Great Commission

Helpful Tips for Reaching Muslim Women

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As a Millennial, I would easily label the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as the defining political and cultural moment of my generation. My formative years of adolescence were spent internalizing a deep mistrust, misunderstanding, and honestly, fear of Islam and Muslims. I was deeply afraid of an entire group of people, even having never met a single Muslim.

Whether nominal or strict, covered or not, every single Muslim is an image-bearer in desperate need of the Gospel.

But in college, the Father used choice encounters with Muslim women to begin to move my heart from fear to a genuine understanding of His love for them and their worthiness to receive the Gospel. I finally appreciated that Muslims are not a monolithic group. Much like Christians, their level of commitment to their faith and interpretation of their faith varies, not just across countries but even across neighborhoods. However, one truth remains—whether nominal or strict, covered or not, every single Muslim is an image-bearer in desperate need of the Gospel.

With that truth in hand, God called our family to a life of loving, serving, and taking the good news of Jesus to Muslims around the world. My life has been deeply impacted by the Muslim women who have welcomed me into their circles over the past ten years. Their warmth and hospitality towards me and their protection of me have redefined what a true friend is. But their desperate search for hope amidst many fruitless rituals has confirmed their need to hear of Jesus’ finished work on the cross. These women are worthy of the Gospel, and it is my privilege and honor to walk beside them and share the greatest gift I have. These are a few lessons I have learned, and I pray they will encourage you to pursue deeper relationships with any Muslim women in your sphere of influence.

Be Persistent

Because of political and religious persecution throughout history, many Muslims live in tight-knit communities that are difficult for an outsider to enter. To get beyond the culturally-appropriate greetings and niceties, continue to show up, pursue friendship, and take advantage of every opportunity to be present in their lives. Prayer walk their neighborhood. Shop where they shop. Smile and diffuse tension. These women are fierce protectors of those they trust; give them time and opportunity to know you can be trusted.

Be Transparent

In cross-cultural work, it can be very tempting to hide our own struggles for fear that they might negatively impact or deter those we serve from pursuing a relationship with Jesus. But the Christian life is not one filled with rainbows and cupcakes, and our precious friends are watching. Sharing openly with my Muslim friends about my own stress, temptation, and failures gives me ample opportunity to also explain the comfort, forgiveness, and hope that I find in Christ.

Be Genuine

Be yourself. While being in some cultures does mean contextualizing for safety and a show of respect, it’s important to be genuine in your words, deeds, and even appearance. Being genuine can be difficult in contexts where there is a socioeconomic divide, so while I use wisdom and never flaunt my apparent “wealth,” I also do not fear wearing a smartwatch or riding a nice bike. Hiding the reality of our lives can damage a relationship by creating a façade we then have to maintain. At first, I even struggled with having an advanced academic degree and if that would create a divide between new friends and myself. But I know my work is vital to our ministry, and the Father gave me those skills to use for His glory among these women!

Be Generous

Entire books have been written about the wise giving of material and monetary gifts to those we serve. Those issues will certainly arise, but the most common day to day opportunity for generosity that we will have is with our time and energy. It’s not always easy or convenient, but when I’m invited to spend time with a Muslim friend, I go. Often, fatigue and a mile-long to-do list tempt me to stay home or cut it short, but relationships grow when we sacrifice our own time and desires to be present for them. So when the coffee cups come out, sip a little slower and stay a while longer.

Be Bold

We have something they need and cannot delay in sharing truth. The beginning of any relationship requires wisdom to know how quickly and deeply we introduce spiritual topics, but I have found that loving my friends well and sharing life openly with them usually provides many opportunities to share the good news. There is always a risk of losing a Muslim friend over conflicting spiritual beliefs, but we cannot keep Jesus to ourselves because of fear.  Every conversation isn’t going to be a full gospel presentation ending with a decision, but every interaction should be laced with gospel truth so that they never doubt who you serve.

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Allison Karel

Allison and her family will always call Mississippi home but have had the privilege of serving with the IMB among Muslim peoples since 2014. Currently living in Europe, she spends her days drinking strong coffee with friends, using healthcare strategies to engage women with the Gospel, teaching college students, and chauffeuring her kids around town. When she\'s not studying yet another language, she is probably reading or crocheting.

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