Friday, February 24, 2017

Feeling Discouraged

“…be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” I Corinthians 15: 58

After a meeting I sometimes hear the following comments: I want to meet Muslim women but I can’t seem to meet any…They don’t look at me if I meet them in the store…I can’t speak her language…I’m too young…I’m too old…I’m a single mom…I’ve been divorced…She’s always so busy…She doesn’t ever call me…I’m tired of always taking the initiative…She just stopped meeting with me and I don’t know why…She is afraid to hear anything…She can’t read even in her own language…Her community is putting pressure on her to stay away from me…I can’t see any spiritual hunger or thirst in her…Her demands and expectations of me are so high…I think she was offended by something I said or did but she won’t tell me what…She can’t seem to rise above the fear of the evil eye…She can’t forgive…I tell her about her rights in our country but she still thinks the court system here is like in her homeland…She loves Isa al Masih and even says “he’s the best” but her prophet is “the last”…She can’t understand the Trinity or that Isa al Masih is God manifested in the flesh…I’ve befriended her for two years but still she isn’t interested in my faith…I feel too inadequate to witness…She’s afraid to read the Bible…I prayed in the name of Isa al Masih for my friend and He answered the prayer with a miracle but she said she also prayed to Hussein, Ali, Fatima, Maryam or Imam Reza…She came to church once but isn’t interested in going back…My church doesn’t understand how difficult it is for me ministering to Muslim women…The church can’t see my ministry so they have a hard time standing behind me…My church isn’t suitable to invite Muslims to…There isn’t any fellowship in my city of believers from Muslim background…I feel so alone…etc.

It is easy to quickly get discouraged trying to reach Muslim women with the Good News. Our love and compassion can fluctuate – maybe even disappear. We’re not so sure anymore that God has called us to this ministry. Where are the visible results? It all takes so long. How long should I even hang in there?

I’ve often gotten discouraged in the 38 years of ministry. Every time I get discouraged I have a good cry, talk it out with God, beg for more strength and perseverance, tarry in His presence for comfort, and listen to some worship music and read the Word of God. At these times I find I need to stay away from Christians who sensationalize everything. They will make me more discouraged. I find encouragement from those who suffer well with some kind of affliction or have experienced a degree of persecution. I also find networking with other Christians involved in Muslim ministry to be helpful. We all seem to understand each other. Keep on keeping on, my sisters. God is Almighty! NOTHING you do for the Lord is ever useless or wasted. Just remember who you are doing it for.

Dear heavenly Father, please send encouragement to a discouraged sister today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Receiving Questionable Gifts

"Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away."  Romans 8:38b

When we have Muslim friends the time will probably come when we will be given an artifact gift which may cause us some concern what to do with it. What if a friend gives us a necklace with the Ka’aba charm? Such artifacts usually have a clear religious symbolism or purpose connected to them. At other times we will receive gifts which have no religious significance and do not compromise our faith convictions.

One of the first gifts I received was a hand of Fatima artifact. It came in the mail from a friend who returned to Iran.  It was meant to provide protection for me.  My friend loved me and meant only good but I depend on the Lord Jesus to protect me, not the hand of Fatima. I kept it for a while and put it away in a cupboard, thinking it could be used for teaching seminars about folklore beliefs. But after some time I didn’t feel I needed to have the actual relic to teach about it so I disposed of it. Another time a Muslim friend gave me a Turkish blue eye pendant to hang in my house. It proved awkward for me because it was a birthday gift and she was with me as I opened it.  What should I do with it, I wondered?  It was meant to divert bad luck but I don’t believe in bad luck. My faith is not in such objects but in a Redeemer who brings good out of evil.  I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by refusing it so I thanked her for remembering my birthday and asked her if she thought the eye would bring protection and good luck?  “Yes”, she replied.  I explained my protection is really just in God. Later I disposed of it.  Another time it was not an artifact which was given to me but a friend offered me zamzam water to drink from Hagar's well in Saudi Arabia. It was a stressful moment but I thanked her for her kindness and then inquired why she drinks zamzam water? “Is it meant to bring healing or blessing?” I asked. She laughed but didn’t answer my question. Finally a family member spoke up that they believe it brings healing. I replied,  "Actually I have something better than zamzam water. I have Living Water, who is Jesus Himself.”

We will respond in different ways. We can immediately refuse to accept the gift and possibly jeopardize a friendship and hurt their feelings.  Or we can accept it and keep it but not use it or we can dispose of it afterwards.  For me the most important thing is to understand the intended purpose of the artifact. Such gift receiving times provide excellent opportunities to inquire, listen, and speak into our friend’s fears and anxieties and to share about the protection we find in Almighty God. Being human means that we will each encounter suffering at some point but that God is with us and is our Redeemer, Protector, and Savior.  

Dear heavenly Father, if you would not be with me I would need such artifacts but You have promised Your presence and love at all times.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.