We’re very nearly into March, which, I have been informed, is now to be known as Women’s Month. Therefore, I make no apologies for writing about women in history, from earliest ages to present times. I am focusing on women who followed and carried the Christian message to a dangerous world. There are so few captivating books for young readers on any Christian missionary, never mind on women missionaries. Yet today, to proclaim Christianity is almost as dangerous – and certainly as ostracizing – as it was in the days of Herod Antipas.
I’ve just been reading Two Women of Galilee, a historical fiction by Mary Rourke (Mira publications). While it’s aimed at adult readers, it would appeal also to middle graders and young adults. This gentle tale is the story of Joanna, a Galilean whose parents adopted Roman ways, and her association with Mary, the mother of Jesus. The latter’s family, of course, kept the Hebrew faith and laws. Joanna suffers from consumption, from which she is cured by Jesus. Slowly, although faced by imprisonment and death for her decisions, Joanna returns to her Hebrew faith and follows Jesus.
Song of The Magdalene, by Donna Jo Napoli (Scholastic Inc). Intended for Young Adults, it is a sensitive, beautifully told of doomed young romance. Miriam, the Magdalene, was an epileptic. Abraham was crippled. In ancient Israel, they were considered sinners – else why were they penallised thus? – and so outcasts.
The women in both these books risked their all by becoming followers of Jesus, by recognising Him as the Messiah. Down through the centuries since, courageous women have faced hardships, danger, and death in order to spread the Gospel. My compatriot Mary Slessor, ‘White Queen of Calabar’ was but one.
Just a few years ago, the missionary son of some American friends had to attend an important meeting with his wife. He left his four children at home in Uganda, under the care of the eldest daughter. While they were gone, natives invaded the home; hearing a commotion, the eldest daughter, with tremendous courage and great presence of mind, hid the tiny four-year-old under the bedclothes. She is a latter-day, and very young, heroine. Armed men burst in, ordered the children to lie face down on the floor, arms above their heads, and not to move a muscle. When the parents returned, the poor children were still lying there, too terrified to move. The faithful servants were either slain or had fled for their lives. This is history. History which, in the present climate, is politically incorrect to tell. There are many, many such stories to be told and so very few in existence.
I intend to write a modern historical fiction on what is happening today; the suppression of any Christian emblem, such as a cross or crucifix, being worn at work, and the plight of genuine Middle Eastern immigrants and refugees faced with an implacable government bent on bringing hundreds of migrants to this country. The very people who wish to follow Sharia law, and from whom the aforementioned immigrants and refugees came to escape. The history that needs to be told now is that of the Middle Eastern Christians who seek refuge in the west from the horrors of ISIL, the Muslim immigrants who may want to become Christians, and those who are happy with their Muslim, Hindu, or whatever faith they have but long for the freedom we enjoy here – while we still have it. I hope I’m up to the challenge.