REVIEW: Books offer insight to help women reach women
As we interact with family members and share communities with peoples of other faiths or no faith at all, it is imperative for Christian women to know and put into practice what we have to offer.
Four recent books aid us in sharing our faith.
Events beginning Sept. 11, 2001, placed the Muslim faith in front of all of us. In “Woman To Woman: Sharing Jesus with a Muslim Friend,” Joy Loewen wants to equip American Christians to minister to Muslims.
Loewen has lived extensively in African and Asian Muslim cultures and so is uniquely qualified to give this advice.
Full of personal accounts of her interactions with Muslim women in Canada, Loewen’s book is a warmly written primer illustrating Muslim beliefs and practices and advising how to use interactions with Muslims to talk about Jesus.
Gentleness, kindness and modesty are musts, she writes. Offers of hospitality in the home should include the information that no alcohol or pork will be served. Muslim assurances that they are not “terrorists” need to be met with our assurances that we are not stereotypical “Hollywood people.”
Noting that Muslim conversions can take a long time, Loewen writes, “If we rise above our fear of Muslims and believe, we can be at home with them in the Kingdom, then we will see amazing things happen. But if we remain in fear, staying away from them, then we will be deprived of seeing the glory of God at work.”
After reading Loewen’s book, I feel better prepared to engage in spiritual discussions with Muslims I may meet.
But I was shocked by what I learned about the lives of some Muslim women in “The Imam’s Daughter: My Desperate Flight to Freedom.”
Hannah Shah’s memoir shows that the glory of God can work in very abusive situations. Her book serves both as an introduction to Muslim terms (for example, an imam is an unsalaried position in the local Muslim mosque that includes community leadership) and an expose of some of the problems Muslim women face.
Shah’s story of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, forced marriages and personal and mob violence, while well-told, is appalling.
However, abuse is not limited to Muslim cultures. Joan Ball’s “Flirting with Faith: My Spiritual Journey From Atheism to a Faith-Filled Life” will not surprise anyone familiar with the ravages of substance abuse, but may shock the reader by the extent to which Christians can mistreat one another.
Ball squandered her future with her hearty appetite for drugs, alcohol and dangerous behavior.
She began “Flirting with Faith” after she became involved with Martin, a Uruguayan immigrant to the U.S. Ball, an atheist, felt compelled to debunk Martin’s Christian beliefs. Martin listened to her patiently, shared his convictions, and let go of the outcome of their conversations.
Marrying Martin and becoming a zealous convert to born-again Christianity did not spare Ball either the troubles of life or a vicious accusation by another church member.
She writes, “I think that God allowed my comfortable church existence to be shaken up so that I could learn what it means to forgive radically and to love beyond reason, even when dealing with people I would have preferred to hate.”
Ball is not flirting with faith anymore; she has made a commitment.
As I pondered the accusations and abuse encountered by both Shah, the Muslim, and Ball, the Christian, I was grateful these women were willing to share their stories. Each makes me more aware of how I might be used by God to serve other hurting people. Indeed, what we all have to share with others is God’s grace, the subject of Catherine Martin’s book.
“A Woman’s Walk in Grace” is extravagantly enthusiastic about the grace of God and the possibilities for growth in relationship with Christ.
Martin, president of Quiet Time Ministries, a nonprofit organization offering resources for personal devotions, is fond of alliteration and acronyms. She wants to help women who are WIPs (Works In Progress) to become SWOGs (Super Women of God).
If the reader can accommodate her chirpy writing style, she offers important insights about a life lived in and by God’s grace. One example is how to make a yearly assessment of one’s spiritual growth in the areas of devotion, delight, discipleship, doctrine and dedication.
These books encourage Christian women to put our fears aside and to live in the grace of God so that we may offer hospitality to those of other faiths — and those who claim no faith.
While hospitality includes offering food and casual conversation in our homes, it is not limited to that. We offer hospitality to others when we give them a safe shelter from the storms of their lives and when we give them a safe space to express and explore their beliefs, questions and doubts.
Then, God willing, our gracious walk with God may lead them to their own walk with God.
LINDA L. ARCHER lives in Brockway, Pa. She is a member of the Du Bois Church of Christ and a volunteer chaplain assistant at Du Bois Regional Medical Center.