By Marc Wyatt
Luke records Paul’s words to the Athenians in Acts 17 this way:
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
It was just a regular day–a Thursday morning. We were planning to meet with a local pastor for lunch as part of our getting up to speed in our new ministry field. Kim took one look at my hair and said with a smile “It’s time for you to get a haircut buddy! I had seen a local discount hair franchise a few blocks from our North Raleigh apartment so I made my way over to it – crazy hair and all.
I parked and went in the shop, and I must admit I was a bit surprised when my eyes met hers. She was wearing a hijab. She asked for my phone number. I told her I worked for the CIA and wasn’t comfortable giving out my personal information. Najaah* looked up at me and laughed. “Really? The CIA? OK Mr. CIA let’s work on that hair.”
I sat down and greeted her, “As-salamu alaykum,” said with an southern accent – which in Arabic means peace be upon you or simply Hi. That was all the Arabic I had. She smiled and replied, “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam” (and peace to you as well).
She asked me what my work really was and I shared with her that my wife, Kim and I were ministers and that we help immigrants and refugees begin their new lives in the United States. That’s all she needed to know. For the next 30 minutes as Najaah did her magic on my hair she also shared her immigration story with me.
Najaah had come to the US some 25 years ago, sponsored by her elder sister who had come to Raleigh to attend school. It was interesting to me that at about the same time Najaah moved from the Middle East to Raleigh, Kim and I had packed up everything we owned at the time (which fit in the back of my father’s car with room to spare) and moved to the same area to attend seminary at Southeastern Baptist TS.
Over the years, Najaah had married, raised a family, started a small business and navigated the cultural stresses of being Muslim in the Bible belt. She went on to share with some energy that her marriage had not survived the years but that she had done her best raising the children on her own. They are grown now and doing well with families of their own. It was as if she were just waiting for the opportunity to share her heart with someone who would listen. That someone at that moment was me.
It was just an ordinary day and I needed a haircut. Amazing Missio Dei, that our Father who sends us–his church–into the world also brings the people like Najaah, from the utter most parts of the world, near to his church, so that she and they might find him.
She finished my hair cut. I paid the bill, gave her a nice tip and told her I’d be back.
Marc Wyatt serves as CBF field personnel alongside his wife, Kim, in the Research Triangle of North Carolina.