RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–They call her Star. Not because she’s famous, but because they hope she’ll become a shining “star” for God to her family, neighbors and other women in her village.
Star had not accepted Christ as her Savior when two nurses, Kelly Grimes* and Paula Denton*, arrived in her small North African village to teach women in northern Africa how to be midwives. But Star always seemed to be around for the Bible stories shared by Grimes and Denton, two-year missionary journeyman with the International Mission Board.
Star and her husband had moved to the village several weeks earlier, but no one seemed to know where the couple came from or what had prompted the move.
The villagers knew, however, that both of Star’s children had died at a young age. In that culture, it is shameful for women not to have children. “This is where their honor and worth is found,” Denton said.
Despite her circumstances, Star helped women in the village deliver their babies.
“When Kelly and I taught midwife training in her village, she was eager to come and learn as much as she could,” Denton said. “She sat up close to us on the mat during each training session and would participate in the discussions.”
Because none of the women could read or write, the journeymen taught midwifery by telling stories and discussing them. Star was eager to answer the nurses’ questions as well as help explain the concepts Denton and Grimes were teaching in the local language.
“We noticed right away her passion and giftedness for learning [and] a charisma that could influence the other women,” Denton said. “We became good friends with Star as we spent time with her while she did her daily tasks [of] weaving baskets [and] grinding millet and then cooking it over an open fire.”
The journeymen had several opportunities to share Bible stories with her. They prayed she would become a believer and realize her potential as a leader among the other women believers in the village.
“This was so important because although there were several women who professed to follow Jesus, they had not been able to grow in discipleship,” Denton said. Such cultural issues as illiteracy and the women’s lack of confidence in their ability to learn and understand spiritual concepts hindered them from growing in their faith.
“During the last session of the midwife training, we shared the story of the birth of Christ,” Denton recounted. “The women really connected with the story, as they could relate well to the simple circumstances Mary delivered in and that Jesus was born into.”
After Denton and Grimes left the village, they learned that Star and her husband were in the “process” of following Jesus, with Denton noting, “Many Muslim-background believers describe their conversion as a ‘process.'”
“Kelly and I were so excited we could hardly contain our joy,” Denton continued. “Our friend Star, our star pupil from the midwife training, had come to know the truth!”
Star, now a leader among the women believers, asked the other women why they hadn’t shared their faith with her earlier, and she has begun to encourage the women that they are capable of learning and teaching Bible stories, Denton said.
“God used our short time in the [North African village] to impact eternity,” Denton reflected.
“In three months God helped us develop and teach the midwife training and then He used the training to help answer our prayer to raise up a leader among the women believers,” Denton said. “And because Star is so gifted in this area of the midwife training, there is a plan to hopefully use her to help go into new villages and teach the material, which will allow her an avenue to share her faith with countless others.”
“She is a strong woman, so it is exciting to see what God will do in and through her life,” Grimes added. “It was so neat to be there at a time to watch God draw this woman to Himself … so she [can] be an instrument in reaching and discipling other women.”
*Names changed for security reasons. Emilee Brandon is a writer with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.