Photo by Allison / ITeams

Zara's story

November 4, 2016

In North Africa we've had the opportunity to connect with people who have used social media to express an interest in learning more about Jesus. This spring, my first contact was a young woman named Zara. When I met her, she came across to me as the Islamic version of a rebellious young woman. Even though she was unmarried, she was not living with her parents—which is the typical pattern for the culture—but with a seventeen-year-old friend. Her friend, by the way, had met a man on Facebook and run off to marry him.

I was impressed, though, by her reason for wanting a Bible:

"I realized that I'm only a Muslim because I was born into Islam. If I'm going to follow this religion, then I want to know if it's really true or if I need to look for truth elsewhere."

So, I gave her a Bible and prayed with her for understanding.

The next time we met, she had returned to her family's home. I was encouraged, assuming that they had reconciled. However, over the next several weeks, I learned that Zara was not rebellious at all but had been running away from her family for her own safety.

Her father had been physically abusing her for the past eight years of her life. She had tried to escape several times by living with friends and relatives; but no one had ever been in any position to offer her a permanent refuge, and she found herself in equal danger in a relative's home, when her uncle tried to rape her.

As I was learning all these things about her, we continued to talk about Scripture, and she seemed genuinely in awe of Jesus' power to forgive. However, she still struggled with his claim to be more than a prophet.

I went to a local friend, a sister in Christ, and asked her what a battered woman could do to receive help and support. Her answer—not surprisingly for our community—is almost nothing. However, this friend, Molly, expressed a desire to meet Zara face-to-face.

When we had a chance to both sit down with Zara, she was at the lowest point that I had yet seen her. I said to her, "How are you doing? Tell me the truth." She said, "I am dying. On the inside, I am dying," and the tears came pouring down. For the next few hours, I watched Zara weep and talk and Molly weep and listen. We had the chance to speak truth to her about God's sovereign hand over her circumstances and pray for her in Jesus' name for protection.

"I am dying. On the inside, I am dying."

A few days later, Zara had a dream about Jesus. In the dream, he came to her and said, "Don't be afraid. I am standing with you forever." Zara said, though, that the most unforgettable thing about the dream was Jesus' smile and his warmth. Although the dream was comforting, she was afraid and unconvinced, thinking that she was just imagining it all. So (here's my favorite part of the story) he came to her in a second dream, the very next night. This time he said, "I know you are afraid. But here I am again. I told you that I won't leave you." He knew this was what she needed, and he provided!

Now Zara is a follower of Jesus. She has a strong desire to understand his word. I'll say to her, "Next time we're together, let's talk about these three chapters in Matthew." Then when I see her and ask if she has read, she'll say, "Yes, I read the three chapters, then the rest of Matthew and half of Mark."

Shortly after Zara gave her life to Jesus, she told me about a conversation with her mom. Her mother said to her one morning...

"Are you in love? Who is the man? How do you know him?"

Shocked, Zara said, "What are you talking about? There is no man."

Her mother replied, "There must be! You are a different person. You are happy. You are singing!"

Zara and I laughed together when she told me this because we know who the Man is (now her mother and siblings also know because Zara has since told them). Her mother is right. It has been a privilege to witness her transformation.

Since she's become a believer, her father has physically abused her twice and verbally threatened her several times—so her life circumstances are still hard. Yet, her hope and joy in Jesus her Savior is strong.

Please pray for Jesus' ongoing work in Zara's family, for protection, for positive changes in her circumstances, and for more opportunities to experience community with other local believers.