Long before my arrival in the village, I had visited this place in my imagination; and visualized the people who live there. Guided by excitement and anticipation, I ran different scenarios through my mind of what my first encounters with those who call this village home may be like. Unlike others who have chosen to make eternal investments and live amongst the people, — I am a visitor. I wondered to myself; how would we be received? Who might we meet?
As we neared the village entrance I noticed women wearing the Islamic dress called hijab (scarfs or veils worn by Muslim women). Some may have looked upon them with fear and apprehension — I see a beautiful mired of colors gently covering those who are made in the image of God — not unlike myself.
The women and I exchanged smiles and my excitement grew. There is little that compares to the warm and welcome exchange that needs no translation — a heartfelt smile. I hoped and prayed that I would be given the gift of meeting these beautiful women.
I had come prepared to meet children; armed with coloring books, crayons, colored pens, bubbles, and games. It didn’t take long to recognize where the village children were gathered. We made our way over to them and found the best seat in the house — the ground. I wanted to be eye to eye with them, and hopefully set a stage that was welcoming. Thank God children error in being uninhibited, and soon we were surrounded by small people from a number of different nations.
One of the young Middle Eastern girls caught my attention almost immediately. She was about the size of a 10 year old child. I have learned to listen to that quite voice that urges me to pay attention, and look to see what He is saying in moments like this. I began to engage her in conversation and she was more than willing to join in. I quickly learned that her name was Samaa. She shared with me that she was 17 years old but suffered with an illness that made her appear much younger and smaller. I learned that her brother had died from a similar sickness. She spoke as one with strength, dignity, and without a hint of pity. Her bright brown eyes and contagious smile permeated my heart. She and her family are Iraqi refugees.
I could have looked quietly into her brown eyes and listened to her stories for hours, even days. She eventually asked if we would come to her home and meet her mother. We gladly accepted her invitation and joined her and her sister as we made our way to their flat. Once inside her home we were greeted by her mother who was a quite gracious woman. The family began to share with us some of the projects they enjoying doing together. I gave my best try at speaking Arabic with them which allowed for a great time of laughing together. While there Samaa drew me a picture of a flower with I love you in Arabic written above it. We spent short yet precious moments together that night. I told them I would return to see them again. I’m looking forward to that day!
I am humbled, and honored that the Lord would allow me to meet Samaa and her family. I will talk to God about them often. A chance encounter — I think not. In fact, I don’t’ believe in random coincidences. I would fly across the globe to meet Samaa and her family. I didn’t have to do that this time — I was in America. God may call you to go to the other side of the earth — or across the street; either way you will be so glad you did!
The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration but its donation.” -Corrie ten Boom