The coronavirus pandemic makes it difficult to meet people and make friends. This is especially true for *Leslie, a Global Gates missionary, who is becoming acquainted with her new city and neighbors.
Earlier this year, Leslie moved to the North Side of Chicago to live near Pakistani Muslims.
According to Global Gates’ UPG Priority Matrix, Chicago is home to 34,523 Pakistanis. The area where Leslie lives in West Rogers Park has many South Asians (Bangladeshis, Indians from Hyderabad, and Pakistanis). It’s also home to many Afghans, Iraqis, and Orthodox Jews. Her neighborhood earned the moniker Little India.
Due to COVID-19, the usual hustle and bustle of city life is nonexistent. Most people stay in their homes. This makes it difficult to connect with people, but it afforded Leslie the opportunity to interact with *Sara, her Indian Muslim neighbor.
Being a mother of three young children, Sara is often exhausted and lonely. She was a dentist in India but lacks credentials to practice in the United States. She doesn’t have a driver’s license, and is dependent on her husband, who does all the family’s shopping. Without leaving the home, Sara has difficulty making friends.
The first month of Leslie’s relationship with Sara consisted of Sara dominating the conversation. She needed someone to talk to. Leslie asked how she could pray for her, which gave Sara the freedom she needed to open up about her struggles. She has since asked Leslie to pray for specific things going on in her life. Leslie even shared the story of when Jesus healed the woman who suffered from a discharge of blood for 12 years (Mark 5:25-34).
Leslie’s relationship with Sara still has its quirks despite the trust that she has built. For example, Sara only invites Leslie to her apartment when her husband isn’t there. This points to the cultural differences and challenges a single woman can encounter as a missionary.
Chances are a man serving on mission in a similar context would not encounter this obstacle. In general, a Muslim man does not worry about whether his wife is home or not when inviting friends over.
Diaspora ministry looks different for women than it does for men, especially with outreach to Muslims. The vast majority of missionaries among Muslims in the United States are men. Leslie often asks them how they meet Muslims and build relationships with Muslims.
The common response she receives doesn’t work for her. These male missionaries tell her to visit shops and talk to people, but men own and operate most shops. It’s even normal for men of the house to do most of their family’s shopping.
“One of the biggest challenges for me is that most of the stories I read and things I hear about are what men have done,” Leslie said. “A lot of the advice I get is from men.”
Finding an access point can be one of the hardest things to do when working with diaspora people in North America, but it can be tougher for women. For example, most Muslim women like Sara don’t leave their homes. They also lack the time to meet with friends because of childcare and housework.
Leslie and women in situations like hers need more coaching and encouragement from female mentors.
The world needs more Leslie’s. Sharing the stories of God at work through them will mobilize more women missionaries to engage the harvest fields in North America and beyond.
*Names changed for security reasons.
-Ben Doster, Global Gates Director of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org