Because of his limited English, and my non-existent Arabic, Ali* spoke to me through his teenage son. I introduced myself as a part of the Spiritual Care team, and explained that my role was to see how he is doing spiritually, and offer whatever spiritual care that I could. Ali said that he was comfortable talking with me about this, so I sat down. I asked him about his background and discovered that he was an Iraqi man and a muslim. He shared more, that he had come to Buffalo several years before.
As we discussed how his immigration to the US had affected his life and his spiritual health, I asked him, “Do you like it here, does this feel like home?” At this question, Ali’s countenance fell, he responded, “No, I miss my homeland very much.” He described his hope for the future of his homeland, and his desire to return there, but his equally strong desire to raise his children here in the US and his preference that they would stay. He spoke of the violence and brokenness in Iraq, and his longing to bring help to his people. It was obvious from his body language and facial expressions, as well as the words he was using, that he had some deep emotional discomfort.
I asked if I could pray for him, this led to a long conversation (confused by the need for translation) that I was a follower of Jesus, and that, while muslims pray at regular times during the day, I would like to pray for him right there in the room. At first he seemed a little wary of my offer, and I couldn’t tell if it was because I was offering him prayer as a Christian, or if it was simply because of the language barrier. When I was able to convey that I would like to ask God to bless him and his family, he responded with a strong, “yes!” in English. He would not, however, let me pray just for his family. He asked that I pray for the peace and prosperity of Iraq. Again, I could see his distress over his nation and his people.
We held hands, the three of us, and I spoke to Jesus in English, while Ali’s son translated into Arabic for his father to understand. I prayed very simply, asking the Holy Spirit to come and visit us there in the room. I spoke a blessing to the father-heart of Ali for his children, and asked for God’s protection and provision over their family. Then we prayed for Iraq, and we asked for God to set things right in that country. We asked for peace, hope, and justice. When we finished Ali thanked me repeatedly and heartily for my prayer. I also thanked him (and his son) for joining me in prayer, and for allowing me to know some of the intimate details of their story, and I encouraged them that I was convinced that God cared deeply about them and about their homeland.
*Ali is not his real name.