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Kalthoum Qewar, a Jordanian speaker, is the main speaker in a new Adventist television series produced in Lebanon for the Arabic Hope Channel.
It is unusual to see a woman preaching in the Middle East. But Qewar has planted four non-denominational churches, organized women’s conferences, and trained hundreds of men and women in ministry.
Qewar believes that there is no difference between men and women in Jesus’ sight.
She says in some ways, it is easier for women than men to minister in the Middle East. “Women can open any door in any house. Women can just go in and in kindness touch teens, children, women. They are good at relationships and talking. A man cannot go in so easily – he needs his wife beside him.”
The new Hope Channel series, called "Maa Umm Salaam" (With the Mother of Peace) is in Arabic and addresses women’s issues. It is part of the Channel’s programming designed to reach the 330 million Arabic speakers around the world. It is scheduled to begin airing in June 2010, and an episode will be broadcast every week throughout the year. In each episode, Qewar talks about a female biblical character and an attribute connected to that character. For example, in one episode she speaks about Hannah, and about how praying can change one’s circumstances.
Qewar is a practiced speaker. With a small crew, she recorded 54 half-hour episodes in just two weeks in July 2009.
Qewar planned and wrote all of the episodes herself, and rarely had to do any retakes. A few cameramen, a pastor to ensure any theology was in line with Adventist beliefs, a woman to check on language and pronunciation, and Qewar herself made up the complete crew during taping. Even with language barriers the group felt like a real team.
“We had a great time,” Qewar said. “We could all feel the atmosphere – the love. It was special. I can’t put into words the experience I had. We were all caught up in the atmosphere – even the cameramen who didn’t understand Arabic. They were so encouraging.”
There were challenges with the taping. One problem was the sporadic electricity – common in Lebanon. Sometimes it blinked off 15 times in half an hour. “When it came back on I had to go back to the same energy and gestures and voice,” Qewar said.
The show was taped at the newly renovated, Al Waad Media Centre on the campus of the Adventist Middle East University in Beirut.
Qewar was very impressed with the professionalism of the Hope Channel. “Their technical skills are like CNN,” she says. “They are taping in digital. The volunteers are experts. You don’t find this with other channels.”
Qewar has a direct style of speaking. While she covers spiritual subjects, she addresses them in a practical way, relating them to everyday life. She talks about issues that are not often addressed, but are important in women’s lives. She says she hopes to empower women of the Middle East and help them to become more confident in their spiritual walk and be positive examples in their homes and communities.
Women in Muslim countries are often seen as second-class citizens, Qewar says. “The only thing that can help women is to be free in the soul, from the inside,” she says. “Dressing and acting like Americans or Europeans is not the answer.”
While the series is aimed at women, Qewar feels sure that both women and men, Christian and Muslim, will watch it. She hopes that viewers will tell their friends about it, and audience numbers will grow. “Some Muslims will probably watch it in order to attack what I am saying, but the Holy Spirit will get hold of them,” she says.
Qewar herself is not an Adventist. She doesn’t consider herself a part of any specific denomination.
“I have attended Adventist services,” Qewar said. “There is an atmosphere of respect and love and caring there. People pray together. That is the most important thing.”
Qewar said that is why she decided to create her show under the aegis of the Adventists.
Her life has taken Qewar to many different places. She and her husband Dahood moved to Denmark after they were married in 1980. But everything was not happy in their home. Her husband was addicted to hashish and had relationships with other women. “Nobody talks about these things, but I had to face them,” Qewar says. She and her husband went through some tough times, but they worked through their problems; Dahood accepted Jesus, became a Christian, and changed his lifestyle completely.
Those experiences helped Qewar to help others.
“One day a friend was crying in my kitchen,” Qewar said. “She told me about some very similar things she was going through with her husband. That’s when God impressed on me that many women were going through difficult times, and that by sharing my own experiences, I could help them. I told God I couldn’t share – it hurt too much. But finally I gave in.”
Qewar and Dahood started a ministry in Denmark to help broken families.
In 1984, the family moved back to Jordan, and began working full-time in ministry. They started a local non-denominational church, and over the next two decades, Qewar and her husband planted four different churches in Jordan. Qewar established women’s and youth ministries in the churches. She developed a program with a detailed curriculum to help women in their own lives. She also began a leadership training program for men and women in churches. She wrote dramas for the groups she worked with, as well. Qewar started the National Women’s Conference in Jordan, which has grown into three small conferences every year. Dahood studied theology and became an ordained pastor in 1992.
In 2002 Dahood and Qewar immigrated to Texas with their children, near to where her husband’s brothers and sisters and their families were living. Their six children, now aged between 28 and 14, went to American schools. The next year, her husband was diagnosed with colon cancer, and he died on the last day of 2003. Qewar flew back to Jordan to bury him.
Since then, Qewar has been traveling back and forth. In Jordan she works on her training programs, conferences, and maintains her close ties with the churches she helped to start.
When she is the in the US, Qewar does not have a public profile: she worked at WalMart until last May.
Now – after finishing her series for the Hope Channel – Qewar is looking for a job, and thinking of writing a book. She hopes to go back to ministry full-time at some point.
Qewar is full of energy, and has more ideas for projects than one person could accomplish. She has a lot of irons in the fire and is waiting to see what works out next. Qewar is determined to keep making a difference in people’s lives, whatever she does.
Read more about Kalthoum Qewar’s story on her website at http://kalthoumqewar.com
The new Spring issue of Spectrum, to be published at the end of April, will focus on Adventist women ministers around the world. Subscribe now to be sure to receive your copy.