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A lesson on love: I held her hand.

19 January 2012

A month ago, on a cold, wet Tuesday, I went with several Christian women on an outreach to some of the Muslim women from Detroit and Dearborn. We were going to a missionary named Liz’s house for a Christmas party where she would share the gospel with the women, feed them, and give them gifts. Most of us met at my church and we all piled into an old school bus that now belongs to a church in Detroit. (They call it the Party Bus.) When I got on the bus, I was asked by one of the women running our end of the outreach to sit with a Muslim woman. She directed me to an old women wearing a black head dress and black clothes. I don’t remember her name, I just remember the darkness in her eyes, the pain and anger. I asked her if she had gone with them to Liz’s house before. She told me that she couldn’t understand or speak English with some very broken sentences and gesturing. I looked around and saw that this was the case for most of the women around me. Most of them had very poor holds on the English language. Now, I can understand a few languages and speak two… however, Arabic is not one of them. At all.

For the first ten or so minutes of the hour long bus ride, I sat mute, occasionally smiling at the elderly woman with whom I was sitting. At one point, I struck up a feeble conversation with an American woman, Jill, sitting behind me. She had also given up on trying to verbally communicate with the younger muslim woman with whom she was sitting. The conversation quickly died – I could see that she didn’t really have an interest in talking with anyone. I felt this deep desperation bubbling up in me: I felt like I was supposed to be there ministering to the women but I couldn’t figure out how to communicate with them. So, I began praying.

“Jesus, help me to show these women your love. Help me communicate. Give me a way to minister to them.” I looked over at the woman next to me and again there was that deep unhappiness in her eyes. They were completely devoid of life. Tears came to my eyes – how was I supposed to reach her? I started to pray for her heart and that she would feel God’s love in a real, tangible way on this outreach. I just started thinking: when I am upset, physical touch really reaches my heart. It was worth a try, so I reached for her hand. Her face erupted in this hug smile and she drew me into her bosom for a hug (she is a good hugger, too. She is like a Muslim equivalent to a Russian babushka). After that hug and a good hearty laugh, she let me go. But, I shook my head and took her hand again. I just smiled and wrapped her old, leathery hand in my young hands. Immediately, I could see her eyes welling up. Her mouth started quavering and she looked out the window while a few tears fell down her face. She squeezed my hand and wiped her sparkling eyes with her other hand. We held hands the entirety of the ride to Liz’s house. And the woman I was sitting with smiled, laughed, and chattered in Arabic happily with the Muslim women around her often stopping to raise up our joined hands and shake them, laughing with joy. I don’t understand what she was saying, but guessing by the tender, loving glances I received from all of the Muslims around me, it was all good.

When we got to Liz’s house, which is a beautifully historic house, some American women took our coats for us and we all took off our shoes. It was like going home. We were ushered into a sitting room that was filled with chairs and couches. The woman I sat with, still holding my hand, and I sat down on the couch together. Another Muslim woman, from Eygpt named Fatima, sat on the other side of me and together the three of us and the many other woman in the room were ministered to by Liz and her friends and family. With the help of an excellent translator, she shared the gospel, the Christmas story, and had a dear friend sing for us.

Liz told us a story about how she and her husband lived in England for many years as missionaries. While there, she felt alone because of the cultural differences. They speak the same language in England, but it is a different country and when your family is across the vast ocean, you can feel rather small and lonely. Before moving to England, Liz had discovered a Christian song artist named Nancy Honeytree and quickly discovered that Honeytree’s music blessed her soul. So she brought all of her CDs with her to England. That music was a huge blessing to her while in England and anytime she and her husband visited home, they would get new Honeytree albums. God knew that Liz was lonely, He knew that music blessed Liz’s soul…. so when Liz emailed Nancy and invited her to come play in England, God orchestrated it in a way only God can. And one night, Liz found herself in her house, in England, with Nancy Honeytree playing guitar and singing for just her. God knew that is what she needed. Liz told us that God knows our hearts like this – He knows what we want, He knows what we need and He wants to bless us. Many of the women were moved by this story. (Honestly, I cried a little when she told us about this story because I know what she was talking about and I think many of us do.)

After the music and sharing was over, Liz asked if any of the women wanted to know Jesus the way that she does. And the woman I was holding hands with, let go of my hand, raised both of her hands, tears in her eyes, and shouted “Me! Me!” and when we prayed the prayer together, her face was lit up with light I rarely see these days – it was pure joy.

She held my hand the whole rest of the day, often chattering at me in Arabic, and when I didn’t understand her, she would tug on a bilingual speaker’s dress and I would be told “she says you are so nice. You are so beautiful. Or “she wants you to come visit so she can cook you lots of arabic food. You would like that, yes?” Her eyes glowed, her anger wrinkles, and weariness was gone. She was so beautiful.

I don’t know if she still has that ageless beauty that comes from Jesus today or if that prayer she prayed actually did anything in this moment, but I do know that Jesus broke some chains in her, that God showed her the beginning of the depths of His love.


Talking with David about this later, I really learned a valuable lesson: Love isn’t just an emotion, it is an action. And while I knew this already, I discovered it in a tangible practical way. I learned that communication is so much more about your actions than your words. And I learned that my dream to go around the world with David sharing God’s love is not that far off – we’ve already started in Dearborn. I also learned, from my wise fiance, that it is often not about the harvest, it is about the sowing. We can’t always stick around to reap the harvest, but we can trust that God will do all the watering needed if a heart is willing to receive and that He will place people where they are needed. That is a beautiful thing!

And you know? I may not have been able to reap the harvest in this woman’s life, but the life that I saw spark up in the ashes of her soul…? The joy I saw radiating from her eyes? That was enough.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 19 January 2012 18:07

    This is AWESOME Danike!!!

  2. Sylvia permalink
    21 January 2012 23:25

    This inspires me to be more bold in my actions to express Jesus’ love.

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