Behind the Veils of Yemen

How an American Woman Risked Her Life, Family, and Faith to Bring Jesus to Muslim Women

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Women began to arrive in the entry hall, peeling away their black outer coverings. I watched in amazement as shimmering bodies emerged from the black shrouds. One woman sparkled in a purple silk caftan, her arms gleaming with gold jewelry. I smiled to myself. If people only knew what was under those veils. I looked at their faces, artfully painted with makeup, not at all how they appeared in public: dark eyes in narrow black slits. They were like the beauties of Arab folklore. I was awed by the transformation.

With only prayer and a faith that always seemed too small, Audra Grace Shelby departed with her husband and children on a one-way flight to Yemen...deep into the heart of conservative Islam.

With honesty and passion, she shares her harrowing journey as a Christian woman thrust into a culture dangerously different from her own. From the friendships she forged, to her gnawing doubt and fear, to her offers of hope when her new friends' religion failed them, she gives us glimpses of a world most have never seen: behind the veils of real Muslim women--and how the grace of God touches lives in the midst of an Islamic stronghold.


"This book genuinely reflects the ups and downs in the life of any missionary who serves in a restricted country that is drastically different culturally, religiously, politically and economically from his or her own country. The trials and frustrations, as well as the excitement of experiencing the joy of God's provision, care and love, are well expressed. In a beautiful and candid style, Audra captures the interest of the reader and takes him or her on the journey into the Lord's ministry."
--Samuel Shahid, Ph.D., senior professor of Islamic studies, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

"Americans have a stereotypical concept of Islamic culture that reflects their own ethnocentric cultural bondage. Audra Shelby, with her husband and three small children, not only ventured to live within a Muslim society; they sought to understand and penetrate the hearts of those to whom they hoped to introduce God's love. Insights into the strong beliefs of others forced them to see their own convictions in a new perspective. The personal trials and challenges they encountered gave them a glimpse into God's faithfulness, power and grace beyond what they had previously known. Behind the Veils of Yemen will captivate the reader with intrigue and a new dimension of faith and commitment."
--Jerry Rankin, president emeritus, International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention

"Audra is one of several women who have been instrumental in addressing women and mothers in the Islamic world. She provided leadership in developing a strategy for an unreached Islamic people group with little or no access to the Gospel before her family began their ministry among them. She writes with this unique knowledge and experience as her context. I am blessed to call her friend and co-worker."
--Michael H. Edens, professor of theology and Islamic studies and associate dean of graduate studies, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; associate director, Institute of Christian Apologetics

"This book gives you a glimpse behind the scenes with real, live missionaries. Audra shares her deepest fears and thoughts as she interacts with the Muslim culture and religion. If you want to know how God calls and uses missionaries in very difficult situations to share the Good News, this book is a must-read."
--Avery Willis, former vice president, Overseas Operations, International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention; executive director, International Orality Network;

"Audra has great concern for the Islamic women she lived among for many years. Those concerns have translated into action. She often speaks to groups about her experiences in the Middle East and is always upbeat and positive in the images she conveys to her audiences. Her deep understanding of her Christian beliefs and the knowledge she has gained about the role of women in the Islamic faith allow her to speak with love and compassion. I am honored to have a woman with her breadth and depth of experiences as my friend."
--C. Ray Warrior, former IT executive

"Intriguing story! Knowing that God uses the weak to intimidate the strong, this mission work with Middle Eastern women may be an essential step in God's final plans for redemption of the world."
--Dr. Deborah Gunderman, D.Min.; founder, Walking in the Way, Inc.

"For a modern American woman, following Christ as she raises her family is always an adventure. Sometimes it's smooth; often not. So what happens when that adventure with God takes a woman to a far and difficult land and through heartbreaking family experiences? You will find that this book is not about the strength of a woman's heart or even of her faith. This is a story, again, of God's goodness in all of life, no matter where He takes you. You will read it, as I have, and be reminded of His great grace."
--Madelyn Edens, missionary emeritus to the Middle East, International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention

"Shelby's book is one that I do not recommend that you begin reading at nine in the evening--unless you want to be up all night. Yes, trite as the phrase may sound, Behind the Veils of Yemen is one of those can't-put-down books.

"Shelby prayed--not just in morning devotions but throughout her day--and learned to give thanks in all things. She writes with an honesty about her struggles, failures and victories that gives glory to God for what she and her husband saw happen in Yemen. Her book is one I highly recommend--if you want a challenge to pray more, give more and perhaps even go to someplace where people have yet to hear the Good News that Jesus saves!"
--Aretta Loving, former translator and current writer and speaker, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Papua New Guinea; author, Slices of Life: Stories and Devotions from a Bible Translator and Together We Can! A Mosaic of Stories and Devotions Displaying the Impact of God's Word

"Audra Shelby's sharing is powerful and heartfelt, impacting and educating audiences for whom Islam--especially from a woman's unique point of view--would otherwise remain a mystery. I was deeply moved not only by her personal experience but also in my own spiritual walk."
--Lori Koch, ministry leader and former missionary

"This is a compelling tale, skillfully told, of a young family embarking upon an extraordinary adventure with God and both the struggles and victories that infuse their lives of faith. With rare sensitivity, Shelby introduces readers to the lovely country and people of Yemen, particularly the women who live and love unveiled beyond the walls. As she brings to life this fascinating culture with riveting detail and charming poignancy, she creates a hunger to experience the world of the Middle East, God's activity in it and how He leads those who choose to walk in His ways."
--Karen O'Dell Bullock, Ph.D.; professor of Christian heritage and director of Ph.D. program, B. H. Carroll Theological Institute

"The story enclosed within the pages of this book invites a reader to take a fascinating faith journey with a young missionary family in Yemen as recounted through the pen of Audra Shelby. You will journey along with Audra and discover that your senses come alive through sights, smells and sounds as well as joys and sorrows that have lain behind both real and figurative veils for centuries. Let a reader take good care! You will be drawn quickly into her story as though you were living it with her and find your heart beating with new gospel vibrancy as her pioneering path invites you to follow closely in her steps."
--Larry C. Ashlock, D.Min., Ph.D.; professor of pastoral leadership and ethics and director of D.Min program, B. H. Carroll Theological Institute

The Author

  1. Audra Grace Shelby
    Photograph courtesy of Elaine Huguenin/Elane Photography

    Audra Grace Shelby

    Audra Grace Shelby served nine years as a Southern Baptist missionary in the Middle East, alongside her husband and four children. The daughter of career missionaries, she speaks frequently at conferences and in churches across the United States, and she has...

    Continue reading about Audra Grace Shelby