Our team just returned from our first home stay a few days ago, and I must say, God really made some cool moves and really re-ignited my fire during my home stay. We stayed together in a house with 10 girls and 3 guys. Thankfully, 4 of the girls were under the age of 12 and were in primary school, which was perfect as they are just above our level of understanding, so they were phenomenal teachers.
The mom and dad of the family were in their late 50’s, and had 2 sons and a daughter, all in their mid-twenties. The daughter is married with her own beautiful 1 year-old daughter. There was also a family with all the young girls staying with them, close family friends, so the house was pretty packed. And when I say house, I really should say “Riad,” and describing it as a house in the American sense really doesn’t do it justice.
IT WAS BEAUTIFUL IN THE MOST SIMPLE AND ELEGANT SENSE.
Just to find their home, we had to wind through the towering clay walls of the medina for about 20 minutes then duck as we entered through the hobbit-sized door. After entering into this seemingly tiny hole in the wall, we find ourselves standing at the southwest corner of a beautiful tiled courtyard with a fountain encircled by plants in the center with 20-feet tall painted clay walls surrounding the 1000 square feet courtyard with no roof above our heads.
So most of our time was spent playing Charades and Pictionary (aka learning Arabic) with the mom, the oldest daughter, and the girls when they got home from school. When we weren’t learning Arabic, playing with the toddler, playing Marco Polo with the girls, or sleeping, we were consuming sugar. So much sugar. I honestly can’t remember a time when we were sitting on the frosh (couch) without a pot of tea, a thermos of coffee, or a plate of sweets in front of us. But hey, I’m not complaining. They fed us like kings, very fat kings with an inability to say, “No thanks. I’m full.” There was also lots of Shakira sing-a-long time, but I won’t get into that.
IT WAS PROBABLY THE MOST ENCOURAGING AND REWARDING EXPERIENCE OF THE TRIP FOR ME THUS FAR.
It was amazing to see how, even though we didn’t know a lick of Arabic, and they didn’t know any English, save some lyrics of “I’m a Barbie girl,” communication was still pretty easy and for the most part very effective. They were incredibly patient with us and showed so much hospitality, encouragement, and love toward us that I really came to develop a close bond with my family.
God really showed me just how similar all of his children are. How we all have the capacity to love and to be kind to our neighbors even if our neighbors believe something different and live thousands of miles away. He showed me how positive people can respond if they see that you truly want to be a part of their lives and that you care about them and show them His love that he has shown you.
I believe that if God can open the doors of families here to some random American college students like us, he can do it all over the world with anyone. You just have to knock, and the door shall be opened. But don’t be too surprised when they answer the door, and you find yourself in more familiar surroundings than you expected. Love is easier than you think.