The Lord announces the word, and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng.
For eight years I have read about, thought of, prayed for and worked towards having a group of Muslim women in the home, studying the word of God together but this hope has remained elusive from my grasp. However, in the last 4 months God has brought me the gift of 2, sometimes 3 women with which to share in this way. They came, first to discuss the Prophets’ Stories in both the Qur’an and the Bible and their desire to continue to meet and their thirst for more conversation of this kind has led us to explore together the stories of Jesus. Each week, for the 6 weeks they return for another story and the dream, long-held, is becoming a reality.
What am I learning through this? What are the surprises and when am I smiling in recognition of the behaviours I’ve read about but not had the joy of experiencing? What is the Holy Spirit doing and how can I co-operate?
Bible studies with Muslim women are not time limited.
In great contrast to Wednesday morning women’s Bible studies or Thursday night home group meetings, which are often ‘done and dusted’ within 11/2 hours, I’m learning to set aside 3, sometimes 4 hours for our weekly meetings round the word. Instead of squeezing in some time in the day around all our other activities, this is the event of the day for us all.
What a great way to express value to our engagement with the Scripture.
Hospitality as a missional opportunity
The first week I set out what I considered to be a generous tray of nuts and dates, biscuits and cake. Tea and coffee was freely offered and it felt good to be serving my friends in this way. The next week juices were added to what was on offer by one friend and another brought fruit. By the third week we had been organised into a bring and share meal! So now not only do we get to share the Word around a book but faith conversations weave in and out of our enjoyment of biryani and the enquiry as to how to make jallebi.
How much we have to learn from our friends!!
The power of (long-term) relationship
We are a bunch of 7 women who are linked together through a series of interconnecting friendships which occur as we live together in this area of the city. Whilst only I am known by all, the trust each woman has in her friend means that all are willing to take the risk of meeting other friends to whom the enquiry of faith is important. The bond between us have grown quickly and suddenly this new friendship group is growing deep roots.
We’re all happy to read the gospel aloud
This has been a real surprise to me – any previously held fear of holding, opening or reading from the Bible has been dissolved by the love and friendship we have consistently offered. What joy to hear Najma* respond positively to my question on the first morning: “who wants to read it out?” I wasn’t prepared for the ripple of joy running through me on hearing the name of Jesus, and his words on her lips as she read through the account of the woman healed on the Sabbath
Mohammed and Qur’an have faded into the distance
I have read about this but to experience it has brought home to me the power of the word of God for those who seek Him. Any preparations I have made to counteract objections or questions around the authenticity of the Bible or the authority of Jesus have not been needed as the Truth speaks to enquiring hearts.
My friends recognise the cultural context of Jesus day
“This is so incredibly shameful!” they exclaim as we read of the plight of the woman with the issue of blood. The story of the woman taken in adultery is a familiar scene to both from childhood days in their own lands and they, themselves point out that, of course, there is no man being accused. Jesus’ dangerous and open contravention of Sabbath laws in order to bring freedom to the crippled woman speaks directly into their world of fear and the things which bind. We begin to see that the wonder Jesus’ engagement with women is more meaningful to them than perhaps it has ever been for us.
My friends are open to “show and “tell”
Like eager school girls they respond with enjoyment to meeting the challenge we are given each week to re-tell the story in our own words. Could it be, perhaps, that their culturally learnt extra developed ability to memorize what they’ve heard and read means that they are relating the story almost word for word – without sight of the text? One told her neighbour who came to join us, another her husband[i] who “found it interesting”…
The Jesus stories really are too good to keep to oneself.[ii]
This is beyond denomination
The Christians among us are all from different churches. We are sisters in Christ who have a heart for our Muslim friends to know the friendship of God through Jesus. Man-made structures and boundary lines set by tradition can’t keep women from meeting together for the sake of the gospel. We need each other in presence, prayer and range of life experience as we share our journey of what it means to follow Jesus with those wondering whether to join in.
What time is wasted and energy spent in casting our individual church goals in isolation from other church communities in the same neighbourhood.
The mission of God is bigger than any one of us!
*not her real name
[i] This response is directly opposite to the response of believing men who, when asked how their wives had taken the good news replied: “Why would we tell our wives?” Nik Ripken, The Insanity of Obedience, p. 162
[ii] Kenneth Bailey describes the Samaritan woman as the first evangelist as she responds to Jesus command to “go, tell and bring”. Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes (2008) IVP
Ann Williams: Ann has settled in the UK but has a long experience of cross-cultural living and interaction in a range of contexts. Knowledge gained from these experiences have been brought to bear on her current work and interest in enabling faith conversations between Muslim and Christian women at grass-roots level. She is passionate about seeking to ensure inclusion and accessibility to the things that matter so that transformative spaces are open to all; and sees links here to the way we do discipling.
© When Women Speak … July 2017