When I first met Saule she worked as a vegetable and fruit seller. Her kiosk was a tiny wooden shack with a rough-cut tin roof. Saule was young, yet carried a notable dignity. She wore a head scarf and conservative clothes. Most Central Asian women and young girls, at least in this region with its former Soviet Union history, do not wear head scarves unless they are from strictly practising families. What really caught my eye was the copy of the holy Qur’an on the shelf beside her chair.
“Thank you, Saule. That’s all I need today.” As I took my purchases I asked, “Is that your holy book?”
“Yes, it is.”
“How nice that you try to read the holy book even while at work! I also read my holy book – the Torah and Injil*.”
After this, whenever she wasn’t too busy we had some meaningful conversations on different stories from our books, such as Abraham, Moses and Job. Our friendship grew and sometimes I brought homemade snacks and sweets and we enjoyed chatting together.
Saule worked seven days a week, twelve hours a day. She worked hard to support her family back home. “What’s your dream, Saule? If you weren’t working in this job, what would you rather be doing?”
“I would love to become a medical doctor”, answered Saule with a bright smile on her face. “Well, what’s stopping you? You are only 19 years old. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life in this little box do you?”
I knew she could have a brighter future than merely being exploited by others; in fact, I had noticed she didn’t often use a calculator to add up the prices. That day I offered to bless her and pray for the guidance of the Almighty. And we opened up our hands towards heaven and prayed in the name of Isa*. “Lead Saule into her destiny, according to your good and perfect will. Show us the way we should go. Give us courage to follow the dream you give into our lives.”
Saule showed great courage to quit the job. On her last day before returning to her home in the south, we went out for the day to see the city and had so much fun together. It was her first day outside the kiosk and her humble accommodation!
Unfortunately, I lost contact with Saule for two years. We had also moved to another part of the city but, to my great surprise, she managed to find me. When Saule had returned home, she had studied really hard for a year and successfully entered the National University as a medical student; she had been granted a full scholarship for her entire course! Saule thanked me for challenging and encouraging her to follow her dream and asking God to help her to be courageous. It was an overwhelmingly joyful reunion.
Saule has now successfully finished her five years of studying medicine and hopes to specialise in cardiology. We have enjoyed deepening our friendship over the years. As a family we sit around the table to share the meal we have cooked together, and then open the Holy Book and freely discuss and pray to the Most High. God brought Saule into my path and I am truly thankful for the friendships God grants.
My official title in the country is “house wife”. I mingle with our neighbours in the communal courtyard and enjoy building relationships with our local shopkeepers, cracking jokes and bargaining with them. My hope and prayer is to carry the Light of Isa even in my mundane routines of daily life.
Davina is an Interserve Partner coming alongside the Central Asian church in discipleship and mission.
All names have been changed.
* The Torah and Injil are Muslim terms for books of the Old Testament and the Gospels. Isa is a Muslim name for Jesus.