A date tree in the AP. Photo by RJ Rempel.

Stan and Lucia share how there are many people across the AP who feel unheard, unseen and unwanted. The couple have seen how God is at work, calling people to Him.

Stan* and Lucia* live as marketplace workers among the least reached in the Arabian Peninsula (AP).

Amal* found that she was the only one on the screened balcony of the women’s section in the mosque that night. An independent young professional from a neighbouring region, Amal had left her meagre home in hopes of more lucrative opportunities in the AP — opportunities for employment as well as marriage. Like many millennial Arabs, she maintains the façade of orthodox Islam while rejecting many of its core beliefs, vacillating at times toward New Age philosophies and practices. That night, a few minutes after the evening Isha prayers began, she heard the click of the door locking and then all the lights went out. Panic began to set in as she realised what had happened. Sitting alone in the dark, she could see and hear the men praying below her, but she feared it would be inappropriate to call out and interrupt their salat prayer rituals. She began to pace across the richly carpeted floor to try to calm herself, but she grew angry at the blindness and hypocrisy of what she was hearing through the screen. She was trapped, alone, afraid, in darkness and invisible to those around her. She silently cried out to God: “Do You even see me? Do You hear me?”

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“The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness… And he said, ‘Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’” — Genesis 16:7-8 (ESV)

Hagar had been trapped, fearful, subject to the decisions of others, and without a voice. Pregnant and alone, she fled into the desert with no protection and no provision. From harsh social conditions to harsh physical conditions. Yet the Lord found her and spoke to her, giving her instruction, prophesy and promise. Genesis 16:11 reads: “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has listened to your affliction.” The name Ishmael means 'God hears.' In Genesis 16:13, Hagar has the distinction of being the first person in Scripture to give a name to God: “So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing (El Ro’i),’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’” The God who hears. The God who sees. The God who looks after me.

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When the Isha prayers ended, Amal called out to the men below for someone to open the door for her, but no one heard her over the noisy farewells as they rushed out to head home. She began to despair as the mosque cleared out, and she heard the main doors shut. But then she realised there was still one worshipper praying. Perhaps he had arrived late and needed more time to complete his prayers. In a meek voice, Amal spoke, “Excuse me, sir, could you please have someone open the door for me?”

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The Well of Zamzam in Mecca is one of the most revered places in Islam. It is considered to be the well that appeared to Hajar (Hagar) as she desperately searched for water for her son Isma’il (Ishmael). When Muslims perform the Hajj pilgrimage to the Grand Mosque, they reenact Hajar’s quest for water by walking seven times between two hills, ending at Zamzam in the valley between them. The water from the Well of Zamzam is held to contain special properties that quell hunger and boost the immune system.

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Amal sat on our living room sofa, adjusting her sequined black shayla (head scarf) to fully cover her dark hair as she breathlessly told us the story of being locked in the mosque, giggling with tears in her eyes. The conversation shifted as she told updates and gossip about her colleagues at my former workplace where we met. Suddenly, she remembered another story that she had wanted to tell us. A friend had seen Amal in a dream. She was at Hagar’s Well in Mecca, pacing back and forth across the valley. Pacing like she had done in her anxiety in the mosque. Vacillating between two hills, desiring to run away from the strictures of her faith, but unable to find freedom away from it. Seeking the water to satisfy the thirst, but unable to stop and rest to drink.            

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A few months later, I felt led to invite Amal to join our family for a Christmas event where the gospel was clearly presented. She was curious and not quite sure what to do or what to expect, but she thoroughly enjoyed the drama and the craft. As we waited for our food afterwards, I asked her what she was thinking. She answered with a faraway voice, “What if all of this is true?!”

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There are men and women across the AP who feel unheard, unseen and unwanted. Many, like Hagar, find themselves trapped in oppressive systems of controlling family relationships or abusive employment. Lord, provide an oasis of protection and provision for those in the AP who feel bound. Anoint Your servants to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18).

Others, like Amal, ostensibly enjoy a level of socio-economic freedom but still feel spiritually orphaned and alienated, without a protector or benefactor, no one to advocate on their behalf, no one to look after them. Lord, reveal Yourself as Abba Father to Amal and others like her, that they would receive the Spirit of adoption as children of God (Rom 8:15-17).

Our efforts to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached begin with extraordinary prayer to the Lord of the Harvest, engaging the lost in authentic relationships, and sowing the seed of the gospel liberally into these relationships. Lord, cause these seeds of truth to take root in Amal’s heart, that she may come to know the assurance that comes from Your grace and love. Mobilise more workers to Your fields in the AP who can scatter Your Word broadly and love people deeply (Matthew 13:1-52).

*name changed

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