Over the past four years of doing interviews for this podcast, I have often sat in the presence of greatness. But never have I felt that greatness more than I did recently, as I sat in a Dubai conference room with five women from Middle Eastern countries who’d traveled there to learn how to teach Scripture at a Simeon Trust Women’s Workshop. I was impressed with their command of English, their desire to grow their Bible-handing skills, their love for Christ and his people, and mostly with their joy and perseverance in giving out God’s Word in the countries and situations in which he’s placed them.
Around the table were also my fellow workshop leaders Keri Folmar and Carrie Sandom. It was pure joy to hear these women tell how they were drawn to Christ, what their lives are like, and what their dreams are for being used by God as they give out his Word in their countries and contexts.
Listen to our conversation on this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible.
- The Legacy of the Lamb in Bahrain
- How Reformed Churches Are Growing on the Arabian Peninsula
- Not All Women’s Bible Studies Are Created Equal
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Woman’s Voice: My husband is pastoring the house churches in Afghanistan so I’m helping him. And you know, it’s not easy to work with ladies and man cannot easily go and sit and talk to a lady. So we need a lady to talk to them and share the gospel to them. And we need a lady’s perspective of experiencing God in her life. Just a better proof for them. We meet them to someone’s house or to a restaurant or somewhere we could sit and talk about God’s Word.
Nancy Guthrie: Welcome to “Help Me Teach the Bible.” I’m Nancy Guthrie. “Help Me Teach the Bible” is a production of the Gospel Coalition sponsored by Crossway. Crossway is the not-for-profit publisher of the ESP Bible, Christian books and tracks. Learn more at crossway.org.
Today I am sitting in a conference room at The United Christian Church of Dubai. Can you believe that? I’m on the other side of the world. And I have been here for the past five days helping to lead a Simeon Trust women’s workshop. And this is different than any other Simeon Trust women’s workshop I’ve ever done because I think there have been women here from at least 30 different countries. We’ve just finished the workshop and it’s been such a blessing. And I asked several of the participants who came to the workshop.
The reason I’ve asked this group to come is these are all Arabic-speaking women who have traveled here for the workshop because they want to understand how to handle the Bible better, to teach the Bible where they come from. And I have to tell you that I have been so moved and challenged and excited to see how these women know their Bibles. It’s been a joy to sit around tables with them. And we’ve at this workshop, we’ve been working through historical narrative through 1 Samuel. And so we’ve just been grateful to have such an incredible collection of women with us.
So also sitting here at the table with me is Keri Folmar, who is the pastor’s wife. Her husband, John Folmar, pastors, the United Christian Church of Dubai. And Keri, this is the third time you’ve done this Simeon Trust women’s workshop, but it’s the first time you’ve had a contingent of Arabic speaking women, isn’t it? Tell me about that.
Keri Folmar: Our goal here is really to reach the Middle East with the gospel, our goal at UCCD. And so UCCD has men’s training programs, internships for pastors, we endeavor to plant churches around this country. And basically, we wanted to plan to bring women here to enhance women’s Bible studies and get them studying the Word get their noses in the scriptures around the Middle East. So this is kind of the beginning of what we hope is a movement of getting women in the Middle East to be biblical, and gospel-centered. And really be studying the Bible daily and with their children, and with their families and in their churches.
Nancy: Well we are grateful for your vision and your church’s vision to reach the Middle East. It’s been a beautiful thing for me and for Carrie Sandom, who’s here with me helping to lead this workshop, to get to see your ministry here in Dubai. And then seeing through this workshop, how it spreads throughout all of the Middle East.
What I really wanted to do is just expose you to some of these women for you to hear their stories to hear their heart and love for God’s word. And for those of us who teach the Bible in situations that honestly are just easy. I mean, compared to some of the situations that these folks plan to use these skills to teach the Bible. For so many of us, we have so much ease. We have so many sound theological books in our language that we have easy access to. We don’t worry about teaching the Bible in public in terms of what might happen to us. We don’t worry about what other forces in our culture might actually want to harm us, because we’re teaching the Bible.
So I just want to talk with several these women and let them tell you a little bit of their story. We’re working in a bit of a challenging situation with one microphone, so you might not always hear really well my question because I’m gonna hand them this microphone, but you’ll get to hear them and they are who I want you to hear.
So I’m gonna begin with my friend Ghada, from Beirut, Lebanon. So Ghada, would you tell us how you came to Christ and how you developed a love for the Bible? And then talk to us about what you do now, day-to-day.
Ghada 1: Thank you, Nancy. It’s such a joy to be with you and our beloved sisters. I was raised in a traditional Christian home, used to attend the church every Sunday, but no one shared the gospel with me until I was 18 years old when I moved from the village to the city for university. My aunt is a Christian and she shared the gospel with me and that’s when I…the Lord open my eyes just I need to read the Bible myself, and not count on others to teach me the Bible. Because of the false teachings, I used to follow like, believing that it’s by works that we get saved. Also in our part of the world, lots of influence of praying for saints and this Marian Pilgrimage that I used to join and other similar things. So I trusted those people that it’s by obeying God’s commandments and doing all these works, but I never had the peace and the assurance that if I die, I would go to be with Christ.
And when my aunt shared with me about the true gospel, like I said, “No, no, I didn’t need to study that, I just feel, I don’t trust anyone else.” And I prayed that Christ would open my eyes. And so this is when I first started like my love for the Bible. And actually, I came to know Christ while listening to a sermon on John 5. And how that man, for 38 years, by the pool, waiting for angel or something that’s not, you know, that’s looking having hope in someone or something other than Christ. But at the same time, while he’s helpless and hopeless, it was Christ saw that man and by His grace, He approached him and saved him and forgave his sin and that was relevant to what to my struggle. I mean, that’s the love for Christ I mean, just reading the Bible just to…because it’s his word. And it’s not only the gospel that saves us but also transformed our life.
And actually one turning point in my love for the Bible has come when I started studying biblical counseling. So at the university, I studied psychology, secular psychology, and I had all these theories in my mind. And the Lord has, by His sovereignty, you know, has stopped this, you know, track in my life and after a few years, He would lead me to study biblical counseling. It was on my heart to counsel others but I knew that psychology, secular psychology wouldn’t work, like some theories are even, you know, contradictory to the gospel. And though they will change the behavior, they’re not changing the heart. And I struggled to accept those theories. And I felt that conflict and struggle.
So when Pastor John suggested CCEF and encouraged me to study biblical counseling, I thought like, “Yes, I’m doing this to help others,” but since the first beginning, I realized in the first course that it’s me that the Lord who wants to change first. And also, I really found how relevant God’s word is to our everyday life. Not like as we’re taught, like, so it’s only for the spiritual things, but. And this is how I came to treasure God’s Word more knowing that it’s really living and active and the gospel transforms the heart and the lives. And if I would compare this to man’s wisdom, man’s wisdom is really foolishness.
Nancy: So Ghada, tell us what you do now day-to-day.
Ghada 1: Yes, I’m part of Christian publishing house Dar Manhal Al Hayat. It’s based in Lebanon. And we publish Christian resources and organize Christian conferences. And it’s my passion and it’s my heart’s desire to see more biblical resources available in Arabic, especially for us women, we really like those biblical resources. Unfortunately, since the majority of the books that have been translated so far are…they would fall under the prosperity gospel or the self-help books. Which we know not…they don’t only deceive women, but they are void of the gospel and therefore, we are not growing in our knowledge of Christ and of His Word. I’m really thankful for your books and Carrie’s books and Keri’s. So we are thankful for having faithful women teachers of Bible who have written also books that could guide women and this other desire to see more of these in the Arabic language.
Nancy: So how will you use what you’ve learned at the workshop you’ve been at this week and in what kind of environment will you use it?
Ghada 1: First is for my personal Bible study. I just can’t wait to get back home and start. Also at my church where I attend, we are a number of a few ladies, young ladies who we meet every week and we study God’s Words. I can’t wait to share with them what I’ve learned.
Nancy: Is your church…do you meet in a church building or do you meet in someone’s home?
Ghada 1: Yes, we meet at the church building. Thankfully that we have women from different nationalities at our church. So I’m planning to share what I’ve learned at the Simeon Trust conference with the ladies young ladies at my church. But also our aim is to gather more women to organize conferences to teach other women in our home countries about how to study God’s Word.
Nancy: So you can see in the future that you hold your own conferences and have women come from around Lebanon or even beyond Lebanon, that you would teach the Bible to women.
Ghada 1: Yes. So this is only the beginning and we’re excited because our aim is like to get trained and equipped, but not to keep this for ourselves rather to hold conferences throughout the Middle East. Yes, in Lebanon and bringing women from Syria and other counties in the Middle East to teach them. And because we want to see more gospel-centered women ministries throughout the Middle East.
Nancy: As you say that Ghada, I can tell you’re kind of self-conscious because you think to yourself, “Am I really gonna stand up in front of people and teach the Bible.” Is that what I’m seeing in you? Is that you’re feeling?
Ghada 1: By God’s grace, yes.
Nancy: Well, know that many people who are listening to this and they are thinking themselves, “Wow, I’d love to teach the Bible but it’s very intimidating to me. Or I have a fear about whether or not I can do it or do it well.” So you have plenty of sisters around the world who have that share with you that desire but also a little bit of fear and trepidation about handling God’s Word and teaching others so. A lot of people have a lot to share in common with you. Okay.
Ghada 1: Oh thanks.
Nancy: All right. I wanna talk now to Hope and actually, Hope is not her real name. Hope lives now in Amman, Jordan, but she has…she grew up the child of missionaries in another Middle Eastern country in which they wouldn’t have been welcome to be having that ministry there. Hope is 25. Hope, evidently, you grew up in a Christian family because you were a family of missionaries. Can you tell us how your own personal passion and love for God’s word developed in your life?
Hope: Well, Nancy, thank you so much for taking the time to sit with us. It’s always a pleasure to be just encouraged and brought back to the truth. And yes, I grew up in a Christian family and I’m very blessed by that because there’s a very small number of Christians in Jordan to start with. But not only that, my parents grew up in a very nominal Christian homes. And they individually were brought to the evangelical church through also the work of two missionaries in Amman, Jordan, who were in the Middle East for a long time. So the pastor and his wife would hold prayer meetings at my grandmother’s house. And after my grandmother’s passing, that brought my dad to the Lord and my mom separately as well through the wife of the pastor, visiting her and discipling her, came to know the Lord. I mean, I grew up knowing him, and my parents loved the Word and they would read it to us I would go sleep with my dad singing worship songs. So that was very unique and very special.
My parents were called early on to serve in ministry locally and later on internationally for nine years. And it was during that time I remember, I was seven, not a very, so to speak, glamorous story but in heart to the Lord is the one who did the glamorous work. Because when I was seven, I remember thinking, “I just wanna be like my parents.” I had looked up to them a lot and I wanted to be like them, serving Lord the way they did, unafraid despite whatever would happen. And so they told me to be like us, which is what I understood, that I needed to follow the Lord and believe in what he did on the cross.
So I prayed and it was the faith of a seven-year-old then. And since then, it’s really been the Lord who’s walked with me and sanctified me, mostly through suffering, which sometimes we get surprised that’s the tool he uses but yeah. So throughout my time I grew up really just loving the Lord, loving to sing his word and realizing my sin. I think that was one of the first things that the Lord had me see. It was, even as a little girl, whether it was like my jealousy of my sister or whether it was my quick temper. I mean, it was those things was like, “Okay, I’m in need.”
And so two main turning points, I would say kind of similar to other two turning points in my life that led me to love the Lord’s Word, because I loved him, but my knowledge of Him was based on my parents. And so one was my sister’s sickness. My youngest sister was born with a problem in her skull, so her bones fused early on. We had prayed for a baby and my mom was pregnant, and we wanted a brother, which was very much valued in the Arab culture. And we just didn’t want to know the sex of the baby until it was born. So when the Lord gave us a sister, and we were excited, we found out later on that she was also sick. And my dad read through the book of Job during that time with us. And my fist was very much raised at God and the Lord humbled me through that. And I had to come to learn to say with Job that, “Lord, none of your ways can be thwarted, whether it’s taking life or giving life.” And thankfully, he did spare my sister also through His truly miraculous provision for her surgery to be done in the States.
And later on and my family left the field for quite a few reasons, one of which was struggling as a family. And eventually, my parents went to get training in the States as counselors, similarly, because we had been blessed by the ministry of counselors who cared for my parents and for us. And during that time, there was a lot of healing that the Lord did for the struggles that we had as a family on the field. And I graduated high school, and my dreams of becoming a medical doctor were kind of put to the side when I wasn’t accepted to anywhere but a Bible college. And so I thought, “Lord, what are you doing? I did great in college, I wanna be a doctor.” And my Bible College as excited as I was, didn’t have that field. So I went on to study to be a teacher, which is what I currently do. But during that time, the Lord brought me to His Word. And I had to dig deep, not just for the grades, but because there were a lot of questions I had, questions about the assurance of my faith and knowing that I was really His. But also questions about how do I understand the Word of God properly and the questions I have about how do we know its God’s Word in the first place?
So I was shepherded by a lot of my professors as well as my host family. And now I’m here invited also to such a, you know, sweet conference. I’m currently engaged to a man of God who also loves the Word. So that’s how we met. He was described to me as someone who loves God’s word. And he is in connection with Pastor John and Rada [SP] as well and through them, I was connected to come here. And I’m excited because something in 2 Timothy, that really came alive to me when I was reading it was that, in the last days, there’s going to be people who come in, and there will be false true like false teaching. But there will be, especially it says, you know, “They’ll seek to capture weak women burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” And when I read that, my fiancé and I were studying it, I just thought, “I don’t wanna be that woman.” I don’t wanna be that woman who’s always learning but never getting to the truth. I want to be a woman who actually knows the truth, not just in mind, which I tend to, I’m a thinker, but I want to know him as you share today. I want him to be changing my heart.
So I currently am in a Bible study with one of my friends. We were encouraged to start that study by my mentor who she meets with me almost once every two weeks, she’s in the States, so we do it over Skype. And she is a blessing woman. And so through our encouragement, we are studying First and Second, and Third John. And so far, that’s what I do I’m just before the Lord with my heart and we meet together to honor him. I don’t know really how the Lord will seek to use me as I prepare to get married and be a partner, to my husband, who’s also in ministry. But I’m excited to be equipped and a little on the edge of my seat and a little afraid but ready to see what the Lord has.
Nancy: Carrie Sandham is leading with me and Hope was in her small group here at Simeon trust, and I just wonder, Carrie, if you might speak to what you observed in Hope and her handling of the Bible while she was here.
Carrie: It’s been a real privilege for me to have Hope in my group and some of the other ladies as well. We were very international in our group. There were seven of us in the group and seven different nationalities. So it was great, wasn’t it?
It was just so thrilling for me to see Hope digging deep into 1 Samuel and seeking to work on the text and to find out what it meant to the original audience. And then to work out high points for to the Lord Jesus and then what it means for us in light of the cross. I think we all feel now that we’re a little better equipped than we were at the start, I certainly feel that. I always learned things when I’m doing these workshops. So I’ve learned from these wonderful women. And it’s such a privilege for me to see how across the world, across different cultures, across very different contexts God’s Word is speaking to women wanting to know more of the Lord and wanting to teach that same word to other women. It’s a privilege for me to see that and I know that Hope is gonna be doing that in the future.
Nancy: All right, well, I’ll come back to Sherry. I had Sherry in my group who’s from Cairo, Egypt. At the workshop here we present our work, it’s written down. And what I’ve seen in Sherry over this time is not only was her work on the page, really, really, really excellent. But the deep insight she has into God’s Word and her ability to handle it is a beautiful thing. So Sherry, will you tell us a little bit about your coming to Christ and how you grew in loving the Bible, and maybe why you came to this workshop.
Sherry: Hello, thank you, Nancy, for everything, for the workshops, and I enjoyed it really very much. I was raised in a normal Christian home, but somewhat nominal Christian, only my dad was a believer. So he was trying to teach us every day the Word of God, but according to his knowledge, because we are from a Coptic Orthodox Church, so we don’t have a lot of teaching. So it’s our work to do self-study, we don’t have anyone to teach us. According to his limited knowledge, he was trying to teach us, trying to read Psalms, for example, for us before going to school every day. He would try to let us memorize some verses and like this. I grew up at home not appreciating this so much. I thought it’s normal. I took it for granted for I think. But when I got to adolescence, it was bad. I was a rebellious kid in my home. So I was trying to do everything contrary to other people. I was…I rejected all authority over me and I wasn’t… one of the authorities is God Himself. So I don’t want to be a religious kid, I want to be like all my friends and like we are enjoying everything. And religious kid mean I have to leave many things and I have to not do some things. And so I rejected this religiousness.
But from inside, I was very empty and I was feeling guilty all the time, I don’t know why. So I was feeling something is wrong. And I wasn’t diagnosed in this feeling. So when I went to a conference for ladies, for girls, I was in high school. So at the sermon, someone was talking and he introduced the gospel in a very simple way. Not like what I know now, but it was in a very simple way. But I think I imagine in my head, “So Christ on the cross, he loved me, and he did everything for me, and my sins can be all wiped out, and nothing will be remembered.” So I told him, “I want to be yours and I don’t want anything from the world. I am fed up with everything, and so I want to be yours.” So from that day on, I was trying to follow him from all my heart. But I wasn’t… I didn’t have a teaching. So I was like a kid for many years and I didn’t know how to know the Bible. So I think I loved God, but I didn’t know His Word.
And at one day, maybe after seven or eight years, I was like in this state. And I will I wasn’t…I didn’t know what to do. So I heard someone at the TV, he was its a Christian broadcast, he was saying, “If someone asked you today, what do you know about God? One, two, three, four, what will you say to him?” So I tried to put points and I didn’t know. I didn’t have this personal intimate relationship with Him so I didn’t know what to do. So I kept crying this day and I told him, “God, please do anything you have to make me know you better and to be able to say anything about you, to be a friend with you. So do anything, even if it’s hard.”
So after two days of this prayer, we woke up in the morning and my sister was having an autoimmune disease this day. My little sister, she had paralysis all over her body for three months. We had…she was on a wheelchair for three months, and it was very devastating for the whole family. The one thing I saw in this time is “Oh, God is this what You’re doing to…I don’t know what You…how You will You use this, I see You in every…I think I see You in this, I think You have a hand in this.” So I was very devastating crying all the time this was for the whole family a very difficult time. But the thing I saw God intimately every day. So I think I was gonna touch Him to that extent. So I was praying all the time. I was hearing His voice inside me. And so after that time ended, it was a very difficult time. My dad also had a very serious operation and he was very…had varied diseases and it was very hard.
So for three years, we had diseases in the family and a lot of pain and suffering. I think this was my way to love the Word. Because I was with my dad and we were meeting with his doctor at the church, at his, the doctor’s church, it was Brethren Church where I am now. And the doctor said, “Please, wait for me, I will come with you…for you after the sermon. So please go and listen to the sermon while I’m here…while you’re here.” So it was about Isaiah’s book. It was expository preaching. And so it was about Isaiah and how the preacher pointed Christ in every word of this passage. And so I was standing astonished “How did he do this?” And he always says, “If you don’t see Christ in everything, if he is not the center of the world, you are not seeing him.” And I realized my whole life, I was searching for promises for me from the Bible and it wasn’t the right handling of the word. So that day, I would think like, “I’m so happy,” although my dad is very sick in front of me, and we are going to his doctor, and it was a bad time and suffering. But I was very happy this day that I…this new love for the Word has grown inside me.
And from that day, I stayed for two years only studying the Bible. And I kept reading it from Genesis to Revelation two times per year. So I was willing to do anything, except studying and reading. And so I kept studying, I kept listening to sermons about Jesus in the Bible and about God in the Bible, the glory of God, this was a very new thing to me. I was growing in love. I kept like a baby searching for someone to feed me. So I went to everyone I know, “Please, teach me more. Please, give me homework to do in the Bible, please do it please, please, please.” And I for two years I was searching, I found someone in this church, brethren church, who had done a small group study for men and women together. And so he was teaching that for one year. And he kept teaching us from 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John. And this was the big turning point, I kept loving, loving and loving the Word of God more and more. And so I decided after this year to join theology college, and I studied for a bachelor degree. It was best four years of my life. And so that’s it.
Nancy: What do you do now?
Sherry: My passion now is also by God’s grace and provision. I am translating English books to Arabic language. I got Diploma in translation. And I’m doing this by vision to have many Arabic resources to know how to teach the Bible from it. And to know God more from biblical perspective, because most people around me are nominal Christians and so I need to do anything. So I know that one of my calling, it’s a calling to me, to translate books to them, and to provide them with many resources.
Other thing, I have a group of girls, they are college age. And so there are not many, maybe four or five. I’m gathering with them one-to-one. So we are doing study, they are asking questions and we are…and I am trying to answer I search and we meet the next week and we do this. I’m not doing it inside the church but it’s the one-to-one.
Nancy: So what do you think is the most significant thing you learned at this workshop? And how will you use it?
Sherry: Well, the most significant thing, first of all, is how to do the most that you can to study your passage before giving a talk. Don’t rely on your knowledge, even if it’s big knowledge. Don’t rely on it, but approach this passage as if you don’t know it, and approach it with new willingness to learn new things from it. So maybe when you do this, you will have a new idea. I remember what you said to us, for example, many passages we have heard a lot in the church and when we approach it, we have that principle ready before we study it. So now let’s approach it with a new perspective now, so I am trying to do this.
And the second thing is that connection to the gospel. It was new to me how to…the chart that you wrote to us about how to connect the people from them then and then to Jesus, and then to us and not jump to us. Yeah.
Nancy: I think that’s something we all need as Bible teachers that are, we’ve mostly been trained to look at any passage and immediately try to figure out how to make it about us. And it takes a little effort, doesn’t it? To think, “Okay, what did it mean to them, then to that original audience?” But then not to go to directly to us from that either, because then maybe we just get the law, but instead to go through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ before we apply it to ourselves. And all of us, in our group and our workshop have just needed help at getting better at that.
I wanna introduce you now to who I’m gonna call Mia. Once again, that isn’t her real name. She lives in Afghanistan, she’s 25. And it’s been a great joy to meet you, Mia. As you can imagine, in the United States, lots of people have ideas about what Afghanistan is like, and maybe can’t even imagine that there are Christians Afghans who live there. So would you tell us a little bit about how you came to Christ and how you’ve gotten to the point that you would come to something like this?
Mia: Thank you, Nancy. It’s just a privilege being among you ladies and hearing how God is working in each of us in our lives. And seeing that how encouraging it is that we see in the darkest places of the world, we see just the light of the Lord that shining. I have come from a very strong Muslim background family, my parents are still Muslim, and also my siblings. I was in high school five years ago, I was 20. So I was…always,I had these questions in my mind that why Islam is like, everybody says Islam is a religion of peace but we have no, we don’t see peace in Islam, we don’t see any result I was always asking that, For example, my father would ask us to cover ourselves inside the house, even if it’s like a hot summer day. And it’s the only two men in my family, my father, and my brother. And he was always telling us that you are a temptation to me and your brother. And it was so difficult for us to understand that how could a father or how could God be this harsh to the people? I was just wanted to find a way to answer all of my questions.
And then I got to know a group of ladies that were teaching us English, that were actually missionaries in Afghanistan, and they showed me the Jesus movie and I watched there. And I saw that how can God love the people this much that he died on the cross for us, how he suffered for us, we sinners all the time. A perspective that I had from God was always like God is…God has wrath all people he’s like just punishing people. As we see, like Muslims, they said, you have to cover yourself otherwise, especially ladies, if you do not, if you show your hair, then you will be tied with your hair in the hill. And it was so hard for me to like I knew that I like to show my hair it was a part of my body I didn’t want to hide it. And like even inside the house, if my father was pushing us to cover, I wanted to be relaxed, it was hot. It was just the family. I just wanted to be comfortable inside the house because I couldn’t have the opportunity at all outside.
I was always just afraid because I have came from Shia background so they had to memorize the Imams names. I didn’t like to memorize them. It was 12 Imams I couldn’t memorize the poems that they make. It was so hard for me to memorize all of them. I had to know the five essential things in Islam that you have to know, before you die. I was just afraid of dying because I didn’t know any of them. And I knew that in Islam when you die the first night in the grave angels will come and ask you this question is that, Who is your God? Who is the Prophet? Who is the Imams? What is the five essential things? And I was like, “I don’t know these things I will definitely go to hell.” And I was afraid to I was afraid of dying.
So the first time I became a Christian the first night I when I was baptized, I came home and I just slept the other way I didn’t want to before I was sleeping toward Mecca toward Kabbalah. So I wanted to just at least be closer to follow the circumstances that they have. So that night, I purposely changed the direction and I said, “Enough, I’m ready to die.” I know that God loves me but now the God is not like that harsh as I imagined I have been taught before. Then I experienced God as the loving Father that has always been by my side, no matter what happens, no matter how sinful I am, no matter how many mistakes I make every day. But He is there to protect me. He loves me. He died for me and my sin.
Nancy: So were you given an Arabic Bible? Or how did you even begin to read the Bible?
Mia: Well, I got to know an Iranian lady. She was a refugee in Afghanistan. And then she was teaching us before she was just reading us, the Bible. And she did…and then I received a book from her.
Nancy: How did your parents react to this? And did they know you were reading the Bible?
Mia: I was not showing them. I was just hiding my Bible inside my bag. I had to cover it with many papers or put it somewhere that they couldn’t find it. So if they find it, it was so difficult.
Nancy: So how did you learn to understand what it means? I mean, what you’re talking about this was only five years ago. And here you are at this workshop, working on how to even teach the Bible. So that’s mind-boggling to me because I think about how long I knew the Bible and how for so long, I just thought I will never know enough about the Bible to be able to teach it. So tell me what’s happened to these five years.
Mia: I have seen lots of God’s work in my life and my family’s life. We have been through lots of difficulties, from financially to just emotionally with relationships, with our relationship with my father. It has been a hard time that we had. When my husband asked, before we get married, asked my father that he wants to marry me. So my brother somehow found from my phone, that he sent me a text that said in the morning, that said, in the morning, “Good morning and Jesus be with you.” And that was terrible. And then he said to my father that the guy is Christian, so then my father stopped me from going to university, stopped me from going to work. And then my brother was just like always saying that if my father does not do anything, he would kill me in front of the people. And then my father said that, “If you still communicate with the guy, then he would burn me in the street.” That was.
Nancy: Okay. Your father said if you continue to talk to this Christian person you’re intending to marry, he’s gonna burn you in the street. But now you’re married to him. So how did that come about?
Mia: So it took a lot exactly three years that they said “Yes” and we keep praying, we said, “We put the plans that we had, the desire that we had on God’s hand.” And we said, “God, it is your plan so you would help us you’d open away.” So we plan to go out of the country, both of us, I and my husband, without letting them know. And then we said, “No if God wants, He will do it for us. He will open the way.” So we stayed in the country, we keep praying, we shared with our brothers and sisters. And then God changed their heart. Now they say that we will not find a son-in-law better than my husband.
Woman: Do they really?
Mia: Yeah, they always say that.
Nancy: For what reason did you come to this workshop? And how do you think you will use what you learned here?
Mia: My husband is pastoring the house churches in Afghanistan so I’m helping him. And you know, it’s not easy to work with ladies, a man cannot easily go and sit and talk to a lady. So we need a lady to talk to them and share the gospel to them. And we need a lady’s perspective of experiencing God in her life, to just a better proof for them. So I’m helping with the ladies. And the house churches, we meet different groups or individually or it’s not a church building in Afghanistan. So we meet them to someone’s house or to a restaurant or somewhere we could sit and talk about God’s word.
Nancy: What kind of Bible do they have? What language is it in? And is it plentiful? Is it hard to get one? Are you in trouble? If somebody finds you with one? How does that work?
Mia: Afghanistan is a speaking Pashto and Farsi Dari language so we have the Bible in Pashto and Farsi so they use the native language that they speak the Bible. It is hard to find if someone find out that we have the Bible in our house but God protect us.
Nancy: Is your husband, you mentioned he’s in ministry, pastoral ministry, does he have another job? So that that’s not just out in the open? Or how does that work?
Mia: He was just a studying university, but he was just working with another company that would support him.
Nancy: So he has another job besides ministry. So most people would think that that’s just the job he does. I mean, can he openly be a pastor?
Mia: He cannot be openly a pastor. Or if people ask like, “What is your job?” You just answer in a way that they would not repeat the question again. So we just pass.
Nancy: Okay, let’s say that I am an Afghan woman, and you’re sitting having coffee with me. How do you initiate some kind of conversation to perhaps share the gospel with me?
Mia: Well, Afghans mostly drink tea.
Nancy: No coffee! I don’t drink coffee.
Mia: Yeah. So I would ask them that, I would just start from Islam. I would ask them that, “Why Islam is a religion of peace?” I would ask them that, “What is your position as a woman in Islam?” And then I know definitely the answer would be like, “The husband can have four wives,” that but Muhammad had more than four, the Prophet. So I would ask them that, “What is the value of a woman?” If you have the categories, you can see that, first, you see man, then you see slave, and then you see woman. The position of woman is less than a slave. Or in like in two conditions, you cannot go to God and pray. One that you go to bathroom, the second one, you touch a woman. So you before you have to wash yourself, and then go to God and pray. But I would share then that what is our position as a child of God, not as a slave, or less than a slave or a dirty creature.
Nancy: And how would you bring in the person of Jesus?
Mia: I would describe like as I told you that it’s not a tough God it’s not…Jesus is the loving God that laid His life for us. You will not go to hell. Or the Muslims, I was thinking as a Muslim, that I am perfect because I do prayer, I’m fasting, I’m, like doing these things. But I was thinking that I am perfect, sinless, not…I will just go directly to heaven though I was doing lots of wrong things. Then I would explain how loving God is to us, how loving the Father is to us.
Nancy: As you think about going back and interacting with women. And this is such a beautiful picture to me that your husband can’t teach women directly. And so that’s gonna be your role to interact with women. Do you feel excited about that? Do you feel fear about that, and why?
Mia: I am excited to be teaching them because now I feel I know more than before. Before I was just taking the Bible, and I would share whatever I could learn or I have learned before. Now I know, especially with the program that we had Simeon Trust. Now I know how to prepare a list. And now I know how to point exactly from different parts of the scripture to exactly what is going to happen. Who is the main person about whom we are talking? Well, there is no day that we would not have these threats that we would be attacked by a group of people or terrorists, things like this. But it’s still we know that God will protect us. Until now he protected us, He will do it. He will continue if we like if something happens to us, we are sure that there are groups of people, there are lights that will shine in the darkness.
Nancy: The final friend that I wanna introduce to you is another Ghada and she is from, get this Bethlehem, you gotta love that. So she lives in Palestine and she is from Bethlehem. So Ghada, would you tell us how the Lord has worked in your life to draw you to himself and to give you a love for his word?
Ghada 2: Yes, thank you for this time. And thank you for this opportunity. I’ve started to have love for Christ when I was a little child. So I do not know when that happened exactly. But I started to have questions so as someone who grew up in a Christian family, it was just a Christian but nobody was actually a Christian. And so I started to attend church by myself. But the church I attended was just a religious church, that most of the talk was in Greek. So I really didn’t understand anything. It was just to feed a hunger I had for Jesus but it was never fed.
So I grew up with so many questions and nobody was there to answer the questions. I continued to grow up with these questions and with this curiosity to know more about Jesus. I knocked so many doors, I went to study at university that was a little bit away from my hometown, and are also knocked the churches there. Also, there was no nothing, no change. So I thought, “Okay, maybe the best way is to become a nun so I’ll become a nun.” So I decided I will do that. So I contacted somebody who was able to get me there, monacrery? They call it? What do they call it?
Together: A monastery.
Ghada 2: A monastery yeah. And they were able to get me to a monastery. And I asked just for three days, “Would you please give them three days to live with you I just want to see if I…that’s my calling if I want to be there.” They accepted and I stayed with them. But it was something that has to do with Mary that rather than Jesus. So nothing happened and I said, “Okay, I have come to God, looking for God for three days, I decided to devote these three days to God, and then He’s not answering me. So okay, I’ll depart from this way, I’m not going to look back again.” So I left hopeless, completely hopeless because it was a very long journey that ended with nothing. So I left, I decided not to look for God anymore and I left.
But one time, I attended another church just for curiosity for some reason, but not to seek God. I went there three times only. The third time, the preacher was talking about the Samaritan woman. And he was talking about the void in her life. He said one verse, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” And I just wanted this river of living water. I just wanted to be filled with this thing that I’m looking for, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I just wanted to be filled with this living water and didn’t know anything that does it look like? I felt joy, joy coming in my heart, that I felt something has happened in my heart. And then I knew nothing about the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know that was the Holy Spirit working in my heart. So that was a turning point in my life. And I still remember the day that it happened was the 15th of August 2010. So that was a big change.
After that, I started to be interested in the word I wanted to know more. And then, two months later, I was pregnant with my second child. A few months later, I discovered that I have I’m expecting a child with a problem in his heart, and that I may lose him once I deliver him. So struggle began, so many questions arose. And now that I had to question what kind of God Is this the one I believe in? I had so many questions, I started to dig into the word myself.
One of the obstacles I face is that I had so many questions about the Bible and I didn’t know where to start and whom to ask because we have a lack of teaching and a lack of solid doctrine. I remember so many nights, so many days, I’ve cried to God, “I have none to teach me, but you so please teach me.” But the Lord is faithful he connected me with so many people. Only through the social media, and social networks, he connected me with so many that were willing to help me to answer my questions and to guide me to give me resources. One of the person’s God connected me to is also Ghada who made it possible for me to attend this workshop.
Nancy: So what made you want to come to this workshop? And how are you gonna use what you learned?
Ghada 2: Yes, one of my goals is to fill the gap that was a problem to me, because I had so many questions, and nobody was able to answer my questions. So one of the goals for me, and the prayers for me is I want to be the one who I was once looking for.
Nancy: What do you think’s the most significant thing you’ve learned this, that you’ll use?
Ghada 2: Okay, I have to say that I was impressed by your characters, how you teach the woman, how you connect with them, and how you show humble why you teach. You didn’t make us feel that you know, and we don’t, that was very touching to me. And the other thing was how to handle the Word of God, one verse you wrote on the workshop, while I was preparing and at first when you assign some texts to do, I was saying to myself, “Why did they even agree to participate in this workshop? it’s so much work for me, I don’t know where to start.” But one of the verses that was written on the formula just kept ticking on my head, it was the verse of 2 Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” It’s do your best, just impacted me so much, just to rightly handling the Word of God. I just wanted to do so to take the Word of God. Especially that we studied the historical books, most of the times, not looking for Jesus, but looking for the application for the self, before application to them then and then how to say Jesus and to preach it.
Nancy: Thank you so much. All of you, I wanna ask both of you Carries how just being here and being with these women has impacted you and will continue to impact you. I think, for me, first of all, I’m just moved by the beauty of Christ at work in his people, in places that honestly, I don’t expect there to be many young, beautiful Christian women who love God’s word. And have a desire to give it out lightly like you do. So it’s moving to me. It’s challenging to me.
Carrie: Well, I’d agree with you that it’s been incredibly moving. It’s a real privilege for me to meet these wonderful sisters, I wanna say that you have taught me and encouraged my heart. I want to encourage you to go on working at teaching the Bible. It moves me hugely to hear that you wanna be the person who you were really looking for to help you. This is something that we’re all wanting to be and we need the Lord’s help. We need to know the scriptures more to love him more, and to be equipped to teach his word faithfully. So I want to encourage you too, to go on doing what you’re doing. You’ve encouraged me and I wanna carry on doing that too.
Nancy: Thank you, Carrie Sandom, and now you Keri Folmar. How about you?
Keri: Well, I am so excited about this group of women. So I got to have the small group that had the Arabic speakers in it. Well, the ones who needed translation. And it was so exciting for me to see these women, so committed to the Scriptures, and so open to changing the way that they do things. I mean, they were already clearly in the text and committed to the text. But we all learn, I learned a lot and we all learn how to better handle the text. And these women were so open and excited about how they were being changed, and how that they would go back and do this differently, and be even more tied to the text. So I was so excited about that because there’s such a lack of biblical, really exposition hardly exists in the Middle East. So we just wanna see these women go out and teach other women, the actual Bible, not what they think, not their wisdom, but God’s wisdom, God’s word.
Nancy: I think as we look at the future, I leave with a lot more of anticipation and hope for God working in this part of the world. And I guess it’s especially sweet to me, through women, through women. It’s a beautiful thing. Thank you so much for being here and for being willing to give me this time to tell me about your stories and about your love for God’s Word and your dreams for the future in terms of how you handle God’s word.
You’ve been listening to “Help Me Teach the Bible” with Nancy Guthrie production of the Gospel Coalition sponsored by Crossway. Crossway is a not-for-profit publisher of the ESP Bible, Christian books and tracks. Learn more at crossway.org