For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”
Costume jewels were glued in an upward slope following her thick black eyelashes, framing kohl-rimmed smiling eyes. The jewels sprinkled her hair and were mirrored on her dress. I remembered the first time I met those eyes four years ago.
A veil hid her shape from head to toe and was lifted as she entered our house. This, the first time she met a “foreigner family”; a rare occasion when a man outside her family would see her. Still, she wore another veil, which guarded her round face and shy, unadorned eyes.
Our families gathered around the mat on the floor near the fire, sitting on cushions and making small talk before the meal. I sat by her and awkwardly discovered that she didn’t speak much of the dialect over which I labored. Gestures and some interpretation followed as I earnestly wished to welcome her and bring comfort to breaking many cultural norms in the gender-segregated society in which we serve.
It was the third Christmas luncheon to which we had invited some of our national staff families. We invited them as individual families, as the men and women could not mix. The previous two years, our house guard/handyman brought his cousin and his son, but would not bring his wife or mother to our home for our Christmas celebration.
The closed culture, the need for trust, protecting the honor of the family, and the grave implications for what others would think were all barriers to previous invites.
The significance of honoring his wife and mother as our guests and the years it took to earn this trust kept me entertaining outside my comfort zone. Worries about making offense, saying the wrong thing, serving in the wrong order … these fears were held at bay through prayer and a heart-gripping desire to share the reason for our celebration.
Handing out simple gifts, we shared the reason for our tradition of giving gifts: to remember the greatest gift through Christ; the forgiveness of sins, the love of God, and His forever redemption.
I said the wrong things, I probably served in the wrong order … but a redemption story was shared that had waited and hoped in my heart for more than two years.
As we exchanged kisses on sparkly cheeks some months ago, I wondered if she remembered the story shared that Christmas.
I pray often that she does. Hope continues to wait—for the day when she comes to know and understand and celebrate the greatest gift.
…that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16