Moving to a new city means hours of wandering around finding this store or that necessity. The other day I had a specific list of places to find as I dodged mopeds, hopped over the results of donkey carts pausing for passers by to look at the owner’s wares, avoided strange puddles in this desert city, and averted my eyes from young men trying to get my attention.
As I meandered through the crowded streets, I noticed a small shop with gift type items in the window: a red teddy bear, a lamp with hearts dangling, clocks with interesting sayings. I knew this would mean an office supply store. (A very bedazzled picture frame is so much more interesting than envelopes.) As I entered the store, I was taken aback by the copier machines as old as I am. But I continued my search for a few items needed for my home office. Finally, unable to find anything amidst the baby-covered notebooks and Sponge Bob stickers, I asked the woman behind the counter for help.
“Let me show you where those are,” she responded to my query. Quickly obtaining the requested item, she turned to me. “Are you Syrian?” With a proud smile I answered negatively, but assured her that I had studied Arabic in Damascus. She eyed me curiously. “Where do you live?” I began explain where my house was in relation to her shop. “That’s near. You’re not Egyptian. Where are you from?”
I was about to answer this the way I usually do, but something stopped me and I paused to take a breath. “I am from America. It is where I was born and where my family lives. But it is not my home.”
“Oh, your husband is Egyptian. And so now this is your home.”
“No. My husband is American, too. I love living in the Middle East. I’ve lived in this part of the world for a long time. But it is not my true home. My true home is in heaven with God.”
I’ve never answered anyone this way. And it shocked the store clerk. She peered at me, trying to figure me out. We moved on to discussing why I would leave America to come to the Middle East. I talked of the beautiful culture and interesting history. Then she asked me why I was here, in Egypt when there is so much uncertainty. “I follow Jesus and I believe he led me to the Middle East and specifically to this neighborhood. Jesus loves Egyptians and has asked me to love them, too.” She stood there dumbfounded at my answer. And I stood there shocked by the words that had come out of my mouth. But then she laughed, shook her head and I left as a group of school children ran into the store.
And then she called to me to say that she hoped to see me again soon.
I think I need a stapler.