International Ministries

Culture and Faith: Exploring New Territory

October 14, 2011 Journal
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In a recent letter I spoke of my visit to a mosque of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Silver Springs, Maryland, and finding that they often used similar words (with different understandings) and apologetics for their faith.  The day of our visit, we didn´t get into much theological details (there are large gaps in my understanding of Islam) but we at least could observe the practice of their worship.

Obviously as a woman I had to go to the section of the mosque (the second floor) designated for women.  The men and the imam (minister) are on the first floor where people sit on a carpeted floor to worship.  The women´s section is the same carpeted area (there are lines to show where to sit) situated directly above the men´s area, with a Plexiglas circle which opens above the front area of the men´s room.  But it is also frosted at the bottom part so that no one looking up from below would be able to see anyone standing above, although women can just barely see over the Plexiglas frost barrier to observe what is going on below.  Both men and women cover their heads while in worship and most of the older women wear head coverings at all times.  There are even two glass-enclosed nurseries where mothers worship with their children so as not to disturb the other women.  Other mothers brought large bottles of milk and had their children lay on the rug beside them as they prayed.

The Muslim professor who hosted us believes that Islam does not restrict women, but that rather it is the wider culture which dictates additional rules.  Yet his wife, an educated woman living in America, wears her head covering at all times, although you can see her entire face.  She was a wonderful tour guide to the women´s section, explaining many things we saw.  I admire her piety, but I was glad that I am a Christian! 

Jesus went (and continues to go) counter-culture, giving women a much greater worth than their own culture awarded them.  To Jesus, women are just as worthy of redemption as men, as well as capable of serving God.

This is at sad odds with the reality that many live in the countries where I have served as a missionary.  In Nicaragua, it is a firmly held belief that a woman is nothing without a man, even if she has to share him or put up with beatings.  How tragic not to recognize each one´s worth because we are each uniquely created by God!  In Cuba, women serve tirelessly (men do also, but women in greater numbers) in the church, yet in many cases they are not given the recognition they deserve.  Yet in both these Latin American societies, it is often the women who give stability to families as men move around. 

I have seen how culture does affect both Muslim and Christians as they live out their lives – and it does not always lead to healthy or moral relations.  That is why during my home assignment, in addition to getting to know different churches and people, I am studying what constitutes healthy relationships in families.  I feel led in the direction of working with churches, and especially women, to help them understand what the gospel means to them on a very personal level.  Because they have worth in God´s eyes, how will they act?  How will their faith help them in their everyday relationships, especially with their families?  Will it make a difference in the choices that they make?

Please pray with me as I ask God to lead me more specifically in my ministerial direction.  Pray for me as I try to prepare myself better.  And pray that God will raise up commitments for the 23% that I yet need to reach my Personal Support Goal. 

I am so thankful to be a Christian, for both worth and salvation which comes through Jesus Christ.  I am also grateful for your prayer and financial support, which I count on to make my ministry possible.  May God´s might and mercy empower us as we serve Him!