Do our faces reflect Jesus to the world? Listen to an amazing story of how Joni’s book witnessed to an Arabic policeman.
Hi, I’m so glad you dropped by to listen to Joni and Friends.
I’m Joni Eareckson Tada with quite an intriguing story. It begins some years ago when the publisher who distributes my books in the Middle East decided to reprint the Joni book in Arabic. My goodness, I’m honored that Arabic-speaking people were even reading my book! But the publisher asked if I wanted to change the cover—it looked very much like the original Joni book here in the states with a photo of me looking into the camera holding a pen in my mouth. Well, I thought I should get some advice, so I wrote to my good friend Johan who is a missionary in the Middle East. I wanted his input because in the Arab world, I know that a woman looking directly at the camera and pictured without a veil can be offensive. Johan should know if I should change my photo on the cover. Well, here’s the story he told me. He said:
“Joni, not long ago I was in the Sinai Desert with medical supplies and a pile of books and Bibles to distribute to the Bedouins when an Egyptian came up to me. It turned out he was a policeman. This was very bad news – it didn’t matter that I was helping the Bedouins with medical supplies; he was upset about the Bibles. He took me to his police station, where the captain was very nasty to me and went on and on lecturing me in Arabic. I knew he was going to put me in jail but, that night, before he locked me in a cell, I saw him pick up the Joni book from the pile of books to take a long, curious look at your photo on the cover. He tucked the book under his arm then proceeded to lock me up. That night was one of the longest I’d ever experienced, but every waking hour, I was on my knees praying for that captain.”
“The next morning,” Johan went on to say, “I couldn’t believe it – the captain himself brought me breakfast! He said, 'Last night I took that book because I saw this beautiful girl with these beautiful eyes looking at me. I thought, this is a great book about girls.'” Then he found out the book was about God. He told me that he read the entire thing and that the book changed his life – especially because he was the father of a little girl with a disability. What’s more, he wanted a Bible. The police captain then set me free from the jail. He would never have read the Joni book were it not for the photo of the unveiled face of you, a woman, on the cover. When I got back to Israel, your letter asking about changing the book's cover was waiting for me. Joni, can you believe God’s timing?!”
Well, needless to say, Johan, I too am amazed. And what was the advice this missionary friend gave me about republishing the Joni book in Arabic with, perhaps, a different photo, a different cover? Johan told me not to change a thing, because, hey, if it means that more Arabic men will be drawn to read my story well, then great! But you know, my "unveiled" face on that Arabic Joni book serves as a fascinating symbol because second Corinthians chapter 3 says that we Christians all have unveiled faces – and they are unveiled because God wants everyone to see the reflection of the Lord's glory. And as they see Christ in our face, we are then transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory. So I have to ask you today: What are you communicating with your eyes, with your face? Do people see acceptance and compassion? How ready are you to give your smile? When people look at you, will they see Jesus? Oh, friend, we communicate so much through our faces—that is why they are unveiled. Do people see a reflection of Christ when they look at you? Today I trust that they will.
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