About six years ago, when Josiah and I were in language school full time, we hired Aicha* to come to our home to help with cleaning and child care. Our family connected with her right away. She and I talked, using the little Arabic that I had and the little French that she knew. She was great with our kids, playing with them and teaching them new songs. She would often put our daughter to bed or pretend to put her doll to sleep by singing Frere Jaque (Brother John). From early on we had a lot of conversations about faith and what we each believe. I would talk to her about Jesus and she would share with me some of the beliefs of Islam, and as we talked it was clear that she was cool towards followers of Jesus, especially those who had once been Muslims. She had an aunt who was a follower of Jesus and it was difficult for her to accept that reality.
Over the course of the last six years we have had more and more conversations about faith. Aicha had a family crisis about three years ago. Her husband was falsely accused and put in prison and she struggled during that time. Her believing aunt was the one family member who was the most supportive of her, and we also tried to help her by making it possible for her daughter stay in school, giving Aicha meals, and providing food for the kids. That is when I really saw softening in her heart. She started watching the satellite TV channel that has stories from the Old and New Testament, and she would come to work and describe the most recent one she had watched. It was obvious that she liked what she knew about Jesus and was enthusiastic in telling me about what she was learning.
Last year, on Christmas Eve, she asked me “What are you going to be doing tomorrow—on Christmas Day?” So I told her about how, as a family, we read the story of Jesus, we sing songs, we open presents and we spend the day celebrating who Jesus is and his birth. She replied, “Tomorrow, I am going to do that by myself at home.” As she was speaking I was thinking about how God would want me to respond. Initially I wondered if I should invite Aicha to spend the day with us, but what came to mind (and I believe I was prompted by the Holy Spirit) as to tell her to talk to her aunt, the believer, who would be celebrating Christmas in a North African way that next day. So, I said, “Why don’t you talk to your aunt about celebrating Christmas with her?” She seemed kind of hesitant, unsure if she really wanted to do that but again as she left I repeated, “You know, you should really talk to your aunt about celebrating Christmas together tomorrow.”
Two days later when she came back for work she said, “My aunt called me as I was leaving your house and invited me to come celebrate Christmas with her family, and that’s what I did.” She said it had been a really good time with her aunt and her family celebrating Christmas and spending time together. It was rewarding to see how her aunt responded to the Spirit’s prompting to call and invite her to be a part of that time. I see that God is continuing to work in her life, softening her more and more to the Good News.
Since that time, Aicha has begun to pray with us and has even initiated times of prayer when she or I were going through a difficult time. One day as we were talking, she asked me to pray for her. She said that she wanted her heart to be clean before God and wanted to follow him with all of her heart. I told her again that Jesus is that way and if she wants him to, he will take her sins and clear them from the book (she believes that there is a record being kept of all the right and wrong things she has done). She had often talked about the fears that she lived with, but as we prayed, I sensed a peace and joy in her.
As with many others here, this process is long and slow, but there is a desire to be close to God. As our friends’ hearts become more softened to him, he will reveal himself to them. We want to be faithful to keep sharing stories and words that will turn their focus towards Jesus.
*Names changed for security purposes.
Sara and her family have lived in North Africa for the past seven years. Sara is married to Josiah and is a busy mother of five children (including twin toddlers). She is a nurse practitioner who assists with health education in rural areas. Sara and her family have a vision to plant seeds of the good news among those whose hearts are prepared to receive.