Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Behind the Veils of Yemen by Audra Grace Shelby
Audra Shelby with her husband and three children lived nine years as missionares in Yemen. This is an account of their journey into a far away place-not only globally but also culturally and religiously- as they attempted to share the love of Christ and His good news to Muslim women.
Shelby writes in an exceptionally good style so I was not surprised to find out that she, in fact, is a professional writer in addition to being a dedicated missionary. I found this book easy to read and hard to put down.
At the get go suspense is created when Shelby describes her husband's tangle with a life threatening but mysterious infection that almost wasn't discovered until it was too late. After he recovers they continue with their trip to Yemen.
As Shelby learns the Arabic language, she develops a special relationship with Fatima, her language instructor. Fatima is a strict Muslim who faithfully makes a huge show of her traditional cleansing and praying-all the way down to greeting the two angels that “sit on her shoulders.” She is openly scornful of Audra's Bible that is “corrupt” and Audra's lack of cleansing rituals before her prayers.
However, Audra and Fatima develop a special relationship and Fatima is Audra's door to a culture and people that she would not otherwise have access to. Because of Fatima, Audra attends a wedding (all three days of sweat soaking dancing “just shake what you have” and waiting for the bride) and visiting family members and others-all who have never met an “infidel.”
Fatima comes to rely on Audra in ways that she can not turn to her fellow Yemenites, not even her family. Life in the Muslim world is not filled with joy but with fear and hatred. Whatever happens, no matter how unjust or cruel, is viewed as, “Emsha'allah,” (God's will). Girls are openly physically abused by their own brothers while their qat-chewing fathers calmly look on. Audra is angered and horrified to see an eight month old baby girl lying in the dirt in the middle of the street, screaming with no one attending her. Although this was not normal, apparently it was acceptable to treat a baby girl like this if it was believed that she brought ill fortune to her family. Every woman she met had lost a child before the age of five.
Fatima draws a strength from Audra that she cannot get from anyone else. Still, she wants the hope and joy she sees in Audra without truly surrendering to the One who is the source of that hope and joy. We don't know what becomes of Fatima because after their language training, Audra and her family move to another area of the country.
Audra struggles to overcome her own discouragement and distaste at the ignorance and impoverished living conditions of these Muslim women and reach out to them with the love of Jesus.
This is exceptionally hard as family and friends back home are unsupportive and the few European and American women in Yemen shun her when they see her wearing a bulgar and head covering and interacting with the poverty-stricken Muslim women.
Also, Audra sees such a desperate need for missionaries to come to a land that is darkened by fear and superstition. Frankly, she doesn't paint an appealing picture. I myself would prefer to be a missionary many places other than a Muslim country. She doesn't sugarcoat the hardship.
One thing I found wanting was her naming any fruit that she and her family produced. Audra focuses on her relationships with the Muslim women she encountered (even her family is kept in the background) but never mentions if any come to salvation. I would have liked to have read whether any of the Muslims became Christians.
Other than that, this book is an eye opener and I recommend it to anyone considering the mission fields and for all of us because we need to know and understand how many people across the globe live. Not everyone lives in an air conditioned house and drives an SUV.
To learn more about Audra and her work you can go to her website: www.audragraceshelby.com
For other book reviews about Muslims you can go: here, here, and here. To read another review about modern day missionaries you can go here
I received a free copy of this book from Bethany Publishers in exchange for my honest review.