Sharing My Treasure
They are beautiful, but they live without hope.
On the walls of the bakery are framed pictures of Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad and the place of his first revelation of the Quran. Islam regards Mecca as the holiest city in their religion and a pilgrimage to it is obligatory for Muslims. In our times of visiting the women in this bakery, we’ve discovered one of the men who works there has made this pilgrimage and that the ladies have not, but want to someday. One of the ladies, with her conservatively covered head and warm smile told us that she actually goes to the mosque regularly. I haven’t found a woman who goes among our people group before – usually only men. Our previous conversations have been friendly and about everything from how many children we have to politics. But yesterday was different. We walked into this bakery, ready to contend with the enemy who has blinded them. We walked in, full of compassionate zeal to steward our numbered days with wisdom and trust and boldness. This day was different in that it was the 5 year anniversary of the day my dad committed suicide and left me not only motherless, but fatherless as well. 5 years ago I walked into my childhood home, glanced to the left at the bed where my mom died, and then walked to the right and saw the door which was God’s merciful barrier between my tear-filled eyes and my father’s remains. It was a day brimming with traumatic memories that left me particularly vulnerable to questions and dark clouds of depression that hate my joy and would love to hold me captive inside my house. God’s faithfulness to redeem all that was stolen has taken many forms in my story, but one way is that He has given me a hope-filled resolve to not be like my father. I will not be taken out. I will not give up. I will declare the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
5 years ago, the enemy seemed to have won but yesterday my battle cry – “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55 – was straight from scripture and lit a fire within that fueled persevering faith. Each victorious step out of my home towards this bakery where I had hoped to share Jesus, was a declaration that in Christ death has been defeated. Yes, people will continue to die, even by their own hand, but watching God turn that tragedy into a redemption story in my life has become my victory song. Like each of our stories, this story is a story meant to be told. And what better day than this anniversary. Death, you have no victory in my life. Death, you have no victory over Jesus. Death, you will not steal every Muslim, for God is at work among them and His children of Light are declaring His Word even on their saddest days. Because God is forever faithful, wholly good, and His grace sustains through the impossible.
This day was also peculiar in that the bakery was more empty than usual. This typically bustling hub had only a few other diners and at times no one but us. The three of us sat down and my newborn attracted the Muslim ladies to our table. They love babies and without hesitation, scooped mine up and spoke sweetly to him. As we sat there, my heart started beating hard with nerves. I knew the bakery was empty for a reason. I knew my opportunity to verbally share my story was at hand. I knew I had the language skills even if it still can be intimidating to formulate such a deep and intimate story in another tongue. With a shaky voice, I told my story. It was scary. It was emotionally challenging. But God was my helper and it was worth it.
But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”
2 Corinthians 4:5-13
I shared how my parents had died; how I once had no hope; how I met a woman who started teaching me the Bible and how Jesus rescued me. I talked about how Jesus gave me hope and joy and peace. A mixture of emotions flowed through my heart. Sorrow over my parents. Joy over remembering how I had been rescued. Thankfulness how God has given me a woman who disciples me still. Nerves that I stumbled over some grammar. Urgency for the souls of these women. Hope that God will save them. And trust, because sometimes it seems impossible for people to turn from empty religions to the Giver of Life.
But God does impossible things everyday.
The ladies eventually left our table to help customers who had just arrived. My friends and I continued eating breakfast and after awhile, the ladies returned. One of my friends then boldly gave each woman a copy of the gospel of John in their language. Just as the Spirit had led me to prepare my story to share, the same Spirit had led my friend to put some literature in her bag. The ladies kindly accepted it, but unlike others who quickly place such literature out of sight, one pulled out her reading glasses and began reading scripture to the other! As they read, my friend who had given the scripture to them and explained so beautifully in their heart language what it was, wanted to share a specific verse but couldn’t remember the reference. When she turned towards us and quoted it, our other friend excitedly said “it’s in John! I read it last night!” My heart exploded with joy as I reveled in the moment. The same Spirit not only had me prepare my story, and had my friend bring portions of the New Testament, but also had led our other fellow laborer to that specific scripture just hours prior so it would be fresh in her mind. I’ve had many days of sharing with lost women alone while on the field, but what joy there is in watching God use all three of us together, in different capacities, for the good of His Kingdom.
Please pray for these women! Lord willing, we will continue visiting them and sharing with them. Pray that they will read the book of John that they have!
As I walked out of the bakery, I could not believe how God had truly taken my saddest of days and used it for His glory! My story is sometimes a story that I desperately wish was not mine, but the more I trust God with my broken heart, grit my teeth and do the hard thing of choosing joy, the more beauty I see in the Father’s allowance of sanctifying suffering in the lives of His children. It’s ok to be fragile. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
My ugly story contains within it the most beautiful treasure.
That treasure is the glory of God seen in the face of Jesus.
That treasure is the light shining from our hearts despite the dark circumstances we find ourselves in.
That treasure is His power through us.
That treasure is Jesus.
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. We, you and me, live in a suffering world – a world that will see beyond our fragile jar exteriors. A world that will see His treasure shining because He is all together lovely and He triumphs amid human weakness.
“If there is one thing that we are coming to learn together in this church, it is that God’s purpose to get the glory in all things determines how we do all things. Here God’s purpose is to make sure that we see that the surpassing power belongs to him and not to us. How does he do it? He puts the treasure of his gifts and his gospel in clay pots like you and me. Your ordinariness is not a liability; it is an asset, if you really want God to get the glory. No one is too common, too weak, too shy, too inarticulate, too disabled to do what God wants you to do with your gift.”
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
do not lose heart…