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January 23, 2013

Middle East: Muslims in the Christian Bookstore

God was at work during a “chance” encounter between an Arabic-speaking worker and an Arab Muslim woman when they met in the most unlikely of places – a Christian bookstore.

  • "Chance" Meeting

    God was at work during a “chance” encounter between an Arabic-speaking worker and an Arab Muslim woman when they met in the most unlikely of places – a Christian bookstore.

During our recent stay in the United States, my daughter Lydia and I were visiting a Christian bookstore. As we were going out the door, Lydia elbowed me impatiently and asked, “Mom, aren’t you even going to talk to the Muslim lady?”

I stopped in my tracks and asked, “What Muslim lady? Where?” Giving me the Mom-how-could-you-have-missed-that?! look, she pointed down the aisle. “Right over there. See? The Muslim lady, wearing the abayya, and speaking Arabic,” she said. Sure enough, there was an Arab woman in a full black covering with only a slit in her veil to reveal her eyes.

She looked about 30-something years old and had a teenaged son with her. They seemed to be trying to appear casual in their surroundings, perusing the shelves. Other patrons seemed to be trying equally hard not to notice them, as if this happened at the Christian bookstore everyday. Perhaps it did. Or, perhaps they didn’t want to frighten the unusual visitors away. Perhaps the Christians who had noticed were wondering what God might be up to and were praying silently as they went about their business. I marveled at God’s sovereignty. His timing was impeccable. The Arab Muslim mother and her son had decided to visit this particular bookstore at the exact time that I was there – an Arabic-speaking woman who had worked with Muslims. What an amazing scene to be a part of! I was only there because my daughter Lydia had seen the store from the road and wanted to check it out. God was totally in control of this “coincidental” event.

I hurried over, waving and smiling while giving the traditional Arabic greetings. Surprised, they began reciprocating the greetings while simultaneously asking how I learned Arabic so well (It was clearly flattery on their part toward me, but still a friendly response!). I told them we’d lived in Jordan for 18 months. The mom shot her son the If-this-woman-could-learn-Arabic-so-fast-why-haven’t-you-learned-English-yet?-See-I-told-you-that-you-need-to-study-more! look (Boy, a look from a mom is worth a thousand words, isn’t it?). I quickly added that we had lived in Arabic-speaking countries for 15 years after we left Jordan. Upon hearing my explanation, the son’s pained facial expression and guarded stance relaxed somewhat. The mom sniffed and cast a sideways glance, indicating to her son that her opinion about his studies had not changed.

She continued the conversation. They were Egyptian and had lived in the United States for six years. She explained that although she was in a Christian bookstore, she was a good Muslim and not interested in Christianity. She said that Muslims know that there is only one God, and Christians are mistaken about God. Clearly this was an invitation for me to explain to her how it could be otherwise. I happily did so. Thanking them for putting up with my poor Arabic, and maintaining the cheerful rapport, I enjoyed the blessing of speaking with them for 15 minutes. Right there, in aisle three of the Christian bookstore, God gave me the privilege of sharing the Gospel with this mother and her son.

Experiences like this show me that God is constantly preparing situations along our paths, and that He ushers us into these situations at just the right moment. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10.

-Written by a worker in the Middle East
-Photography copyright by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.