Joy Loewen. Woman to Woman: Sharing Jesus With a Musl*m Friend (2010).
“We did not bang on the doors of their lives . . . we knocked gently and persistently, as Jesus knocks.”
I’ve read a lot of books since I last reviewed one here, but I had to highlight this one. I picked it up on a book table at a conference we attended this month. A few days later, I just peeked under the cover for a preview . . . and it read itself in a couple of days.
Joy Loewen’s tales of a life lived alongside women of this religious system are as beautiful as they are challenging. Raised as the child of overseas workers serving God in Somalia, the experience she draws upon is lifelong. Her experiences are also diverse, including a decade of overseas service with her husband in Pakistan followed by many years of outreach to university students, immigrants, and refugees coming from all over the world in Canada. Many of her friendships began through work as a language tutor.
For anyone who has ever thought, I would not know even how to begin sharing the good news to Musl*ms, this is an excellent resource. Through anecdotes of her friendships and experiences in this crucial ministry, Loewen shows the way. The book imparts many useful facts about Isl*m and the diverse peoples involved in it without assuming a broad base of prior knowledge or experience. She passes on helpful points naturally as she tells her stories. For example, when she writes about the appeal of personal prayer, she adds, “I have learned that it is important that Musl*ms understand who Jesus really is when I pray for them . . . ‘He is more than a healing prophet, Amina,’ I said . . .” (128). Her announced goal is to equip believers, because: “While we Christians tend to think of ministry to Musl*ms taking place overseas, a huge door is wide open to us right here in the West, and we need to recognize it and get involved in it” (45).
Loewen has written this book from the heart, from her vulnerable acknowledgement of the fear many of us feel (for her, formed from real experiences in Somalia, 37) to her palpable longing that many of her Musl*m sisters “will live in heaven with [Jesus] and with me forever” (193). “Fear of Musl*ms essentially vanished,” she writes, “as I daily came face-to-face with suffering masses of people. Instead of seeing daggers . . . I now saw terrible physical, emotional, and physical suffering.” In an interesting insight, Loewen relates that compassion for Musl*ms did not happen “with a ‘bang'”, but was “a process that God worked” in her heart (43).
The book highlights various aspects of life and culture that come into sharp relief when we attempt to befriend Musl*ms: dress, marriage, babies, hospitality, holidays, death, prayer, etc. (Musl*m women are apparently interested in relationships, community, self-worth and beauty, children, happiness, and home. Perhaps we’re not as different as think?) The author’s insights are well-informed and practical, her advice delivered carefully and respectfully. “We did not bang on the doors of their lives . . . we knocked gently but persistently, as Jesus knocks” (114). She has learned that, “For many Musl*m women, the gentleness of Jesus is what draws them like a magnet” (120). She says truly, “The candle of Christ’s gentleness and kindness can shine into any darkness” (124). And Loewen does not neglect to remind us that “we must depend on the Holy Spirit’s anointing power in our witnessing . . . we need to let Jesus shine in all His glory and majesty and let Him plant the seeds of truth in our friends’ souls” (130).
As Loewen wisely writes in a discussion of the importance of hospitality to Musl*ms, “I know that the search for a permanent home can gnaw relentlessly at people, making them feel like nomads on the earth” (148). (Yes.) The most important thing Loewen offers us is her challenge: though we know that many Musl*ms enter our communities every year, “the West does not feel like home to them. It is important for us Christians to reach out the them, to help them feel more at home with us” (150). Loewen’s longing throughout the book is for many Musl*ms to “find Jesus to be their home” (194).