I could barely talk with her. We spoke different languages, but in the short time I had with my mother-in-law, God gave me glimpses into the life of a woman of influence. She had no position in this world other than that of being a widow and mother. She lost her husband early in life, leaving her as a single mother to nine children.
I can’t even imagine.
Now, the lone head of the family, she moved from a large villa in the countryside to an apartment on what was the outskirts of Cairo in the mid 1950s. There she stayed, establishing their home in the community and becoming a faithful member of the local Evangelical church. Her children remember her often quoting the verse from 1 Samuel 7:12, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
This month will mark twenty-six years of her passing. She was diagnosed with an illness one day, and three days later, she was gone. I had just spoken with her on the phone a few days prior, having improved in my Arabic, but still only just beginning to to be able to hold a conversation longer than a few minutes.
Throughout the years, I saw the influence of this remarkable woman, both in her family but also in the comments of those who knew her. In my husband, I saw her face, her eyes, and her love for Jesus. In his younger days, concerned with all the books Raouf was reading besides the Bible, she expressed her displeasure. Wanting to please his mother and also be able to do what he liked, Raouf asked her: “If I read the entire Bible, will you let me read what I want?” His mother agreed, thinking he would be reading for a long time, forgetting the nature of her own son. Raouf finished the entire Bible in three days and happily returned to his books.
But — she still got him to read the Bible! It would be the one book he read over and over in the years to come, as it really was, as she knew, the only one that mattered. She was a woman of the Word, and her family remembers her most as sitting in her chair, Bible on her lap. It was her life guide and source of comfort. She knew it by heart and lived by its words.
Her name was Naema — Grace in English, and she was a woman of grace to be sure, but she was also a woman of prayer. This is what many remembered her for, as they came to her, from all walks of life, with their requests and problems. Naema was faithful to pray. She prayed for her children and grandchildren, she prayed for her church family and pastors, and she prayed for the day workers and business people. No one was beyond prayer. Everyone needed prayer.
My children never knew her, but they are who they are today because of this woman of faith, who raised their father in the fear and admonition of the Lord and by his Word. I see her in their eyes today and thank the Lord for a godly woman who stayed faithful till the end.
We have no idea who will be influenced by our lives. That is not our concern. Our concern is only to be found faithful. I look to the life of a beautiful woman of Egypt and pray that I may follow her example of steadfast love and obedience to God, seeking not my own glory, but his.
Who has influenced your life? Thank God today for their example and seek to do the same.
Grace and Peace