‘My doctor said the cancer has spread to my liver’

Moyra’s story | Hearing women speak

“We lived in the Middle East for 22 years, with our son and daughter. I was working in Arabic adult literacy and teacher training. Then, in 2007, we came home to Melbourne and I began teaching cultural anthropology at the Church Missionary Society (CMS) training college, as well as in other Bible colleges.

What I love most about it is digging into cultural themes and then exploring the biblical response. For example, what does envy, sorcery and the evil eye look like in different cultures? What does the Bible say about it, in the context of God’s abundant generosity? It’s a joy seeing culture and the Bible in conversation, as they illuminate each other!

In the past, I think we haven’t talked much about Muslim women. We get trained in Islam at Bible colleges, and it’s usually done by wonderful, godly men, who know nothing about Muslim women … and so we’re actually being trained in how to reach Muslim men.

Muslim women face similar issues as women in other faith systems, such as Buddhist or Hindu. As part of our time overseas, I spent some years attending a women’s program in a Muslim mosque. I realised that Muslim women are often living in a faith space that has been largely defined by male scholars – not dissimilar to women in the evangelical church in Australia!

So, for the last six years, I’ve been part of an organisation called, ‘When Women Speak’. It’s a web-based network connecting Christian women working in Muslim communities, all around the world. The settings and challenges may be different (whether in Afghanistan, Middle East and Indonesia), but the connections are wonderful. We’re listening to women.

For example, within Islam, we’re often told that God is remote and unreachable and un-relatable. Yet, around the world, we’re hearing that Muslim women are longing for a personal relationship with God. It’s the opposite of what we’ve been taught. While it’s true that Muslim men might be thinking ‘x,y and z’, the desires of women can be totally different. And once we know that, we can speak into that, especially using Bible stories.

There are so many Bible stories that speak about women who have been known and loved by God, including Hagar – the only woman in the Old Testament who gave God a name (Gen 16:13). God is truly a God who cares for women, who answers their cry, and who honours them. We need to remember that! I’ve been working on a book called ‘Islam and Women – Hagar’s Heritage’. It’s under publication at the moment.

At the same time, I’ve also been living with cancer. I was diagnosed five years ago and given five months to live. I’m surprised to be here right now! The cancer started in my lungs, with secondaries in my bones and brain. At the time, I had to step back from my work. I was about to take up some wider roles, but stepping back has been a gift. In fact, cancer has been a really precious journey, pulling me back, focusing me more and more on Jesus. I’ve discovered his presence more constantly and more deeply.

Then a couple of months ago, I went back to my doctor for my regular check-up, not expecting any developments. But it was the opposite. My doctor said the drug therapy was no longer working, and the cancer has now spread to my liver. I’m on chemo and I know I’m closer to the end.

Recently, I’ve been going through all the Psalms again. In fact, moments before I saw the oncologist, I happened to be reading Psalm 73:26: “My health may fail and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.”

I know that my body will fail, but I don’t have to worry. God remains the strength of my life and my portion forever. It doesn’t depend on me or my own strength. When so much is taken away, what remains the most important thing? It’s still to seek Jesus, to be known by him and to know his love for each one of us.”

Moyra’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.

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