“English?” I asked.
She mumbled something in response, but I couldn’t interpret it. It wasn’t English, and it didn’t even sound like Arabic. I was lost. I couldn’t help her, so I turned my attention back to my phone.
Not five minutes later, a young man walked over from his seat across the boarding gate. “Does she need help?” he addressed me in perfect English.
“I think so, but I don’t know what she wants,” I replied.
He tried talking to her, too, but didn’t get much further than I had. But then he gestured for her boarding pass and took it over to the check-in counter to verify her flight details. Apparently, she was in the right place; her flight scheduled to take off two hours after ours.
“Wait here,” he said, trying to reassure her through hand movements.
She didn’t seem comforted, though, so when two women, clothed in long black robes and headscarves, sat down behind us, she got their attention as well.
“What do you want? Do you want to make a phone call?” the younger of the two asked, when the still frightened-looking woman produced a scrap of paper with a phone number.
I chimed in with what I knew of the situation. Then the older woman, completely covered and face obscured except for her eyes, stood up and motioned for the African girl to follow her. They started walking down the terminal, and the younger woman clarified, “My mother is taking her to the airline office to see if someone there can help her.”
Perhaps 10 minutes later, much closer to boarding, the older woman returned. I asked what happened, and the daughter told me the airline staff had requested the African girl to wait in the office. Her flight was departing from the same gate as ours, and they were afraid she’d get confused when our boarding process started.
“It was very kind of you to help her,” I told the women.
While I waited the remaining few minutes for my flight, I processed what had just happened. I recognised too much of the ‘Good Samaritan’ parable in the situation, and, unfortunately, I wasn’t the unlikely passer-by who went out of the way to help: it was the Muslim woman.
The next week in the Arabian Peninsula gave me more time to experience the generosity, hospitality and help of many more Muslims.
A man, wearing the national dress of his country, took my suitcase down from the overhead compartment without me asking—or even pointing it out. He’d seen where the steward had placed it when I boarded.
Several days later, when I had to change the time of a scheduled inter-country flight, due to my own mistake, a male airline employee, hearing me explain the situation to one of his colleagues, asked me to step over to his counter. “The same thing happened to me once,” he said. “I missed a flight, and somebody helped me then. So today, I’m going to try to help you.”
The airline had originally rebooked me on a flight early the next morning, but 45 minutes later, the helpful airline employee handed me a boarding pass with my name printed on it. I arrived at the next destination only an hour after my colleagues, who had departed on the originally scheduled flight.
On one of our last nights in country, my group was invited to dinner at the home of a wealthy, well-respected man. The cars parked in front of his home hinted at the success he’d enjoyed though his profession, as did the size of his house and the generous banquet laid out for us. When we sat down to eat, the man himself—not his assistants or wife or cook—stood up to serve us. He poured drinks and personally brought platters of food around to each guest. He served us like Jesus served His disciples the night before He was crucified, the most respected man in the room humbly taking the lowest position.
I was speechless.
OM and other organisations send workers to the region because most people there have never heard the gospel message, but the fingerprints of God still shine through His creation. Jesus loves Muslims, and I have so much to learn from them.
Nicole is a world traveller and writer for OM International, based in the US. She’s passionate about partnering with believers to communicate the ways God is working across the globe. In her free time, you’ll find her biking, paddle boarding or curling up with coffee and a good book.
Published: Thursday, 15 November 2018
Credit: Nicole James