Aya was on my mind when I woke up this morning. Do you remember her? [Check out “Of Luck and Love” for her story.] It was just another withering, sizzling, endless afternoon in Senegal-the kind that leaves me with a far-away look in my eyes as I daydream about the air-conditioned coffee shop existence that I dearly miss in Dakar.
Aya wouldn’t have the foggiest idea what to with my air-conditioned, Harris Teeter, cruise-control, pre-washed and packaged baby carrots, grande skinny iced caramel latte world. Honestly, Aya wouldn’t even have the foggiest idea what to do with a real bed or a real house or a husband that really loved her.
That afternoon, Aya, Christy and I were sitting around a small, wooden table discussing death. Morbid, I know-but in a country where even the most ordinary, familiar disease can be fatal, death tends to tiptoe into conversations. I vividly remember Aya’s face-a sad shadow slipped over her chocolate eyes as she talked about a boy.
He was a guy that she’d adored for years-but he died before she ever had a chance to marry him. In deference to her family’s unmistakably clear expectations of her, she quickly married somebody else.
Aya looked hopelessly afraid that day. She’s afraid most of the time-afraid that her husband will take another wife or leave
her, afraid that she won’t pass her exams and then by definition won’t be able to survive when her husband does leave her [an inevitability for most of the women that I work with], afraid that she won’t be able to keep that impossibly long list of rules that a Muslim woman is expected to meticulously follow to the letter…paralyzing, smothering, crushing fears. She’s drowning in them.
That afternoon, I looked at Aya and asked her what she thought of death. She hesitantly met my gaze and slowly admitted, “I am afraid of death. We cannot know what happens after we die because no one has ever come back from the dead.”
I’m certain I looked rather shocked and bemused as I stuttered over myself, exclaiming, “well, actually, Someone has!”
That next moment was priceless. With a startled, inquisitive jolt Aya sat straight up in her chair, and very simply asked: “will you tell me what He said?”
Thousands of Muslim students in Dakar are asking that same question. Students that God designed to know and walk with Him-that simply have not heard that they were created for Jesus, are perfectly loved by the God of the Universe, and thus have been redeemed from fear and death.
Several weeks ago in Chicago, our new team for this fall was together for the first time at a STINT conference. These are five people that are incredibly excited to get to point students in Dakar towards their Redeemer! Ted and Michelle are our new additions-Ted you met in a previous blog post, and Michelle happens to be my new favorite person! She’s a Vanderbilt grad who speaks flawless French, and thus has been enlisted to correct mine all year. :)
Aya’s story isn’t done yet. She’s the reason that I’m hopping on a plane again in a couple of weeks-or one of them. Bineta, Sophie, Khadi and Miriam are all reasons too-and the ever-expanding list goes on. So keep reading…