The Bible has a lot to say about honor. Saturday night Phil and I were honored. Our next door neighbors are a very private, proper, gentle and generous Islamic family from Pakistan. If you read our blog regularly you know Phil and I have been praying for and seizing opportunities to build a friendship with them. Shiraz and Naima honored us this past week with a very special invitation to attend a family party at their home. It was Saturday night. Our children were tucked snugly in their beds. Phil wore dress slacks and a collared shirt. I wore a long skirt, leggings, a maternity sweater and a decorative scarf (attempting to emulate the modest dress of my neighbor and her relatives). We prepared ourselves for cultural differences. As we walked in the door holding hands, I whispered to Phil, “I’m not going to speak much, but stay behind you most of the time,” guessing that would be the most appropriate conduct for a woman.
It took all of one minute for me to realize I would not have the comfort of hiding behind my husband because the front family room of the home was filled exclusively with men and I was ushered into the living room next to the kitchen with all of the women. I gave Phil a see-you-later smile and warmly hugged the hostess. Her two sisters whom I’ve met before greeted me and I offered the proper Islamic greeting (“As-Salam Alaykum” which means peace be upon you) to people as I met them. The older ladies, who spent most of their lives in a small village in Pakistan, loved my proper greeting and welcomed me with great kindness. I was seated next to a caucasian wife who met her husband of twenty two years at Saint Mary’s Hospital here in Reno. All of the women wore traditional clothing so the room was a sea of bright, flowing colors, sequins and sparkles. They truly looked like royalty and many of them were, quite honestly, off-the-charts beautiful. It was as if I were in a room of Pakistani princesses. Each woman carried herself with great poise; modesty, thoughtfulness, and dignity modeled in their delicate gestures. I learned through a proud relative that most of the men in this family are doctors, engineers, or business owners. This is a family that works very hard, and lives well.
After I settled in, I quite liked being separate from the men as it helped me relax. There is a feeling every woman knows of being assessed when she walks into a room and being hidden among the women was quite comforting. After a time the hostess announced it was time to eat. The men came into the kitchen first and ate bountifully dish after dish of succulent, superb cuisine. Once every man was seated and eating back in the front room the women were invited to partake. I was asked to go first through the food line. With enough food to feed an army, and my pregnant appetite at work, I wasn’t shy about filling my plate. The aromas were so inviting and the dishes so masterfully made that I quite enjoyed myself. Homemade Naan bread wrapped in large sheets of cloth just like we had in India, a chickpea dish, a sweet rice dish, two amazing salads, two chicken dishes, a goat dish, sauces, and…I could go on…It was delicious!
But the best part came as I sat next to a woman named Mispa. She was about my age and had two small children. Throughout the course of the evening I learned that she grew up in Delaware and married a man from Pakistan who was now a doctor here in Reno. They married just before he began residency here in the states. And, it was an arranged marriage. Mispa was obviously very well educated, speaks three languages, and having grown up in Delaware thinks mostly like you and I. When she could tell that I was not at all shocked or taken back by the genesis of her marriage, she said, “You know, it’s really all the same. If you date someone or if you have an arranged marriage, it all takes work.” I agreed and I commended her for having the wisdom to allow her parents (who know her and love her more than anybody) to have such a vital role in the single most important life-decision she could make. She smiled. We talked about parenting, being wives, education, culture, languages, and after a time (I have no idea why or what I said that gave this impression) she asked, “Are you a missionary?”
“Yep,” I said and felt like God was with me. As the evening went on, and after a home-brewed cup of very sweet green tea, I started to feel sleepy and was sending Phil subliminal messages to come get me since it would be improper for me to go to him. When we got home we had a long talk about how rich, full, and beautiful our time was. Phil got to have interesting conversations with the men, mostly about work. They liked that he was a pilot and Phil says he spent most of his time asking questions. Then, one of the men, Miton, began talking to Phil about Islam and after a few moments he said, “So, you’re a Christian, right?” Perhaps he knew this from our neighbor and host, Shiraz who just last week asked Phil if we are Catholic. So, the family knows that we are Christians and yet, we were still invited to the family party. HOW COOL IS THAT!
Here’s one last thing about this party that I found simply astounding. There were no other friends at this party. No coworkers. No colleagues. Just family. And us. Was this incredible invitation the result of prayer for in-roads and opportunities? I think so. Was this the beginning of a flourishing friendship? I hope so.
May you be blessed this week as you look for, pray for, and walk through open doors. If you pray for us, please pray the Lord will provide us with a larger vehicle to use for the next year as our family is outgrowing our Subaru. Please also pray that we find a new and effective life-rhythm with Phil’s new work schedule. We used to wake up around 5am for quiet times and exercise but now Phil is waking up at 4 or earlier to get to work on time. We are having to work out a new schedule for our routines and it is taking a bit of adjustment. Please pray for wisdom, discipline, and grace.
Blessings to you!