As Fatima candidly shared with me about her life and family back home, I began to separate the Islamic governments from the individuals who lived, loved, argued and died under their rule.  I also came to see that the veil-a powerful symbol of oppression to us-is to them a symbol of their society's fierce commitment to protect their wives and daughters.  I could disagree and even argue that "it didn't work," but knowing another motive melted my instinctive repulsion.

 

But we chose not to argue.  It was a small price to pay for the right to live our Christian lives as close to them as possible.  Together we watched the newscasts as the Persian Gulf conflict unfolded.  We managed polite discussions about politics and bit our lips when Hamid criticized American policies.  If we needed to vent about it, we did it later at home.  After all, we were not their friends to win them over to the American way of life. We wanted them to become citizens of the kingdom of God.  So we simply let them know we were praying for their relatives back home during those uncertain weeks and months. 

 

After we had become good friends, I took the initiative to ask Fatima if she would be willing to study the Koran with me.  Not only did I learn the teachings of the Koran, but Fatima took an honest look at her own religious beliefs. 

 

"Traditionally, we do not think about the Koran," she told me at one point.  "We just memorize it."  Thinking about the Koran raised issues she had never considered.  As we went along, I was able to explain how different stories and teachings coincided or compared with the Bible.  And because I was willing to read the Koran, she accepted the Arabic New Testament (Injil) I gave her.

 

Three years after we met, Fatima and her family returned home to the Middle East.  We still correspond and I pray for her often.  She made no profession of faith, but I know that there is now one woman in Mecca who knows where to go to find Jesus.  And when I hear testimonies of Muslims seeking Jesus Christ -- who have heard His name via radio or literature and who want to read God's Word -- my old fears give way to renewed hope. 

 

God has not called me to go abroad and live among Muslims, but He has opened my heart to care about these people He so dearly loves.

 

Reneé S. Sanford is co-author of the 400 pages of devotional application notes in the Living Faith(tm) Bible: Tyndale House Publishers

 

To request a free excerpt, write to Renée at drsanford@earthlink.net