When I found out that I’d be a Waldensian student in a veiled country, I began to pray for my future classmates.
On the first day of school, I made a new friend, the only woman in the room wearing traditional clothes. Her name was Mariam.* The next day, I sat next to her, and we chatted together. She asked me whether I had any friends at the university. I told her, “Yes, I have you!” She was really happy. Later I learned that she didn’t have many friends in the class or at the school before I came.
As time passed, Mariam became my closest friend at the university. She even said that I was like a sister to her.
Mariam and I were taking a public speaking class together, and we had to make presentations in front of the class. She chose to give a speech on the similarities and differences of major world religions. Mariam asked me to help her prepare the presentation, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to discuss my faith with her. She told me twice that she was interested in reading the Bible. I told her that I would look for one for her.
One day Mariam expressed that she’d never met people as kind as the other Waldensian Students and me, that we were totally different from other people. She also said, “Juliana, I want to be like you.” I was so shocked because I knew that I had a lot of weaknesses in my character and often made mistakes. The only thing that came to my mind to answer her was, “Mariam, I make a lot of mistakes, but I try each day to follow Jesus’ example. He was good with people and in everything He did when He was here on earth.”
After that conversation, my personal relationship with Jesus began to change. When I read the Bible, I wanted to learn more about Him and to be more like Him. I just wanted others to see the love of Jesus in me.
One weekend, Mariam invited me to her house. Little did I know that I was about to experience an incredible miracle. For four days, I became a part of Mariam’s family. Even though her family was of another faith, I decided that I had nothing to hide and that I would be myself and live my faith. So, I did everything that I normally do: spent time with God in morning devotions, prayed before meals, and kept the Sabbath.
One night, Mariam and I were in her room. I saw her holy book sitting on the little table beside her bed. I asked to look at it, and we started to have a wonderful conversation about faith. We were able to talk about the Creation story and about the plan of salvation.
“Mariam, would you like to read about these stories in your very own Bible?” I asked.
“Yes!” she responded. And then I presented her with a Bible in her language.
She took it with her hands and hugged it. She was so happy! I was shocked about that, but then I reasoned that the Holy Spirit must be working in her heart.
Later that night, before going to sleep, I stepped out of the room, and when I came back, she wasn’t there. And the Bible wasn’t there either. I was so worried. After a few minutes, Mariam appeared in the room and told me that she showed the Bible to her parents. Now I was really worried and thought to myself, I won’t be sleeping in this house tonight!
But, unexpectedly, she told me that they were happy and thankful for the gift. I was so relieved and praised God silently. What an incredible miracle!
The next day, I returned to school. That week we had to make our presentations in front of the public speaking class. As Mariam began her presentation about different religions, she spoke confidently. Before, she was very shy and would read directly from her notes. But this time, she didn’t look nervous at all.
When we finished our presentations, I told Mariam that she did an awesome job! I asked her how she managed to present so well. She said that it was because she was reading the book that I’d given her. Later that week, she told me that she was reading the story of Jesus and really liked it. She had read about 10 chapters.
I’m sure that God is working in Mariam’s life. Please pray that Mariam will keep reading and continue to allow the Holy Spirit and the Bible to transform her life.
The author participates in the “Waldensian Student” initiative, a frontline mission approach in which Seventh-day Adventist students live, study, and serve in secular universities in specific countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
• For information on how to become a “Waldensian Student,” contact Questions@adventistmission.org.
• To sponsor their unique ministry, visit Global-Mission.org/giving and select the “Waldensian Student” Program.
• Watch stories about “Waldensian Students” at m360.tv/waldensian.