by Miriam Adeney
Nawal is an Arab whose father was an alcoholic and beat her mother. She took refuge in books. One place she found them was a lending library run by a foreigner named Mrs. Jones. Eventually, Mrs. Jones began to invite Nawal home for tea.
On those afternoons, as they prepared the pastries and the mint and tea leaves, Nawal was struck by the songs that Mrs. Jones would sing. They were full of the love of God. All week long, those songs stayed in Nawal’s mind. In time, Nawal became a follower of Jesus. She has been his disciple for more than 20 years.
Barnabas is a Cambodian who suffered under the repressive Pol Pot regime and spent years in prison camps. Like Nawal, he became a follower of Jesus. He too was attracted by songs. Raised in an artistic family, Barnabas himself became a songwriter. To date, he has composed several hundred Christian songs. Some of those melodies and lyrics have brought fellow citizens who are Buddhists to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jorgen is a Norwegian who recently visited North Korea. While hiking through a forest preserve, he began to whistle, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” His guide asked him to sing the words, so he did. She tried to sing along, absorbing the love of Jesus in a land where that love is hard to access.
Songs are one of God’s good gifts. They provide us with an outlet for joy, and also an outlet for lament. They help us remember teaching, and also enable us to witness attractively even when other avenues of witness might be rejected.
Song is part of my own story. My father’s father was an Irish immigrant preacher. “Daddy, was it because of your father’s preaching that you committed your life to Jesus?” I asked one day. My dad sat quiet for a minute, and then he said, “No, I think it was because of my mother’s singing.”
She was not a robust woman. She suffered from TB, and was in and out of TB sanitoriums while giving birth to seven children. She died while my dad was still in his teens. Yet somehow she found the strength to sing. To this day, I wonder, If my grandmother had not sung, would my dad have believed? Would I?
“Speak…in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). Song is such a simple tool. It is available to everybody. And it can give a winsome witness.
Miriam Adeney has provided continuity in Seattle Pacific University’s department of Global and Urban Ministry for more than three decades. She is author of six books, more than 150 articles, and has taught on five continents. Her most recent book is Kingdom without Borders: The Untold Story of Global Christianity.