Studying English through the Bible

Mary May | North Africa

Maria* has been serving for several years in an association in North Africa where she teaches women to sew and make crafts. One of the women, Bahia, asked Maria to teach her English, but Maria was very reluctant to do this because English isn’t her first language.

After a while, Maria offered to teach English if Bahia was happy for her to do it through stories in the Bible.

Bahia is from a conservative Muslim family, and though she is married with children, her family members were not happy for her to come to Maria’s home on her own. Her niece, Jamila, who was of a similar age, came with her for a while. Jamila seemed quicker in understanding the truths in the books they studied, but was reluctant to continue with the classes.

Maria started the classes by inviting the women and Bahia’s children for some traditional food from her country. She did art with the children and tried to study with Bahia and Jamila. When it became obvious that they couldn’t focus on the study with the children there, Maria asked if the adults could come on their own.

Over several months they studied Jonah and a number of the prophets. Later, they followed some study material through the books of Judges and Ruth. Maria recalled one time when it was raining heavily and it would have been difficult for them to get the tram in such stormy weather, but they came. 

While they were reading about Gideon, Maria asked them why Gideon had changed from his earlier experience of trusting and obeying God. Gideon and the people were worshipping idols (earlier, he had destroyed household idols). Jamila said that Gideon had lost his love for God, that’s why he worshipped idols. 

Maria also did the El Messiah studies with Bahia which are designed to take Muslims through the prophet stories and into the New Testament to learn about Jesus. The El Messiah studies started well, but Bahia became very angry at times, especially at the truths being taught stating that Jesus is God and God is Father. She had showed the same resistance in parts of the previous studies, but now it intensified.

Bahia’s father is an Imam, a religious Muslim teacher, and she is now studying Islamic studies in the university. Jamila had backed out of the studies several weeks before and Bahia stopped coming. For several months she didn’t have much contact.

Maria went home to her home country for 6 months and when she came back she had a phone call from Bahia asking for her to pray for Bahia’s mother who was sick. Later, when her mother was better she thanked Maria for her prayers. She also mentioned that during her university courses, she was learning about some of the prophets and this had reminded her of the studies they had done together. She said she was reading Jonah again.

Maria took the opportunity to ask her friend if she wanted to study the Bible in English again. They had a few classes based on John’s gospel and Maria found their discussions were clearer now because they could use both English and Arabic, as Maria’s English and Arabic had improved. After 4 chapters, Bahia reacted to Jesus’ claims to be God in John and they stopped again; this time partly due to Bahia’s exams. 

Again, Maria felt very disappointed that although her friend was willing to study from the Bible, she didn’t seem open to accepting the truth about Jesus. She wondered if Bahia only wanted to learn English and have an excuse to get out of the house.

Recently, Bahia has come back and they are doing a study from 1 John. Again, Bahia is arguing about how the truths in John 1 contradict her beliefs. Maria commented, it was amazing, though, how she keeps coming back for more Bible studies.

This experience with Bahia is making Maria think and pray about how she can find a bridge to speak to her friends. She had felt a disconnection – a great desire for her friends to understand and accept the truth through reading the Bible and disappointment when they don’t seem to grasp the truth. 

Though she had felt very disappointed about the way some of her conversations were going, she has found that deepening her devotional time with God has helped her to feel reconnected with some of her friends and to have courage to carry on pursuing their friendships.

Pray for Maria that she will be patient and keep sharing from the Bible whenever God gives her the opportunity. Pray she will have wisdom in how she shares truth with her friends, especially Bahia, who has read so much of God’s Word. 

*Name changed

This account is written by OM worker Mary May, who has lived in the North Africa region for many years and who enjoys reading and writing about what God is doing.

Published: Monday, 06 March 2017
Credit: Mary May
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