“Men witness to men and women witness to women.” These are the words of a wise instructor of cross-cultural missions. Especially in conservative societies such as where we work and live. I had heard this many times and even echoed these same words to others. In societies where the divides between men and women are strong, communication between the sexes needs to be careful and cultural boundaries respected.
I first met Tina while exploring our new neighbourhood. We were trying to get the lay of the land and we ventured out as a family to practice ‘culinary evangelism’. Namely, explore the various foods your new neighbourhood offers and meet and talk to as many people as you can. Tina ran a store serving basic breakfast and lunch menus specializing in milk/yogurt/cheese products. These kinds of restaurants are frequented mainly by the low-income working class where a meal of yogurt and semolina pancakes can be had for roughly a dollar. Tina was at that time an unmarried middle aged educated woman who ran the shop for the benefit of her family. She served us and talked with us about many subjects. She took delight in our children and immediately became their local adopted ‘Auntie‘. My wife would often have her “ladies’ time” on Saturday morning and would go and fellowship with other ladies in our team. That left me with our children and so out the door we would go. We would do some errands but a visit to Tina’s lunch counter was always on the agenda as it was a good way to pass the time, to observe local culture, and to let the kids enjoy their surroundings. Tina loved these visits and she would even help feed the little one if she wasn’t busy.
Sometimes we could chat about things and sometimes not. My children were the buffer culturally that allowed us to communicate and relate in a public place. I learned that she had a keen mind and was quite familiar with what was going on in the world. When the time was right we had spiritual talks and she showed me the Bible that she was reading. She had been told that her Prophet was written about in the Bible and so she started from the beginning and was working through the scriptures this way. It was here I realized that others had already been witnessing in her life. Tina told me of another family years previous who had given her the Bible. I could see that God was working in her already and that I was only another witness to come along at such a time as this. Some plant seeds, and some water.
God can work across the greatest of barriers and obstacles and is not limited by man-made wisdom. I am in awe that I, a man, could speak across these barriers through the intervention of God (and children) to a woman, something that was clearly orchestrated by God. I’m not sure if I have a role anymore to play in her life, but I have faith that God will continue to work in her life, despite the barriers.