Here’s what Tori, a Senior at Simmons College that Malisa works with, said about her summer:
I have been so looking forward to getting to share with you
about my experiences in the Middle East this summer! Our
six weeks abroad were filled with God’s blessings – from
an incredible team to seeing God working in the lives of
our Middle Eastern friends. I have a million stories I could
share – stories of the students on our team taking amazing
steps of faith, stories of reconnecting with sweet Middle
Eastern friends from last summer, stories of the growing
refugee ministry, and the list goes on. I’d love to tell you
about everything, but there’s one story in particular that I’d
like to share with you in this letter.
Being student staff, I had the chance to mentor a student
one-on-one. I was blessed to mentor Dennissa – an
enthusiastic, lively and passionate soon-to-be-sophomore
from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Since her
school is just down the road from Simmons and doesn’t yet
have a Cru ministry, she attended my small group all last
year. It didn’t take long for me to discover her deep love for
others and her willingness to trust the Lord. Needless to
say, I was thrilled when she decided to take a step of faith
and join us in the Middle East this summer, and even more
excited when I found out I was going to be mentoring her
over the course of our trip!
Upon moving into our dorm on our first day abroad, we
found out that we would be sharing rooms with Middle
Eastern students. Dennissa connected almost immediately
with her roommate, Aisha. They stayed up till all hours of
the night talking and laughing, and their conversations
grew steadily deeper. Soon Dennissa had shared the
Gospel with Aisha on multiple occasions and even given
her a Bible to keep. Aisha was so taken by this gift – she
knew how much importance it held in Dennissa’s life, and
was amazed that she could have a copy for her very own.
Dennissa had soon introduced Aisha to nearly everyone
on our team, and she had become good friends with
several other students from our group. Amazingly, after
knowing us for only two short weeks, Aisha generously
invited a few of us to spend the weekend at her sister’s
home! Next thing I knew I was on a ten hour bus ride with
Dennissa, Aisha, and another girl from the small group I
was leading, Caitlyn. Soon after we got off the bus, we met
Aisha’s sister, Lela. Lela is a medical student who is the
same age as me, with a sweet spirit and a great talent for
playing hostess. 🙂
As we relaxed by the pool over the course of the weekend,
she shared with me about her struggle with depression. In
her culture, mental illness has somewhat of a stigma
attached to it, so her sharing that with me was a big deal.
Knowing that I study psychology, she asked me, “Surely
you understand because of your major?” In answering her
question, I told her that yes, I did understand because of
my major, but that I could also understand from personal
experience, having dealt with depression myself. Having
this in common allowed me to share my testimony with
her, and through that, the Gospel.
Both she and her sister have such soft hearts toward
Christ, and I’m excited to see how God continues to move
in their lives. What a unique ministry opportunity and sweet
blessing it was to spend an entire weekend with these
friends of ours, and to be invited into their home! What was
just as powerful was seeing Dennissa’s huge heart for
them and her desire for them to know Jesus as their
Savior. Her love for them was obvious, from the way she
interacted with them, giggling like crazy as well as boldly
delving into spiritual matters, to the way she prayed for
them, fervently and usually accompanied by tears. It was a
privilege to see Dennissa take steps of faith and grow over
the course of our trip, and I can’t wait to see how God
continues to use her back in Boston this fall as she begins
launching a Cru ministry on her own campus and trusts
God to reach her classmates with the Gospel.
Being a part of this project challenged me and grew me
personally as well as in my ministry skills, and gave me a
taste of what it could look like to be on staff with a ministry
like Cru. Although I knew that I enjoyed getting to be
involved in other women’s spiritual journeys before this
trip, mentoring Dennissa and ministering to Middle
Easterners alongside the other students on our team made
me realize how passionate I am about it! It was so exciting
to be in a position where I got to see God working in
others’ lives up close and personal. This experience has
impacted my perception of what God might be calling me
to after college and has challenged me to open my heart
up to any and all of the possible next steps He might ask
me to take. Please pray for me as I continue to discern His
will for my life after I graduate and trust Him to provide
regardless of where He takes me. Thank you again for
allowing me to have such a valuable experience and for
being a part of the work that God is doing all over the
world – in the lives of American students as well as Middle
Eastern students. I would not have had the chance to be
involved in this ministry without your thoughtful prayers
and generous financial gifts! I so appreciate your support.
One of the students that joined us in the Middle East this summer is Dennissa. She’s a student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She just wrote a thank you note to those who’ve been praying for her this summer. That’s you! Thank you for your continued prayers for us.
I was just thinking to myself how thankful I am to have you all. It’s been close to a month since I have been back and I was just journaling today about not forgetting what happened in the Middle East. I really wanted to extend another thank you out there for all your love and support throughout this whole journey and process. I can’t imagine what this summer would have looked like if I hadn’t gone on this trip. My life is still being affected and changed by the six weeks that I spent in the Middle East. I still keep up with a few girls that I had met from over there. It’s crazy to think that that was a little over 3 and a 1/2 weeks ago. It feels like I went on that trip ages ago. I really can’t get over how thankful I am for each one of you who made this happen.
The Lord is still teaching me a lot about myself and how to find my value in him. It’s crazy to think about Ephesians 3:20 “Now to who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Letting that truth sink in is exciting. That the Lord can do even more than we can imagine. We serve such a big God. Wrapping my head around the idea that it was hart but seeing it in action was awesome. Knowing that nothing we could do or say could change a Muslim’s heart, but that it was the power of God in us. I love the fact that our God has no language or culture barrier, that he can do more than we can ever do on our own.
I was really missing our time their and wanted to share with you all what was on my heart today. I really can’t thank you all enough for the opportunity that your support gave me. Thank you thank you thank you!
With all my love,
A Refugee’s Story..one year later
Remember “Susan,” my Syrian friend who I met last summer. Well she is still stuck in that city we lived all summer. She and her family have official refugee status but she is waiting, waiting, waiting to be accepted by a country like America, Canada, or some other European country. When our eyes met as she walked into the Arabic mom’s and tot’s program that morning a few weeks ago, a huge smile broke across her lovely face that was carefully framed with the scarf covering her head. “My year was awful,” she said with a smile still on her face. Of course it was, I thought to myself, she is a refugee trying to raise her two toddlers well. A few hours later we were sitting in a circle discussing the bible. Susan, was so involved in the conversations and excited to talk about what she thought Jesus was teaching in the bible. My sweet friend is starting to understand who Jesus really is. Please pray for her, her husband, and her two little kids who just finished the first Arabic vacation bible school that has happened in the city we were ministering this summer. Pray that the Gospel would take root in their hearts.
A crowded little apartment
Each week we would invite our Muslim girlfriends over to our apartment for lunch or tea. It was a great way to get out into a more quiet space to talk and hear more about their spiritual journeys. Each week was a different group of women but a great success. One highlight was the last week when over 20 girls crammed into our tiny little place. After lunch I had the girls break up in 3 smaller groups and go through “Soularium” a spiritual image survey that we use to hear more about what people believe. That day was incredible. Pena, a girl who was studying fashion design, began to share about how she had been having dreams about Jesus. “WOW” this is huge! She continued to share all that she was wondering and concerned about in regards to spirituality. The conversation continued at a café afterwards for 3 more hours. Pena is truly wondering who Jesus is. Please pray that the dreams would continue (this is very common in the Muslim world before people become followers of Christ). Please pray that Lauren, who is following up with Pena, will be able to connect with her well.
“My heart breaks for the Muslim people”
One of the highlights of summer for me is getting to disciple a few women on the team. This year I was able to work with Amy, one of our student interns for the second summer in a row. She is a very tender and wise woman who wants to be a counselor. However, as the summer progressed our times together continued to be peppered with dreams, plans, and prayers that the God would bring her back longer term to the city. Her heart is passionate to see Muslim women hear and respond to the gospel. What a joy to watch as Amy laid down her plans and direction for the future in the hands of Jesus. Ever since Brian and I began to sense God leading us to the Muslim world for the past two summers, one of our biggest prayers and hopes is that some of the students we were taking with us each summer would consider going back as full time missionaries. Amy is one of those girls along with two others from our team that are considering full time ministry in the city.
Three stories barely skims the surface of what we saw God do this summer. Thanks so much for being part of it. I can’t even begin to express what an honor it was to have you as part of our team.