American woman finds strength in Jesus to co-pastor church in Saudi after breakdown

An American woman who had a breakdown merely weeks after she moved to Saudi Arabia with her family found strength in Jesus to co-pastor a Christian church there.

Saudi women arrive to attend Janadriyah Culture Festival on the outskirts of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, February 8, 2016. | Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser

In 2008, Misty Macal moved with her two children to Saudi Arabia after her husband Brandon got a job there as a military adviser to the Royal Saudi Air Force. The change made her mad because she thought she was going to be miserable in a place where the Bible and open Christian worship are forbidden, Tulsa World relays.

Last month, Saudi Arabia deported 27 Lebanese Christians for being caught participating in "un-Islamic prayer" and possessing Bibles during their celebration of the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady in their home. Persecution charity Open Doors International said Christian services are forbidden even when held privately, EWTN reports.

For Misty, what affected her most was the culture shock especially since she could not drive, and she and her daughter had to wear an "abaya" despite the hot weather while Brandon could wear his shorts and flip-flops. Three weeks into their transition, Misty had a breakdown when her new life finally began sinking in.

"My third week there, I had a breakdown. I was sitting on a curb to eat a powdered doughnut because women weren't allowed in the doughnut shop," Misty shared. "White sugar was dropping on my abaya. I was crying like a baby. I didn't realize that this would be my life."

However, Misty found strength in Jesus to go past her difficult transition. She realized that she was in Saudi Arabia for a mission.

The Macals started joining a small group of expatriate Christians during their monthly and weekly gatherings, and eventually formed a church in their home in Riyadh. When the congregation grew to 100, they decided to rent a building for their Friday meetings for fear of authorities, since Christians there are allowed to hold services only in foreign embassies and compounds.

"It's on our visa that we are non-Muslims," said Brandon. "So we decided we were going to be who we are. If we get kicked out of the country, we'll hold our head high."

Brandon became the pastor of the Grace Outreach Riyadh church while Misty served as the worship pastor. Now, their church has 1,200 attendees and they believe theirs is the only Christian church in Saudi Arabia that worships openly.

Inside Christian Daily