Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Vulnerable Girls

"See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children, and we really are!” First John 3:1a

I was a vulnerable little girl. Where I grew up I often felt like I was viewed as a sexual object. I heard indecent words, endured pinches, and long lustful stares. My missionary parents carefully protected me by not allowing me to roam around by myself outside. My brother could but not me. One day a Muslim man approached dad about wanting to marry me. With his ability to come up with quick answers dad informed the man I was worth one hundred camels, knowing that he could not fulfill that demand. In that culture men are worth 100 camels and a woman 50 camels. Furthermore dad told him he would not know where to store the camels either. I’m sure mom and dad prayed fervently for God to shield me.

Little girls can be vulnerable in the Islamic world. Of course, they can be anywhere in the world, including the West, but having lived in Muslim countries I have observed there is a difference between how boys and girls are viewed or treated. Very sad! There was a time in pre-Islamic history when some baby girls were physically buried alive. Praise God that practice has been abolished. Being “buried alive” psychologically can still take place, however. There are little girls who have not been wanted at birth. Thank God, I also personally know many families where girls were wanted and loved equally as much as boys. Congratulations will be given to the mother who gives birth to a boy but not always if she has given birth to a girl. Perhaps the mother’s marriage may be jeopardized by giving birth to a girl(or too many girls) rather than a boy. Occasionally a woman is rejected if she does not produce any child. Sometimes a girl is given away to relatives in the extended family who can’t have a child.  I have a Muslim friend who had this happen to her.  The single Muslim woman does not have an easy road to walk. A girl is often raised with different standards and rules than her brothers. They are given more freedoms than her. Many little girls, but not all, are not able to go to school or pursue higher education. Their brothers are but not them. Then there are vulnerable little girls(both Muslim and Christian) who go through the trauma of undergoing female genital mutilation. Some get married off at a very young age. One of my Muslim friend's told me how her 12 year old sister was married off against her will. She had not even begun menstruating. I know these girls personally.

The good news is that God loves girls as much as He loves boys. We are equally precious. Remind your Muslim women friends of this truth. They need to hear it often. Maybe, my Christian sister, you need to be reminded of that truth, too. Are you carrying some unhealed wounds from childhood? How’s the “little girl” in you doing? If your wounds have been healed share that good news with your Muslim friend.

Dear heavenly Father, please heal some vulnerable girl’s wounds today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Vulnerable Mothers and Babies

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love….” Romans 8:38a

After giving birth to our son at our mission hospital in northern Pakistan the visitors started coming. One person gave us a doll, larger than our newborn, and some pink satin fabric. That seemed very strange to us because we usually associated dolls and pink with girls more than boys. Our local house helper was perplexed how I could fit into Jonny’s small crib. It was unthinkable that a baby would sleep by himself. Over the years I have observed babies with eye liner around their eyes and black pouches on strings hanging around their necks. Sometimes little pendants of an eye are pinned to the baby’s sleeper or they wear a gold chain with an Islamic saying. Miniature Qur’ans may be placed near babies where they sleep. One of my friends dressed her baby girl in boy’s clothes. When I asked her why she mumbled something about the jinn. Another friend traced patterns on her baby’s face with her finger. When my twin brother and I were born in Yemen some Muslim women made little bonnets for us to protect the soft fontanel part of our heads from the jinn whom they claimed enter there. For a western Christian all of these things can seem bewildering and strange.

It doesn’t take long for the Christian woman ministering among Muslim women to catch on that newborn babies are viewed as exceedingly vulnerable to sickness or harm which is often attributed to the activity of jinn or the evil eye of jealousy of some other woman. It doesn’t make much difference whether we are living in an Islamic country or a western nation. Many Muslim mothers are afraid of harm coming to their babies and can feel helpless in protecting them. They look for tangible ways to ensure protection and blessing, even if they know such practices are considered haram in Islam. The mother may even be a well educated woman but the scary stories that are passed down to her from her mother, grandmother, and aunties continue to instill fear and anxiety.

It is heart warming to witness the high value put on motherhood in Muslim cultures. If you have a Muslim friend who is a mother affirm that high value and encourage her in the hard work of raising children. When she gives birth to a child make careful observation of any lurking fears or anxieties. Assure her that even though her baby is weak and vulnerable God is fully able and desirous of protecting her baby. God’s jealousy over her baby is pure and good and stronger than any jealous eye of jinn or people. She needs to know that God is much stronger than Satan, jinn, and the evil eye and that He loves both her and her baby very much. It takes faith to believe that. There probably is no better time to teach your Muslim friend about God’s love and power than when she has just delivered a baby.

Dear heavenly Father, help some vulnerable mother this day to know Your deep love and power. In Jesus’ name, Amen.