The power of encouragement

Nicole James | Arabian Peninsula

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” -1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)

Lauren*, a long-term worker in the Arabian Peninsula (AP), has seen Muslims come to faith over her years living in the Arab world. Those friends have also struggled to stay in the faith because it’s hard, she observed. “Many times God uses us just to encourage them.”

Bayan*, a Muslim background believer (MBB) whom Lauren befriended years ago, suddenly started avoiding Lauren and other Christians. After nine months or so, Bayan and Lauren met up again, four days before Bayan was supposed to travel to visit her family. During the meeting, Bayan shared her struggles with doubt and fear, especially concerning her relatives.

“She’s been a believer many, many years, but I saw how fear got ahold of her and actually paralyzed her,” Lauren said.

Sitting with Bayan, Lauren asked her friend, “Do you remember all the promises God has given you, for your family and for different things?”

“Oh, now that you mention it, tell me again,” Bayan replied. “I remember things, but can you just remind me?”

Lauren started telling Bayan about God’s promises as well as noting the encouraging things Bayan herself had shared over the years. “God revealed to you that your whole family will be saved,” she reminded Bayan.

In fact, God had given Bayan a specific number: 21 relatives would become believers. At first, the number had confused Bayan, who only counted 20 family members. But then her mother had called Bayan with an announcement—her sister was expecting a baby!

Before the women parted ways, Lauren told Bayan she would commit to pray for her every day. “I know you pray,” Bayan told Lauren. “That’s why we’re still standing.”

“She went home and every day, on Facebook or on WhatsApp, she would post a verse, which is quite a big thing for an MBB to do,” Lauren said.

As part of Lauren’s life in the Arabian Peninsula, she also posts daily verses on social media as an example and encouragement to friends like Bayan. She’s also honest about her own struggles.

For example, Bayan once asked Lauren if she ever doubted.

“All the time,” Lauren said.

“Really? Even people like you?” she wondered.

“We are exactly the same. It doesn’t matter that I got saved early,” Lauren emphasised.

“But you were born in a Christian family,” Bayan continued.

“It doesn’t make us believers,” Lauren countered. “And even if we come to faith early, it doesn’t exempt us from hardship.”

Bayan lit up when she heard that statement, Lauren remembered. “She found that so encouraging to hear that we can also doubt and fear, but how we, even us that know Jesus for years, still have to commit every day to the Lord. We are not exempted from anything.”

Often, workers face challenges different from those encountered by Muslim background believers, but prayer and encouragement remain constant, according to Lauren. “We can never understand completely what they’re going through, we can just pray how we can encourage them in their walk with God.”

*Name changed

Nicole James is a journalist, ESL teacher, and adventurer. As a writer for OM Middle East North Africa, she’s passionate about publishing the stories of God’s works among the nations, telling people about the wonderful things He is doing in the world.

Published: Monday, 01 February 2016
Credit: Nicole James
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