Ministering to Muslim Women
By Constance Fink
One out of four females around the world is Muslim. Joy Loewen understands their culture and religion—she has ministered in Pakistan and Canada for over 30 years, and has written a book to help equip Christian women reach out effectively to Muslims with the love and truth of Jesus Christ.
Joy’s parents took the Gospel to Islamic countries for 50 years. Though she caught the missionary spirit at a young age, she grew up fearing the Somali Muslims after one of the missionaries was stabbed to death by a fanatical cleric. The desire to be a missionary lay dormant until her fear was replaced by compassion.
JBU: How did you get over your fear of Muslims?
JOY: After reading the Qur’an while a student at Moody Bible Institute, I began to understand Islam and the Muslim people. As I read, God filled me with compassion and love for the people because their book did not tell the full story of Jesus Christ. At age 19, I returned to Ethiopia for the summer to visit my parents. Dad took me on a trip to an area of Ethiopia where many Somali Muslims lived. These people had never heard the Gospel. From then on, I knew I was set apart to tell Muslims about Jesus Christ.
JBU: Tell us about your time in Pakistan.
JOY: My husband and I lived at a mission hospital for 10 years. It was close to the compound where Osama Bin Laden was killed in 2011. In fact, if we had been there, we probably could have heard the gunfire. Those years were preparation and training in evangelism and discipleship for reaching Muslims in my homeland of Canada. For the past 23 years, I have been a full-time evangelist to Muslim university students, immigrants, refugees, as well as an encourager to women who have come out of Islam.
JBU: How has your overseas experience changed the way you live your life in Canada?
JOY: It was easier to be a missionary in Pakistan than in the West. There I was in the East, living the Eastern culture to identify with the people. Now I dance between living in the West and ministering to people of the East. That is not easy to do. But the most significant change is that I have become relationship-oriented rather than program-oriented. As a result, we have a hospitality ministry in our home, where most evangelism and discipleship occurs.
JBU: On your website, you give practical answers to questions like the ones that follow about Muslim women.
“Why do Muslim women look down when I meet them? Does it mean they don’t like me or don’t want to talk to me?”
The Qur’an teaches to cast their gaze downwards in the company of men. Shyness is part of appearing modest, a high virtue in Islam.
“How do I start a conversation with a Muslim woman?”
Since names are important, she will appreciate being asked what her first name is and if it has special meaning. Most likely she is proud of trying to aspire to its meaning. Ask about her children’s names, but don’t ask about her husband’s name.
“Should I invite Muslim women to my house first or visit her in her home?”
She will be delighted and honored if you visit her. Her culture is extremely hospitable.
“How should I greet a Muslim woman?”
Muslim women are warmly affectionate towards other women. Many of them will kiss each other’s cheeks 2, 3, 4, or even 5 times when they meet. Sometimes, after kissing, they will put a hand to their heart. Shaking hands is uncommon. Just watch what they do.
“Have you found it more difficult to befriend Muslim women after 9/11?”
After 9/11, all my Muslim friends retreated indoors for a few weeks, afraid of repercussions towards them. I sent all of them cards assuring them of my love. Eventually they recovered from the initial shock of 9/11 but every time there is a new terrorist act, a fresh wave of those feelings arises. Some of them find it easier to withdraw from non-Muslims. I have to work harder now to befriend Muslim women than I did 20 years ago.
“When a Muslim woman wears a hijab, is she proud to wear it or does she feel oppressed?”
In the West, Muslim women are encouraged to wear the hijab. Many do it voluntarily while some feel pressure from their communities or families. For some it's a reaction to not wanting to be associated with Western ideology and values. All feel they are obeying and pleasing Allah.
JBU: What do you enjoy most about your ministry to Muslim women?
JOY: The women are so relational and transparent. I love the freedom to share Christ unrestricted in my homeland of Canada. I love seeing them listen intently to the powerful Word of God, and seeing their hearts melt when I pray for them in Jesus’ name. I love praying with women, who have come out of Islam, as true sisters in Christ. Evangelism is alive, active and very exciting among Muslim women.
- Favorite Scripture verse: I Peter 1:8
- Favorite book: Prayer – Finding the Heart's True Home by Richard Foster
- One fun thing you like to do with your husband: Eating in ethnic restaurants