SIM’s merger with another organisation last year has brought in many new workers, including a South African woman helping the church in North Africa.
“There’s so much happening there, which you’ll never know unless you’re there,” said Maria.*
*Name has been changed
Maria has been serving in the area for several years, working to support the church there as an English language teacher and general helper. Although she is not allowed to share the gospel, Maria said there is no problem for her to be a Christian teaching Muslims how to speak English because that is a useful skill.
Maria said she discerned God calling her to the region just a few years after her conversion and began exploring opportunities in several countries. Even before her conversion, though, she had been setting down roots with SIM, doing design work with SIM South Africa’s media staff.
Her work connects her with Christian leaders from several denominations, and she admires how the difficulties of recent years have helped them bridge old divisions. Many are involved in serving refugees and other foreigners.
Some aspects of the different churches remain unfamiliar, but she enjoys the fellowship. There are also times when she’s amazed by more familiar elements. At one evangelical church she has attended, songs that originated in the West are adapted to local culture and believers.
“You have Hillsong praise and worship in Arabic, and as a foreigner, you’re stood at the back, and you have earphones, and they translate it all into English, but to sit there and to see [a man following traditional local] dress code walking through those doors, and to your untrained eye, he looks like a Muslim rural old man, and there he is, worshipping Jesus—it’s mind-blowing, truly mind-blowing,” Maria said. “You don’t see that on the news; you’ll never see that on the news.”
Serving God and His church there does include many difficulties and dangers, Maria said, but God has protected her through them. Pollution has contributed to health problems like a large tumor, but doctors discovered it during a home assignment and were able to treat it successfully. The significant decrease of foreigners in recent years in her country of service has meant those who remain attract more attention, but Maria said her neighbours help protect her. She has had numerous close scrapes on the street, from cars narrowly missing her to a large object falling several stories and being stopped by its rope just over her head. Many local men are respectful to her, but others—especially young men in groups—are often physically aggressive toward women. A temporary change in her work assignment years ago disappointed her greatly, but she later realised it had kept her safely out of the city during the unrest that followed the Arab Spring.
“You know God’s hand is around you,” Maria said. “There’s evidence of His angels surrounding you, and there’s also evidence of prayer warriors.”
By Brian Heffron, SIM SA missionary journalist
- for the country to have godly leadership
- for her students to find hope for their future
- for Christians to stand on God’s promises in the Word
- for prayer supporters to fulfill their role faithfully and understand its importance