Unseen in the Middle East

Rachel Chimits

God is reaching out and caring for those who are considered a burden by their society.

You are driving down a rural backroad in the Middle East. To pass through a check-point on the road, you must have cigarettes and spare change.

The soldiers are friendly, smiling and waving through the car windows. They’ll accept the cigarettes and coins as ‘gifts’ and not ask too many questions as you drive through, especially if your car has a license plate from the right countries. 

In town there are no sidewalks, no traffic signs, no lanes or parking rules. A faded yellow cab barrels down your side of the road as the driver lays on the horn and swerves around a donkey-drawn cart. Children dart between the cars like dragonflies. 

Men sit outside shops, drinking traditional bitter tea through straws and watching the nearby crowd of people pick through a herd of lambs for the one that will be slaughtered and cooked for lunch.

A woman in a black hijab and full-length robe walks by, escorted by a man who is either her husband or her mahram, if her husband is dead.

Like Biblical Times

To be a victim of flare-ups between religious militant groups is hard enough, but to be a widowed woman in this situation is far worse.

Several Islamic states oblige widows to move in with a mahram, a close male relative. However, many widows find that their family members are in poverty, barely able to support their own family. The widow and her children are the least of a struggling family’s priorities, unlikely to receive already limited foodstuffs, and the most likely to be abused.

Very few opportunities are available for women to provide for themselves, especially a woman who is without a male guardian. In some places, women are not given access to public transportation or even allowed to buy food for themselves. 

Because of most Middle Eastern countries’ statutes, the majority of international relief organizations are kept out, and many widows are unable to contact those who do manage to enter.

Hedged in by strict religious laws, these women often struggle to care for their families. 

For many, hearing about Jesus’ treatment of women in the Bible is as strange today as it would have been for Jews in Biblical times. 

Christ cries out against those who were upset at him for healing a woman on the Sabbath, calling her ‘a daughter of Abraham,’ an honorable designation only given to men (Luke 13:15-17).He always treats women in the Bible with a dignity that their culture often did not afford them, having compassion on those that society deemed lesser or ‘unclean.’ 

For women in the Middle East, Christ’s heart for them as beloved daughters has tremendous impact on their self-worth and beliefs about what they can do. 

Seeing Christ’s Care

Like many others, Hadassah* lost her husband as conflict engulfed her community. Her children were both only teenagers, one in junior high and the other in high school, and she fervently wanted both to stay in school if at all possible. 

Hadassah became a believer and placed all her trust in the Lord. “God loves us, and he will provide.”

She began a small business out of her home, and God blessed her with enough income to support herself and her children. Then she received a second blow. She was diagnosed with cancer. 

If she died, her children would have no one to care for them. Reluctantly, Hadassah began treatment. Her small income evaporated beneath medical costs. 

Their living complex started prodding the family with their next rent bill. 

World Challenge’s partner in the area heard about Hadassah’s situation, contacted her and offered to help with her rent. 

Now she can complete her treatments, continue to develop her own business, and ensure that her children remain in school.

Helping from Inside

International relief programs in the Middle East never come into contact with the majority of widows because of cultural stigmas and barriers; but where they are unable to reach, God is still delivering those like Hadassah. 

He is using local churches who offer support and hope to those who are unseen and most vulnerable.  

Please pray for Hadassah and widows like her whom God loves deeply and longs to restore. Also, lift up ministry workers who are in constant danger from the government and Islamic militant groups. 

World Challenge wants to continue empowering our partner there to reach more widows. Consider supporting widows ministries in the Middle East by making a secure online donation to our widows fund.

*Not real name. For our ministry partners’ security, we don’t release names or locations in highly sensitive areas.