Saturday, October 01, 2011

Behind the Veils of Yemen by Audra Grace Shelby

This book written by first time author Audra Grace Shelby (not her real name btw.) Her name and her family's names have been changed to protect their identity as they are still serving in Islamic countries and must have their identities hidden for protection) was an eye opening peek into a world that I have never given much consideration.
I was changed forever about my views on missionaries and missionaries bringing their young families to the mission field. In this case, the family was headed to Yemen for a four-year commitment. I approached this book with a negative mindset. I judged this woman from the start, "How could that family even consider placing their three young children in a third-world country that is dangerous and hostile to Christians?" I did not realize the extent of this culture in regard to their disrespect for women and girls either (to discuss in detail later).
Why Yemen?
I detected the same doubt and judgment I felt in beginning this story confirmed by others in the book starting on page 13. A flight attendant clearly was appalled to know the family was headed to live in Yemen. And on page 14 I quote, "I leaned back against my own headrest and closed my eyes. Words from a well-meaning friend echoed in my ear, "How can you take those babies to live in a place like that?"
Again page 15 ushered in doubt, this time from Audra's lips, "I bit my lip, remembering my apprehension when we knew God was calling us to Yemen. I had envisioned an easier place, such as a village near a beach in the Caribbean. But God was leading us to a place plagued with poverty and sickness and strict adherence to Islamic law, a place where evangelism was forbidden. I had dug in my heels. "Kevin, I'm not sure we should raise our children in a place like Yemen. Look how many children die before they are six! It could be dangerous for them as well as us."
God led the Way
Halfway  through this book I relaxed. I gleaned the details of a culture I knew nothing about. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing of Audra's adventures, emotions, trials and joys. Her writer's voice was so down-to-earth yet explicit in describing dirt and wind in a way that was so helpful in allowing me to feel I was right alongside of her experiencing Yemen for the first time with her family. I really appreciated her willingness to be transparent in all areas of the journey.

Page 102 introduced for the first time the fact that this family's faith put to rest the doubts about being in God's will in their decision to go to the mission field in Yemen. I cried as I read and experienced her relief and her connection with God. A simple thing as a crate that had been "lost" and found God used to remind Audra that He saw her, He loved her, and that He would protect her and her family, " Tears began to fill my eyes. I sat quietly, understanding the answer I had been seeking, an answer that had been with me all along. The difference in my faith was that Jesus is alive. I talked with Him, and He talked with me because He was not someone dead and gone. He interactively and authoritatively reigned in my life. Whether I had been taught about Him or taught about someone else did not change who He is. It did not stop His living presence No teaching or religion could change or substitute that. I remembered Fatima's words. "You are qawia, strong in your heart." I realized that what made me strong was living strength, given by Someone who could only supply it if He was alive. "You are Messiah!" I whispered."..."I looked again at the sky. "Thank you, Lord," I whispered. "Thank you for answering my doubts and helping me remember the difference."

Amen! I was convicted by a situation in which Audra shared her struggles to reach the people. She had emailed a friend in the US. Her friend's response was a bit like Job's friends when Job was going through his trials. I realized I may have responded the very same way to a missionary. However, I will not behave in that manner after reading Behind the Veils of Yemen!

I could speak for days about the chock-full of informative details of this book but instead will end with one more realization I gleaned from page 191.Audra arrived to visit some women in a hut. As she approached the hut, she saw and heard a seven-month old baby flailing in the dirt unattended. The baby had "soiled" its clothes (they don't use diapers). This baby's mother was not present in the town and this would not have happened to a baby if it were a boy. Hard-to-hear details about abuse of baby girls, young girls and women ripped my heart apart. However, what was harder to bare (and no doubt awful for Audra to bare) was the fact that if we as Christians are going to love and mentor these women, we must not interfere in that type of situation immediately - if we are to evangelize. Audra shared that taking that baby girl out of the dirt would have offended the women, not only because Audra was a Christian (Christians cannot touch the Koran and many other rules) but because their custom dictated otherwise. Self-control was the order of the day for Audra in that village!
I do believe the audience for this book no doubt would be born again Christian women of all ages. Highly recommended reading for young girls mission minded or otherwise. A man would benefit from reading this book if he were sensitive to the needs of women Christian or otherwise. But, I do believe the author's voice would best be received by women.
I cheered when Audra shared about going back to Yemen at the end of the book. She had her two-month old baby on her lap in the plane. She shared that many at home were worried about the health of their newborn suffering SIDS, which is quite prevalent in third-world societies with babies of that age. However, this time I smiled because I had come to a place of understanding. It is up to each of us to decide what God's will is for us and our families. It may not make sense to others (and often not even to us) but God will confirm or deny our mission. We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus - the author and finisher of our faith! Audra did and her story supported this fact. Pick up this life-changing book today. You will never look at missions the same way again - - and for me that was a very good thing!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers as part of Chosen a division of Baker Publishing Group book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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