by Dinah Monahan
Dinah is the founder and director of Psalm 51 ministries and has traveled with Joy many times to Ethiopia. Her forte is encouraging women coming out of Islam to stand in the freedom God has for them as beloved and cherished daughters of the King.
“Lord, what can I possibly say to encourage these women? Anything from my cushy world would ring hollow and useless in theirs.” That was my prayer as I prepared to speak to the wives of the indigenous missionaries in Ethiopia. These women lived in a foreign world to me. Separated not just by oceans but by living standards and experiences. Some were the poorest of the poor.
They lived in rural villages and spent their lives in that one place. They, along with their husbands had made the dangerous decision to follow Jesus. Their husbands then became missionaries to their own Mus!im tribesmen. It is a dangerous world for these Christ followers!
I was speaking at a NewLife Ethiopia conference for the missionaries and their wives in a nicer hotel in the city. Most of these women had never even eaten out in a restaurant much less stayed in a hotel room. I had prayed over my talk, and I believe the Holy Spirit inspired me. I put together a presentation on how radical Jesus was in his treatment of women. As I studied the culture of Jesus’ day, it occurred to me that it was very like the culture these precious women had been raised in. They were nothing. They couldn’t read or write. They could not speak to a man. A man would never speak to them outside their home. They couldn’t go out unescorted to the market or other public places. I shared how Jesus valued women and responded with compassion. How He comforted the widow of Nain; He healed the bleeding woman; He spoke with the woman at the well; He called her, “daughter of Abraham,” which had only been used for men as sons of Abraham, a sign of their value and status. These women’s delight was obvious when I shared that the woman at the well was the first evangelist as she went and told everyone in her town about Jesus. After I finished my talk, my interpreter said, “Never have we heard such words as these.”
After the talk, the ladies made jewelry out of the colorful beads we had brought, talking and laughing among themselves. This conference and my talk faded in my memory as I returned home to the demands of my life. But God’s inspiration was for more than that moment!
My friend, Joy Casey with NewLife Ethiopia, and I put together this retreat for the missionaries and their wives. A month ago, when Joy was in Ethiopia, she wrote me this:
“I was encouraged and delighted when K’s* wife told me what she had done gathering Christian sisters together and then inviting Mus!im women to their gathering sharing your message with them. They must meet in secret but the Mus!im women are hungry for words of encouragement. Today I met with our Oromo missionaries, and they told me their wives have used the jewelry they made at the retreat as a way to start spiritual conversations. They wear the bracelet or necklace they made and invariably another woman will comment on it and that is an open door for sharing about the conference, what they learned and how Jesus loves them, etc. One wife said everywhere she goes … funerals, marketplace, births, gathering water … she uses the jewelry to tell whoever asks that it is a sign she is a believer in the One who respects women. Several wives expressed the revolutionary idea that they as women can be a missionary! All because of your message and fun with beads!”
P.S. from Joy:
Dinah and I are already planning the next retreat!
*K is the initial of one of our missionaries. We do not share names due to security concerns.