Last Christmas...

The following article is taken from the November 2019 edition of the newsletter of ReachAcross and is used with their permission.

Ava invites us inside her world of ministry to immigrant women as she shares a year of friendship with one Middle Eastern mother.

It is the Christmas season, and I am taking Walidah to a church near her home. She wants to volunteer in their programme for Special Needs children, having an autistic son herself. She is surprised by the kindness of the Christians there, and especially amazed by a simple nativity scene with Mary and Joseph dressed in Middle Eastern robes. I mention that Jesus and his family were from Palestine; she hadn’t expected western Christians to know or accept this fact.

The rack of free pamphlets also catches Walidah’s eye and she takes a special interest in a daily devotional series. I explain what it is and how people use it, including reading the Scripture portion. She doesn’t have a Bible, so I ask if she wants one, she says “Yes!” - she wants an Arabic version “So I can understand it; I really want to understand!” Walidah’s last question is: “Can a Muslim attend this church?” I assure her she would be most welcome.

Walidah hasn’t answered texts or phone calls for the rest of December, and I haven’t been able to give her the Bible she wanted. A mutual friend says they moved house on Christmas Day. It seems her autistic son destroyed her phone so she now has a new phone and new number. I pray that I can connect with her to give her the Bible. I also want to introduce her to the leader of the Special Needs ministry in my own church…

February is drawing to an end and I still have had no contact with Walidah. One Sunday I ask friends to pray for renewed contact. The next day, after texting her, she phones back - praise God for answered prayer! She says she is free right now and asks me to come over, so I drop everything and go. I see her new home, meet her friendly, book-loving autistic son, and before leaving she accepts the Bible.

It is now Easter time, and it has been at least six weeks again since my last contact with Walidah – and suddenly here is a text inviting my husband and me to visit! Her husband works afternoon shifts, so we have morning coffee together as two couples. Although Walidah has accepted a Bible and was keen to read it, I am not sure her husband knows she owns one, so don’t feel comfortable asking her about this as we sit together. I pray we can have private conversations in the future. I pray Walidah reads the Bible and understands the truth.

Walidah had a difficult experience over the summer: her autistic son pushed another girl –whose mum then slapped her son. The situation became very heated. Unfortunately, the security guard who came to sort the situation out took the side of the ‘white’ woman leaving Walidah upset at the apparent discrimination. I try to empathise and offer a different point of
view, but instead she feels even more offended and has refused to answer my calls or return my messages ever since. I pray again that she will read the Bible and find comfort, wisdom and peace.

I pray that she will remember last Christmas, and her amazement and wonder when she first saw the nativity scene.

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