By Kathryn Blackhurst
Originally appeared in PHC Herald 3/21
CONTACT: David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
Mary Sue in England
Mary Sue Daoud’s desire to travel to England began with books. Her mother introduced her to Sherlock Holmes when she was eight or nine, and every piece of British literature Daoud devoured after that only increased her yearning to go.
“I promised myself that someday, sooner or later, I’d get over there,” Daoud said, “and lo and behold, God granted it to me.”
Daoud (’13, Literature) initially planned to attend grad school immediately after graduation and continue her journey towards a Ph.D in literature. But after a stressful final fall semester, Daoud decided to defer enrollment for a year.
“So my mom reminded me of what I wanted to be when I was little—a missionary,” Daoud said. “Since that time, God has shown me that literature and academics are my mission field, but a gap year was a perfect opportunity to do some traveling and serving God.”
On Jan. 21, Daoud finally flew to England to serve with Urban Life: a church and missions group in Derby with the goal of getting involved in the local community. Daoud is living with missionaries Anthony and Emma and their four children for the 5-6 months of her stay.
“Basically, Anthony told me, we’re here to live out the gospel—to make friends with people by blessing and serving them,” Daoud said. “So we all have different ways of getting involved in the community.”
The Derby community is “beautifully diverse,” and Daoud was thrilled to work with and become friends with the Pakistanis, Eastern Europeans, and Middle Easterners she met.
Daoud assists Anthony with his classes he teaches at the ESOL Centre (English as a Second Language), subs an intermediate class there, volunteers at a homeless shelter, and teaches nearly 30 5-6 year-olds at a local school.
Once, while Daoud was reading aloud from a textbook, a “gregarious middle-aged Pakistani fellow with aspirations to journalism” stopped her.
“He craned his neck up at me and said, ‘Can’t? What can’t? KAAAHHHNNNTTT!’” Daoud said. “THAT was the one and only time he objected to my English.”
Because Daoud speaks a bit of Arabic, she also aids Anthony in translating within the largely Muslim community.
“I hadn’t been aware just how highly people esteem Arabic around here, though,” Daoud said. “I’m barely conversational, but because Arabic is the language of the Quran, it’s helped open doors for some conversations and friendships.”
While baby-sitting for mothers at the ESOL centre one day, Daoud had one baby who cried relentlessly for his mother until she reappeared and sat with them for the two-hour long class period. Although the Kurdish woman’s English was very poor, Daoud managed to strike up a conversation with her.
“And in the space of those two hours I realized: you just want a friend. You need someone who will look at you and acknowledge you, and spend time with you, and do things with you,” Daoud said. “And she was willing to look for that in me—a random American who came out of nowhere and won’t be here very long.”
Daoud and the Kurdish woman now get together every now and then, shop at the mall, go out for coffee, and eat meals together with the woman’s family.
“You have these people with these lives all their own completely uprooted to come here, for whatever reason, and they’re so vulnerable for that,” Daoud said. “Jesus came for people like that ... There is such a need for love, and the gospel fills that need.”
Daoud’s first-hand exposure to the Muslim community in Derby has taught her how to utilize Christianity’s similarities with Islam in order to reach Muslims by revealing Christianity’s integral differences.
“We know we’re going to fail and sin, but we know Jesus died and rose again to cover our inadequacies, and He’s enough,” Daoud said. “And yet, we both believe in God, and we share a number of moral ideals. We just operate on grace, because we need it—there’s no way we can be good enough on our own, no matter what.”
Above all, Daoud’s time in Derby has taught her how to pray.
“More than anything—preaching, singing, serving—the church here prays,” Daoud said. “At school and back at home in California, I always tended towards the metaphysical/abstract side of God, forgetting that He is also a very present friend. Here, they talk to God like He’s sitting on the couch in front of them and tell Him everything—from the prosiest of prayers for the homeless to the most humbling ones to learn how to love and serve those around us better.”
Daoud now cherishes the importance of finding fellow believers to work and serve with in a community.
“You grow in grace and love together, and toward each other, and toward all those around you, too, and that’s really what service is.”