By Janée Angel
Many people ask Hary and I about our marriage. We are that strange existence…an American woman and a Syrian man.
We are as different as night and day. I am an introvert and he is an extrovert. I am a thinker. He is a spontaneous do-er. And if those were not enough differences, we don’t even have the same mother tongue. We speak in French…mostly. And it probably isn’t even a French that many others can understand since it has morphed into our own intimate version of the language. I speak to our children in English. They learn Dutch at school. And Hary speaks Arabic mostly, unless he needs to speak Aramaic, to everyone else he knows.
Our house can seem confusing to outsiders. And yet, when you know us, you see that we work together well. Our relationship is different, but in that good, godly way. So people thinking about marriage or even having a hard time in their marriage often come to us to understand how two people so different can make this work.
For the most part, Middle Eastern moms and dads don’t teach their children the secrets to having and maintaining a good, healthy marriage. In fact, most Middle Eastern parents don’t talk about marriage at all. A longtime friend of mine who is now in her 40s has never even seen her parents hold hands or share a quick kiss. So marriage in the Middle East becomes a mystery.
As more and more people talked to Hary and I about their relationships, we decided to give people to opportunity to learn godly principles about marriage in a group Zoom format. COVID has thrown another twist to an already complicated situation and so many were in need. However, the honor and shame culture makes is hard for people to express or share a weakness. So Hary and I began the first night of Bible study wondering if anyone would even show up.
To our surprise, 8-12 couples show up each week. They listen, they ask questions and they are given homework to help them communicate at home. Hary records the group time and shares it with countless other people who listen in a way that their sense of honor allows them.
More than just showing up, we are blessed to see how God is transforming marriages in front of us. We have had couples say they finally had peace in their home for the first time. Husbands declaring their love for their wife as Bible study began. There are families being changed in a way we have never seen before in our work in Belgium.
Healthy couples create healthy families who form healthy churches. We are so blessed to see this new season and area of ministry open up and God using us in this way. COVID has given families so much more time together and God has used that to give couples the opportunity to love and live life the way He always intended.
Janée Angel is CBF field personnel serving in Antwerp, Belgium. Learn more about and support her work at www.cbf.net/angel.