Walking Down the Rocky Path
8 May 2017
Noora* is a young wife and mother living in Saudi Arabia. You can read Part 1 of her story and how she came to faith in Jesus in last weeks’ blog. This week we will hear what it is like for Noora to try and continue to live out her faith in such a hostile environment.
At first, her newfound faith led to huge enthusiasm and a great sense of peace. But soon Noora found that following Christ in Saudi Arabia is really a challenge for every day. Under the cover of meeting foreign friends and teaching them Arabic or them teaching her English, she has been able to attend a small, underground church every now and then.
Daily challenge to follow Christ
But in the meantime, all those hours she spends in the house with her family members are becoming more and more awkward. “We don’t see you praying anymore, Noora,” they say. “What is wrong with you?” Noora can’t say it out loud, but she has to admit to herself that she doesn’t feel the same excitement as before about the Muslim feasts, or about the immoral talk and the gossip among the women in her family. She knows that her Lord doesn’t want her to be involved in this behavior any longer. She grows closer to the Light and becomes more aware of the darkness around her.
At the same time, Noora is in a constant fear that her husband or other family members will find out about her faith. In a society where women have no rights, she basically has no choice but to keep on behaving as a Muslim as long as relatives are around. If she admits her faith to them, the consequences can be huge: “She will definitely be forbidden to meet foreigners, and most likely she will be prevented from using a smartphone or computer until she shows repentance and returns to Islam. In the longer term her husband might divorce her, her children can be taken away, and she can be married off to be the second or third wife of a fundamentalist Muslim,” according to the Christian worker, who is familiar with the situation of Saudi believers. “But also physical abuse, isolation and house arrest or worse are not uncommon for Saudis who choose to follow Christ.”
First love fades away
As the months go by, Noora experiences something else threatening her faith – her first love, her initial passion for Christ, begins to fade away. Her community of believers is just a handful, and after meeting them in the same group many times, somehow the group seems to have gotten stuck in the same routine. There is no-one with the spiritual gifting to be a Bible teacher or a shepherd in the group. The tiny size of the community causes the meetings to become a bit boring, and the worship is predictable without any gifted musicians.
Noora puts it like this: “I was prepared to die for Jesus, but what I didn’t know was that I would have to die to myself every day from then on.”
Another struggle she has is reading the Bible for herself, or doing individual Bible study. Praying in her own words is also a challenge. Many believers from a Muslim background have to deal with these issues; they are used to praying and worshipping at prescribed times, using the same words as always. The freedom Christianity offers is actually a challenge for them.
Basically there are two choices for Saudi believers: either they live a bold life and as a result are rejected and isolated, or they live as if their faith has not changed, continuing in the practices they used to follow. They might still go to the mosque, but they pray to Jesus there, allowing the neighbors to think they are still Muslim. But also preventing the Gospel from transforming others people’s lives, since it’s not shared and lived out.
Noora chose the latter. But not being able to share her faith with her children, fearing that doing so would increase the risk of it being made public, eats at her every day. A child humming the melody of a Christian song is enough to lead to questions from neighbors. This kind of pressure causes most Saudi believers to leave their country sooner or later.
That is why, according to the Christian worker deeply involved in Saudi Arabia, the greatest challenge for this country is not reaching people with the gospel but bringing believers together in safe and growing communities where they can be discipled. “We already see people coming to faith in Christ,” this worker says. “The next step is forming real communities to support them. Please pray for that to happen.”
Noora, and others like her, need your prayer
The Lord gives Noora the strength to endure, but a larger church community would really help and support her.
- Pray for a breakthrough, for Noora’s and other small underground churches to start growing from 4-5 member to 20 member communities.
- Pray for Noora herself. Praise God for the work he is doing in her life.
- Pray for her faith to remain steadfast and that she will continue to put her trust in God, even when she feels lonely and threatened.
- Pray for believers around Noora to keep encouraging her.
- Pray for her to be able to share the faith with her children and other relatives in a wise and safe way.