload of information, corrections, changes, new concepts and a new identity to figure out. Hawa could never have undertaken this long spiritual journey without a spiritual mother like Ruth caring for her like a precious lamb.  She has needed fellowship with other sisters in Christ but there has been little opportunity for that even though it has been deeply desired. Ruth waits patiently for that day.

God bless you, my readers, if you are spiritually mothering someone from Muslim background. Keep the Savior before them and investing your lives. There is deep joy in being a physical mom but there is also tremendous joy being a spiritual mother. 

Dear heavenly Father, please help all the spiritual mothers in their ministry of caring for precious "lambs". In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Abortion

“You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.” Psalm 139:15

Not all unmarried and married Muslim women have a sense of owning their own bodies or being allowed to make independent decisions about birth control. We can expect to hear some sad and tragic stories including the subject of abortion.

Sweet beautiful Afsana was beside herself with anxiety. The ultrasound revealed that she was carrying a child with an abnormality. Her husband who was highly educated didn’t relish the prospect of having a son who might not be brilliant so he insisted his wife have an abortion. Afsana and I talked about the possibility of the medical assessment not being correct. Afsana, going against her husband's demands, courageously decided not to go ahead with it. To Afsana’s delight and relief her baby was born normal. She was so thankful that she hadn’t gone ahead with the abortion.

Amina has never recovered emotionally from the abortion she had. She had it done because she and her husband were living in dire poverty conditions as refugees in a transit country. She felt guilty (and still does) but no matter how much we have looked at the Gospels about forgiveness for every sin upon repentance through Jesus Christ she will not allow herself to be forgiven. And so she continues to suffer mental anguish to this day.

Fatima and I talked about how some women will do anything to get pregnant including paying thousands of dollars to undergo IVF while others are desperate to abort their fetuses. I asked Fatima what Muslims believe about abortion. She said, “Well, there are some who believe that it is okay to have an abortion in the first trimester. After that is when life(the soul) begins.” What one hears publicly – that an abortion is a sin in Islam - and what is interpreted privately can be quite different.

I was unprepared as a new missionary in Pakistan to deal with something unfamiliar to me up to that point in my life.  I was concerned about Shahina one particular morning so decided to go to her home and find out if she was okay. What a shock to discover Shahina lying unconscious on her bed, blood all over. A local untrained midwife was at her bedside trying to make her come to. Fortunately I was able to get her to the hospital immediately or she would have died. The midwife had stuck a stick up her uterus to kill the fetus and nearly killed her in the process. These things happen where it is illegal to have an abortion or the woman has been raped and become pregnant and would be condemned as guilty and where there are no adoption laws to legally transfer the baby over to anyone except to a relative to be cared for. But those are not usually babies born in shameful situations. Often the woman's life is in danger. There are no pregnancy crisis centers to get counsel and help and be provided with options. 

I wonder what I would have done if I had been Shahina, a victimized, disempowered, vulnerable widow living in a conservative Muslim country who had been taken advantage of by a man, or Afsana whose body was controlled by her husband(or mother-in-law), or Amina living as a poor refugee in transit barely able to find enough food or suitable shelter. I have heard too many stories.  I don't have all the answers or solutions. Suddenly I find myself becoming a pregnancy crisis center for these precious women. Thankfully here in my western country there are options but not everywhere else in the world.

Dear heavenly Father, please help me to know what to say and do when my Muslim friend talks about abortion. In Jesus’ name, Amen.