Monday, November 7, 2011

Behind the Veils of Yemen by Audra Grace Shelby

Audra begins with their interview at The International Mission Board and Kevin getting seriously ill, going into septic shock. She prayed and God healed him, although he did get ill again, later. Finally, years later, they were on their way to Sana'a, Yemen.
Audra tells us about her pregnant Arabic instructor, Fatima, and going to a wedding ceremony (just the women) where the women are very forward in their questions (“What kind of birth control do you use?”). She attends a grieving ceremony and struggles with the view of fate (the will of God) the women have. When Fatima's son is born, he has trouble but gets better after Audra and other Christians pray for him. Audra prayed for their crates to arrive after school started and they did (they were “lost” temporarily).
After six months of language studies they were allowed time off so they went to the Red Sea for a week in a hotel where their daughter experienced something like seizures. They visited doctors then took her to Cyprus to a neurologist, while at a regional missions meeting. Audra shares her frustration with God. She finally trusted God completely. An MRI showed an irregularity in the left temporal lobe of the brain and she was placed on anti-seizure medication.
Audra was able to share Bible stories with Fatima but she retained her Muslim faith.
The eighteen months of language studies over, they had a choice of places to work and went to Hudaydah.
Kevin got hepatitis and the kids got a virus. Audra shares her frustration as they had tried to meet with locals for three months with no success. Audra understood from God that that Christians were not deeply desiring that Muslims come to faith. They did not have the heart of God.
Audra tried making friends with the few Western women living in the city of 450,000. While that was not successful, Audra did meet women in a nearby village.
After several months in the Tihama they returned to the United States to speak to churches. Four weeks later they returned to Yemen, Audra being pregnant (at age 42). Complications (diabetes, kidney infection, high blood pressure) developed and she had to go back to the States for the delivery. They returned to Yemen.
They served nine years in the Middle East then returned to the United States where they remain actively involved in reaching those in the Middle East.

This is an odd “missionary” book. At times it is much more about Audra and her family than about the mission work. The book starts out with over thirty pages about Kevin's illness. Audra takes four pages to describe rescuing a giant sea turtle stranded on the beach. Audra describes many visits with local women, quoting dialogue for pages. But I don't feel I really got to know the women of Yemen, except Fatima, Audra's language helper.

If you have read many missionary biographies, this one will probably disappoint you. If you want to really learn about the women behind the veils in Yemen, this book will probably disappoint you. If you want to learn about Audra, all her thoughts, the illnesses of her family members, the birth of her last child, then this is the book for you.

This is not an uplifting book in that there is no record of any conversion to Christ. My oldest sister and her husband were career missionaries in Oman and I know from their experience conversion is rare. And speaking of my missionary sisters, one was in the Suez while the crisis of 1956 took place. We didn't know for a week if she was alive or not. My other sister was in Iraq and had to escape from Baghdad in the night because of a coup. Compared to those experiences my sisters had, this book was rather boring.

Chosen Books (a division of Baker Publishing Group), 238 pages.

I received a copy of this book from Chosen Books for the purpose of this review.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If Joan Nienhuis had spent the same amount of time looking for the positives in this book as she did the negatives perhaps she would have a different point of view. I doubt that Behind the Veils of Yemen was written to be in competition with Ms. Nienhuis' Missionary Sister's experience as she appears to make the point.
When a Christian "steps out of the boat" to answer the call of the Lord it is always personal, often challenging beyond our ability and most certainly not boring. That is exactly what I found this book to detail.
Perhaps if Ms. Nienhuis would choose to accept the call to step out of the boat instead of observe it from the comfort of an armchair she would not be quite so bored!
I loved the book, found it to be inspiring and enjoyed the personal glimpses into the everyday life of a "real-life" Missionary Family struggling to be faithful in spite of the storms of life, so eloquently and personally detailed.
Keep up the good work Audra Grace Shelby!
Fellow Waterwalker