A volunteer had a blessed experience with one of the patrons at last month’s LLP event and wanted to share his touching story:
She had the loudest and brightest hijab in the Laundromat. She was also young and smiled more than the other Muslim women. Her husband was tall and large. I spoke to her husband first and helped him start the washing machines when they were ready. He said he needed to go to work and that his wife would do the drying. An hour later she flagged me down to start a series of dryers for her with my magic laundry card. Like her husband, she was noticeably grateful for the free help. Since we had made eye contact several times this morning, I asked her how she was doing.
“Fine. Very well. Thank you much.”
“Where are you from?” She said she was from Sudan. Not South Sudan—Sudan.
“Oh really? We supported South Sudan’s independence last year.”
“But it is terrible in the North” she said, as her engaging smile disappeared.
For the next ten minutes she relayed how she had been threatened and tortured by the Sudanese government.
Just then someone poked my arm, needing me to start their dryer. This conversation was too intense to drop. I handed them the magic card and asked them to bring it back. They did.
“Why were you tortured by your government?”
“Not the government. The security forces. They tortured me because I went to Darfur to help the people.”
“Are you from Darfur?”
“No! I tell you already, I am from Sudan. Because my training is medicine, I go to Darfur to help people. The man who runs my government, he burns entire villages in Darfur. I go to help them.”
“And they tortured you for providing relief?”
“Yes. They tortured me five times. And they make me to have sex.”
“What??! Are you saying they raped you because you provided relief to Darfur refugees??”
She nodded her head resolutely. The certainty of her answer and the surprising lack of anguish or shame on her face confirmed the validity of the reports that I’ve read—that rape is a primary tactic used by governments, tribes and clans in African countries. One in four African women is a victim of political or tribal-motivated rape.
“The last time, they say the next time they come, they will kill me. That’s when I go to American embassy and ask for asylum. They give me permission to come to USA as Visitor. Then I can get work permit, then Green Card. This is my home now. I want to stay here.”
Another request to start a dryer. I handed someone my card without breaking eye-contact with my guest. We talked a little more about how her life in America is freer and safer, and how she is finding community among other Sudanese and African immigrants. Her smile returned and I could see she was genuinely thankful to have a new life here where she and her husband and her newborn child could live in safety.
But this was too emotional to just discuss and then leave hanging. God has us at this Laundromat today for a reason. There is something this woman needs that God wants to give her.
“Can I pray for you?” I asked.
“Yes, of course” she said as she smiled, assuming that I wanted to pray for her in the privacy of my home.
“I would like to pray for you right now.”
“Oh!” she said, her head pulling back and her hand blocking her heart, “But I am Muslim.”
–Quick, brain: Think of something.–
“That’s wonderful” I said, watching her face to see how she would react to what I was about to say next.
“You know that Koran says much about Isa” (Arabic for “Jesus”).
“Yes” she nodded.
“And the Koran says that Jesus blesses people, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, yes” she agreed.
“And if I pray to Jesus and ask him to bless you and your family in his name, he will bless your family, correct?”
“Yes, yes!” she said with a growing eagerness.
“Then let’s pray!” I smiled.
“Okay” she agreed, not really knowing what to do.
I closed my eyes and thanked Jesus for protecting her life and for bringing her family safely here. I asked him to heal the wounds and scars of the past—I could hear her agreeing out loud with this—and to bless her new life here as well as her husband and their newborn child.
“In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
I looked up and she was standing there with a thankful look on her face. I know Muslim women aren’t supposed to touch men who aren’t their husbands, but the moment came over me and I told her that I wanted to give her a hug, to which she complied. I told her to let us know if she had any other needs in case we could help.
Then it was on to the next washing machine.
I have no idea what she will tell her husband tonight.
I have no idea what it must feel like to be prayed for by someone else, maybe for the first time in your life.
All I know is that I was obedient and took the chance I’ve been hoping for. The rest is up to God.
Perhaps we’ll see her next month.