From the first conversation during the first week my husband and I stepped foot in the Arab World, Mayar and I chose to be friends. She has had a few Christian friends in the past, but none of them have ever shared the Gospel with her, nor have they ever even explained simple truths about Jesus to her.
She had never heard that Christians could hear from God until the night several of us ladies—both Arab and internationals— grabbed dinner at a local fatir place (fatir is flat bread made from barley flour). As Mayar listened to our conversation, she was fascinated by fact that God can speak to people, and specifically the ways in which God speaks to Christians, since this is a concept foreign to her religion. After that evening, my friendship with Mayar grew as her interest sparked more questions and more interactions, and I have come to call Mayar my first true Arabian friend.
The other night, Mayar and another friend, Bailee, came to my house to learn how to make red curry. As we walked from the main square to my home, I began to remember a conversation we had the other day that gave me hope but puzzled me at the same time: As Mayar and I sat in a local café, having yet another conversation about God, Mayar declared, “I want you to know that I do not think Jesus is weak.” She continued, “Jesus is God, and God cannot be weak.”
I was stunned.
I didn’t know what to make of that proclamation! Muslims do not say things like this—gespecially in public.
So as Mayar and I climbed the stairs to my apartment, in hushed tones I inquired, “Mayar, what did you mean the other day when you said ‘Jesus is God?’”
She whispered, “I believe Jesus is God also.”
As the night progressed, the Holy Spirit’s presence became increasingly evident. After our red curry dinner, Bailee, Mayar, and I sat on the couch in the living room and the conversation quickly switched to Mayar’s misgivings about continuing college. She expressed how deeply she wanted to travel and live for a purpose: “I am worried that working towards a business degree is wasting my time,” she confessed.
Mayar was wavering on so many decisions in her life. Her confidence in her ability to make a good life for herself seemed frail. Suddenly, God reminded me of a passage in Jeremiah that I strongly felt God wanted me to tell her. I could only remember the first part of the Jeremiah 29: “Mayar, this is what God says about you: ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.’” Because Mayar is still learning English, and I, Arabic, there were some language barriers.
Then Bailee suggested we simply read the verse from the Bible, so I handed an Arabic Bible to Mayar, and she began to read aloud from Jeremiah 29. I am so glad she read past verse 11 because the rest of Jeremiah 29 says, “’Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from the nations I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back from where I sent you in exile’” (Jeremiah 29: 11-14, emphasis added).
Mayar stopped reading, looked at us, and seemed a little shell-shocked. Now, the reason I felt compelled to have her over for dinner in the first place was because she and her father had recently had a huge argument resulting in her being forced to leave her home and stay with her grandma, so I wanted to help alleviate the stress of her situation by surrounding her with friends and support. Mayar said this had happened several times before, and her father usually allowed her back into the house after two days. This time, however, it had been nine days since the fight erupted, and her father was still refusing to speak to her or about her to anyone in her family. Mayar was deeply hurt and confused.
As she looked at me, the words of verse 14 ringing in her head, I told her I knew that this was from the Lord, and we began to talk about how when we pray to Jesus, He always hears and answers. Always. We spent the rest of the evening looking more into stories from the Bible about her people’s history. She continued to read passages in the Arabic Bible, and her excitement grew as she read stories in her own language about her own people—stories she had never heard before.
Before the night was out, Bailee was able to pray with Mayar. The Holy Spirit was clearly touching her heart. The major theme of the night was that God cares about her and that Jesus always answers prayer (maybe not in the way you want or expect…but He always comes through). I gave her the Arabic Bible to take home.
The night came to a close when she whispered gently, “I need to go.” In Middle Eastern culture, it is customary to insist over and over that the guest stays; so of course Bailee and I urged her not to leave! She again repeated, “I need to go now so I may read this more.” With tears in her eyes she tapped the Bible. Then she left for her grandma’s home.
Later that night as I was turning off the lights to go to sleep, Mayar called me. She normally texts me; she only calls if something is urgent. She began, “I am so sorry to call you, but I had to. When I got home to my grandma’s apartment, my father called and said I can come home.” She said these words with an air of seriousness and reserved excitement.
The words of Jeremiah 29:4 rang in my head as I exclaimed, “Mayar, that is AWESOME! Praise God! Humdillallah!” Joy leapt from my voice.
“I am speechless.” Her voice was trembling. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Praise Jesus—that is what you say! Mayar, I am so excited for you,” we began laughing together.
God brought her out of exile just as He had promised His people long ago.
“I just needed you to know what happened; thank you so much and thank you for this thing, this precious gift,” referring to the Bible. Even later into the night, she texted me saying that the day had been one of the best she has ever had.
I spent the rest of the night praising God until I fell asleep.
—End of Part 1—