Nov 13, 2012

Behind the Veils of Yemen, by Audra Grace Shelby

A missionary woman, responding to God’s call to serve in Yemen – that is what this book is about. Audra Grace Shelby sees her faith challenged as she goes through the initial period of her introduction to a country and people who have so many different customs and habits, but who are, just as the rest of us, people with feelings, interest and worries. A wife, a mother, a friend and a witness to God’s grace and love for Yemeni women, Audra faces difficult moments that shake her emotions and her different roles, but prays to become the tool that would be able to share Jesus in such a way that Muslims would understand. It is easier said than done. There were many risks involved, but she and her family decided to stay faithful to God. She tells about how even her relationship with Jesus changed; she learned to trust Him completely, even when things did not make sense to her and finds solace in the peace that God gives, as a constant companion through hardships.

During the years of her life described in the book, we learn how she befriends Fatima, a woman who teaches her Arabic and the ways of the culture, and introduces Audra to her family (mainly women relatives) and closest circle of friends. She gets a peculiar glimpse at the women behind the veils, who slowly come to accept her (some just agreed to put up with her). The more and more familiar she got with Fatima and the others, the more Audra becomes aware of the heavy burden that restricts Muslim women, going way beyond their clothes; it comes to the fact that they are not even allowed to learn how to read or write, so their faith and ways are a result of what they are told, either by men or by older women who were also just told about the Muslim ways. This fact also translates into further abuse, like not being given the right change when buying groceries in the market (they just do not know how to count), or cheated out of estate ownership or inheritance.

Little by little, Audra becomes a living testimony of how interested God is in having a relationship with us, and bravely does and acts Christian in a society that rejects her and her family. For example, she describes the prayer ritual and how meaningful it is for Muslims to wash before praying. When she asks if she could pray and does not wash, the women around her are shocked, but that allows Audra to explain that Jesus is not interested in how clean our outside is, but is rather interested in the cleanliness of our heart. With precious moments like this one, she is able to tick the women who have been in such a need of love and acceptance.

Her story does not talk much about her husband’s ministry, about which I often wondered; however, don’t let that hinder you from reading this book.  It is a treasure. Personally, it has reminded me of how blessed we are to live in a time and place where we are free to learn and study the Bible in so many different ways. It gives a wonderful picture of what the personal life of a missionary is – a fact that would help us pray for those who have been sent and their specific needs. Also, it is a challenge for Christians, to love and see people more the way God does, and not the way we do, taking away prejudice and preconceived notions, and just loving them the way they are – after all, Jesus died for all of us, equally and with no distinction.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. In no way has this influenced my opinion on the book or on the author.

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