It began over a simple cup of green tea pleasingly spiced with cardamom, a custom enjoyed by Afghan women. Mariam* and I snacked on chickpeas, raisins, and walnuts as we discussed the weather, our families, and where we are from. Then, after we were well into our second cup of tea, Mariam began opening up about her struggles as a woman. She worried that her daughter may never be able to grow up and study—just as she never had the opportunity. She felt unloved and was even fearful of her husband. She also felt abandoned and alone.
Pointing to the God Who Sees
As Mariam continued to reveal more and more of her heart, I sensed the Lord nudging me to tell the story of Hagar—another woman who felt abandoned and alone. While I spoke of Hagar’s fear and hopelessness and desire for death, tears welled up in Mariam’s eyes.
I told her about the angel of the Lord who came to give Hagar a message from the Lord. As Mariam heard Hagar’s description of God as “the one who sees me” (Gen. 16:13 HCSB), an expression of joy came over Mariam’s face. I touched her arm. “God sees you, too, Mariam. God has not left you alone. God knows your deepest need. God sees you!”
Praying for an Awakening to God
I asked if I could pray for her. We both held our hands in front of us with palms lifted up as I began to pray. I addressed my prayer to the powerful and almighty God. I thanked him for his goodness and his kindness. I thanked him for his faithfulness. I prayed that he would watch over my friend, Mariam. I asked him to bless Mariam and her family and thanked him that his mercies were new every morning. I asked him to remind Mariam of this story in the deepest of night when she awakes feeling hopeless and fearful.
“Lord,” I prayed, “Remind Mariam that you see her.” I closed my prayer in the name of Jesus. We both ran our hands over our faces as if to receive his blessing. As we were finishing up our time of prayer, the children burst into the room to clamor for their mother’s attention. Mariam and I rolled our eyes and laughed and shared a special connection to remember the conversation that had just happened.
Making Room in Our Hearts and in Our Daily Lives
Sharing the gospel with Afghan women starts with simply being available. By God’s grace, we make room in our hearts for these beautiful women, and we seek out ways to spend time with them. They need encouragement and words of truth spoken in kindness. We come prepared to share stories from God’s Word that reveal his nature and his love for them.
Deepening Relationships through Hospitality
After our first conversation, I invited Mariam to my house for tea. I made a special cake for her. In fact, it was her youngest daughter Fereshta’s* favorite: banana bread. I made enough so she could take some home with her to share with her family. We enjoyed laughing at the antics of her youngest daughter, hearing the story of how Fereshta enjoyed serving their guests last night by giving them each a piece of chocolate and then making sure she had a handful for herself!
Our conversation suddenly turned sober as Mariam told me about the death of our neighbor. Unexpectedly, this vibrant young mother from a house down the street had died in childbirth. It could have been avoided if only the family had taken her to the hospital to deliver the baby. The mother-in-law insisted that her daughter-in-law would be fine at home. Such tragedy happens all too often.
Connecting Our Own Stories and the Gospel to Their Concerns
While we were on the topic of the uncertainty of life, I sensed the Holy Spirit urgently prompting me to share my personal testimony with Mariam. It seemed like the perfect time since my own journey to Christ had begun by being afraid of death.
I shared with Mariam about my brother’s untimely death at a young age and how it led to a fear of death that gripped me. Fortunately, I had heard that God made a way for me to be able to face death without fear. I was able to take her through Scripture after Scripture showing how God always provided the sacrifice for sin that was needed to restore a right relationship with him. I showed how God finally provided the ultimate sacrifice through the chosen one, Jesus.
Entrusting Them to God
After sharing my testimony with Mariam, we once again prayed together. I asked God to help Mariam understand his heart and care for her and to cause her to search for the truth. She needed to go home because the children would return from school soon. She quickly finished her tea, after which we hugged and kissed goodbye. She reminded me about the banana cake to take to her family. As she was leaving, I gave her a blessing, “shumArA bA Khuda besparum,” which means “I am entrusting you to God.”
Leaving the Door Open
How can we share the gospel with Afghan women? We pray for them and with them. We show them love in tangible ways. We love their families. We share what God is teaching us and how he is challenging us. We pray for the Spirit to lead us and we act when he leads us. We continue to look for ways to expose them to the good news of our Savior and show how he has changed our lives personally.
Thinking about my next tea time with Mariam fills me with excitement about what avenues God will open up for me to share more about his love and grace.
Anne has lived and worked among Afghan women for twenty-five years in different places in the world. She has enjoyed many cups of tea with her friends through the years.