I really wasn’t in the mood of visiting. I wanted to be alone.
With lots of time before my flight, I searched out a corner seat among the empty rows of a vacant boarding gate. I needed time to call family, eat a snack, and relax.
I quickly realized I was sitting right next to a departure screen. As travelers came and went, I buried myself deeper in my mobile. I hardly noticed two young men searching the board for their flight information, but my ear caught their Arabic conversation. My flight was headed to an Arabic-speaking country. I held my mobile closer.
But they’d already seen me. “Are you headed to ____ also?” Yes, I answered, not sure how they could tell, since none of us were at the right gate. "Oh, good! That’s where we’re going too.” They dropped their luggage and stretched out on the seats across from me as comfortably as if I’d invited them for tea.
After quickly moving through the typical Middle Eastern exchange of greetings and introductions, they launched into a fascinating story of how they’d just met there at the airport. One of them was a mechanic who had fixed the other fellow’s wrecked car a year earlier. The job hadn’t gone easily, but they at least parted on friendly terms. And here they were, now on the same flight out of the country. They both laughed as they recounted the strange coincidence—to me, a stranger.
I wondered how to get my peaceful space back to myself.
But with lots of time before our plane boarded, they had more stories to tell. About jobs, visa problems, discrimination, a father terminally ill in the hospital, and a father just buried. I felt a little guilty as my mind searched for reasons to escape.
“Oh no, my mobile is dead and I need to recharge it.” I was grateful that one of them generously offered his recharger, but I searched for a socket as far away as possible. To my surprise they followed me, offering more information, telling more stories. They shared that one of them was Sunni, one was Shi’a.
"See," they exclaimed, "we are even friends." I hadn’t said much about my faith, but I realized they assumed I was a Christian. They accepted me just like they’d accepted each other.
Still, I didn’t see my opportunity. I didn’t even listen to the Spirit whispering, “If you would put yourself aside and befriend them, you would have something wonderful to give.”
Now, you have to know that as a Christian in a nonChristian country, I often don’t leave the house without praying, “Jesus, show me someone who needs to know about You.” That’s my life, and the greatest joy I know. But that day I was stressed. I wasn’t thinking of being a friend to anyone, much less of sharing Jesus.
But God is patient, and He nudged me with the opportunity. In fact, He pushed me.
Suddenly, an unexpected thought came to my mind: Ask them if they've ever read the Bible. I hesitated. I knew it wasn’t even a logical thing to ask. But then, I knew how God had given me thoughts and words before, and I could always tell when they weren’t my own ideas.
“Have you ever read the Bible?” I heard myself saying. I was sure I had just succeeded in ending the conversation.
“Huda,” by then I was on a first-name basis, “nobody has ever asked me that question before.” “Me neither.” Of course they both admitted they had never read it. In fact it had never even occurred to them to own one. But they didn't appear shocked by my question. They didn’t pull away. In fact, they became more open, more engaged.
It slowly dawned on me--a little late, for sure--that God had placed us together.
“Please, friends, get a Bible and read what it says. It’s very important that you read it for yourself.” One of the young men said he was married to a Christian. He admitted that he even went to church with her occasionally, but nobody had ever suggested that he read the Bible. He seemed to know that was different than a Sunday ceremony.
The boarding call interrupted us. Our conversation had to close. But they were excited we had met, that they had met each other, that we all had been brought together. We exchanged email addresses. I realized I had only a few seconds left to encourage them.
“Please, find a Bible. It is a very nice book. It will help you. Take care, my friends. Take care.” The passenger lines separated us. I didn’t see either of them again.
But within the week, I received a message. It read, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Him will I trust.’” I thoughtfully scrolled down the small screen on my mobile as Psalm 91 unfolded in all its beauty. Someone had found a Bible. If it had encouraged him, he must have known it would be a blessing to me too.
It was the beginning. Our exchanges continue, each one a small reminder of how patient God is. With me. With them.
I’m glad He didn’t allow my personal stress to completely overtake what He wanted for my two young friends. I’m sure they would have eagerly listened to my testimony. I’m certain they would have been glad to pray together. But at least He caught my attention with enough time to recommend His Word to them. In grace, He will still speak. --CG