Friday, August 3, 2012

Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel

Last Thursday afternoon, I sat across from one of my best friends "B" while she poured out her deepest fears and struggles regarding her faith. Studying the Bible had once again lead into a discussion regarding the spiritual drought surrounding our first few months of service and the loneliness associated with forced separation from our religious communities and support networks. My friend had been searching for signs and guidance from God, but she felt that He had been silent in her recent struggles. Where is God when you are alone and scared in a foreign country? Why does He hide His face when you need Him the most? Pushing aside my own feelings of inadequacy and helplessness, I prayed over my friend and begged God for the right words to say. After an hour of hugs and tears, we emerged with red noses (tissues are expensive, napkins are a cheaper although harsher alternative) and feeling a slight sense of catharsis. We may be lost, but we aren't alone.

Feeling like God had already started to answer our prayers, we set out to a new Moroccan friend's home to break Ramadan fast with her family. "B" and "N" had barely met, but we soon learned that they had once lived just a few miles apart in the US. As the conversation progressed, we learned that their significant others ran in the same circles, they had attended the same place of worship, they shared mutual friends and their wedding anniversary dates were identical. They had so much in common, it's likely they had passed each other on the street numerous times. "N" was an answer to our prayers. Within a few short hours, "B" went from feeling disconnected in Morocco to discussing her favorite places to eat in California with her new Moroccan sister. The similarities were astounding and tears welled in our eyes: this was more than a coincidence, this was clearly the work of God.

Unfortunately, this glimpse of heaven on earth was interrupted by a week of turmoil. I fully believe that God only gives you as much as you can handle, but I found myself wishing that He had a little less faith in my strength. Adding to the stress of fasting during Ramadan and trying to work on various projects, it became clear that Peace Corps was no longer the place for "B." While I am not at liberty to describe the entire ordeal, please know that we went through an emotional and mental ringer. Four trying days after our blessed meal with "N,' I found myself collapsed on a bed and begging her family to let me stay at their home. I was sucked dry. Drained. All I could do was hope for mercy and a place to temporarily rest my head. "N" and her family graciously welcomed me to their home when I had no other place to turn.

I quickly learned that this was more than an act of hospitality. "N" had been unfairly deported from the US over three years ago. She had been humiliated and disgraced; treated like an animal and separated from her husband who is gainfully employed in the States. For the past few years, she has been working in Canada and jumping through the never-ending hoops of immigration. Her husband is only able to visit two days per month and they haven't spent a single holiday, birthday or anniversary together in nearly four years. This intelligent, giving and energetic young Muslim woman has been forced to create a new life across a seemingly meaningless human border.

Despite her gross mistreatment at the hands of the American government, her family opened their home to two American girls who symbolize a painful period in their daughter's life. They have shared their food, their beds, their religion and their lives with us, asking for nothing in return. I will never forget their generosity and kindness and pray that I can give back in a meaningful way.

In some ways, I feel like a helpless volunteer with no connections in congress or friends in immigration who can expedite her hardship paperwork. Yet I know that every time you bang on a door, it becomes more difficult for people to ignore your cry. My Moroccan sister has been banging on door after door for over three years and today I am adding my voice. 


  1. Immigration problems intervention has become a near impossibility since we reacted (rather than responded) to the attack on 9/11. But I will add my cry to yours before the throne at the center of the universe and hope that it somehow impacts the often petty bureaucracies that are terrible caricatures of what just government ought to be. And kudos to N and her family for their compassion for you demonstrated in action.