Mariam is a nurse, a MENA Total Employment tentmaker serving in a closed country for over 14 years. She shares a brief window here into the countless opportunities God gives her--and the uncanny creativity she has for using them. She is totally employed in her God-given mission to touch others with encouragement, good advice, spiritual truth, and a picture of Jesus' help in their great need.
Mariam, what has kept you in a foreign country, supporting yourself, and in the same job for all these years?
I love my work! This is my chance to give back all the opportunities and blessings I've been given. I have a purpose for being here. I can bring joy into the lives of the people around me. I love bringing smiles to their faces. Even when they're on their sick bed, I want people to say, "I want to come back here!" I like to think they want more joy, more peace, more of what they've experienced here.
How do you share your faith where there are so many religious restrictions?
Oh, that's easy. I talk the Bible! When I'm instructing the trainees, I use the verses in such a way that they'll grab their note pads and say, "Wait a minute, let me write that down!" Because I'll say, "The wise man told us" when I quote Proverbs, and "the prophet says" when I share from the Psalms. I tell them there's a precious golden rule they should never forget: "Treat others the way you want them to treat you."
Two weeks ago a brand new nursing student just out of school was serving a rotation in our cardiac unit. With no experience, everything was new and confusing. He came to me very concerned. “I’m so worried about tomorrow’s exam. I don’t think I’m going to make it. I can’t remember everything in the book.” I love the opportunity to share Jeremiah 29:11! I smiled at him big and said, “Oh, let me inspire you! God wants you to prosper. He doesn’t want you to fail. Why don’t you go straight to the department that handles the information you have a hard time remembering. Ask them questions; they can give you firsthand experience in what you need to know. You will remember that better than what’s in a book.” He came back yesterday, glowing. “I passed!” I reminded him that God had helped, that God was delighted for his success. I always bring God into my conversation.
Does anyone every challenge your faith or object to your witness?
Well. That's not even the level I relate to people. I'm there to be Christlike. I show them I care. I go directly to the heart. Every morning I pray that God will prepare the hearts of those I will see that day. So whoever I meet, He's already been there. And I show His love in whatever way I can.
It’s powerful to feel so at ease in sharing God. But it’s clear you’re able to create a good context for introducing Him—
Well, I’m in a good context to talk about God. Because these people are very devout. The love God and they want to please Him. For instance, I might refer to how I get up early in the morning to pray. And I’ve had many people look surprised, “You mean you also pray?” “Oh, of course,” I tell them. “I want God to help me all through the day.” It becomes a common bond. They know I love God, I pray, I am devoted to my faith too. They respect that.
When I walk into a situation, I introduce myself by name, I call them by name. I relate to them personally. I’m there to see what they need. to prepare for surgery, to explain what’s involved in a medical procedure. I think when we come with a friendliness and a warmth they can’t think of debate. To build trust. Because I’m there pouring my love out over them, they know I have their best good in mind, not my agenda.
The other day, I had been working with a mother as her baby was preparing for surgery. She was very worried, very stressed. As we were getting the baby ready and she was crying, I told her, “The way you love this baby and take care of him is the way God loves you and takes care of you.” We’re all finished preparing, she’s putting on her abaya, and tears are streaming down her cheeks.
I grabbed my mobile and rolled through my photos to one of the Nathan Greene painting of Jesus in the surgery room. (I show many this picture, and they’re moved.) “Look at this.” I stood close to her and held the mobile up to her tears. “Please remember this picture. God is with your baby in the operating room. God is there.” Of course that was not the time for anyone to discuss who Jesus is and if God really stands in surgery rooms. But I was able to give her comfort that Jesus was with her baby even though she couldn’t be.
You seem to intuit how the people around you think and feel so that you can speak effectively to them for God…
Well, I have to consider what will really help them. I was with a patient just recovering from a coronary bypass. I gave him the invitation, like I give to all my patients, “You can have a better life. I can share with you what to do.” But I don’t begin telling them right away. I let them think about it. I come back later, “Would you like a better life?” Of course they say yes. I let them wonder what that means. Eventually I will ask if they’re ready to learn. Then I sit by their bed and draw pictures. One I like to draw for heart patients is a picture of a blocked road and the detour everyone is told to take around it. I tell them if they don’t change their habits after surgery, the detour will be blocked as well, and they'll have the same problem again. Or to explain how they must drink lots of water, I take a straw from their hospital tray and try to suck up ketchup. They agree it's too thick! But we add a little water to the ketchup and it moves up the straw easily, smoothly. Oh, I have many little illustrations that help them imagine.
Do you ever know what becomes of your constant, everyday efforts?
Sometimes a patient or their family will come back to me. Even years later. But many times I never see them again. I do wonder how they're doing and what God is doing. But I can accept that in one encounter my work is done; that’s my part. God is capable of carrying it from there. I don’t need to question whether what I’m doing is “working” or not.
I had a mother come to me pleading, “Can you pray for my baby?” She had heard that I sing and pray for my little patients! So of course I prayed for her baby, and I’ve continued to pray. We have become best of friends. She also is a nurse and we have a very special relationship. As part of my devotional ministry, I send her a daily inspirational reading from one of my favorite writers. This year the book I'm sharing is on the Holy Spirit; I send it out every morning to my friends of every faith. Well, two weeks ago she invited me to a family gathering. As soon as I arrived, a gentleman came up to me, “So this is Mariam!” How did he know me? “Oh,” my friend explained, “I send him your daily readings." My eyes opened wide. "Oh, it’s OK!" she assured me. "It’s about God, isn’t it?”
I can rest assured that as they receive such powerful messages every day, that God is doing powerful things in their hearts. Some day I will know. But for right now I am sure He is working--and that's enough! --LS