Rachel* sat cross-legged on the mat outside her front door in the courtyard of their home rubbing petroleum jelly on her feet—part of the procedure for getting ready for an excursion outside her home.
“Make sure your feet are well oiled,” Rachel explains. “You can see the bottoms of my feet have red dye on them. This is called henna.”
Women in her region of North Africa oil their feet to keep them moisturized and take away the ashy dryness that comes with wearing sandals everyday on dusty roads in the desert. Women also believe that henna paste helps to protect the soles of their feet by making them strong.
“About a week ago,” Rachel says, “I got the henna on my feet.”
Women go to a salon or stall in the market to have henna applied. Once the paste is on it takes several hours to dry on the sole of the foot and the toenails so that it leaves a dark brown or orange stain on the skin. While waiting for her henna to dry, she watched a film on her phone and struck up a conversation with two other women in the shop.
“I was watching The Jesus Film, and she asked me if she could see,” Rachel continues. “I just said a short prayer that she would keep [watching]…I couldn’t believe it. She sat there for at least 20 minutes. She questioned me, ‘Is this Jesus or Joseph?’ I said, ‘No, this is Jesus.’ And she followed with, ‘Interesting.’ It was the part where Mary Magdalene washed Jesus’ feet.”
The actress who plays Mary Magdalene in the film wears no head covering. In North African culture, that detail makes it apparent that Mary Magdalene is not a conservative woman.
“We really praise God for the opportunity of visiting [local women] and putting on the normal items,” she says while pointing to the Vaseline, henna, perfume and the scarf covering her head. “All those little trips outside of your gate are opportunities that the Holy Spirit might use to trigger a conversation.”
Pray for Rachel and many other Pioneers like her who spend their days in the company of men and women who may be hearing the Good News about Jesus for the first time.
Pray that this opportunity to watch The Jesus Film would bear fruit in the lives of those women in the henna shop.