Editor’s note: Associate Director Meghan Meros introduces FMS’ Advent blog series, “Faith Calls Us to be Neighbors,” with a welcome story from Egypt.
Tired. Hungry. Disoriented. In need of a shower.
After traveling for nearly 24 hours to Cairo, Egypt, I was so ready to sleep, so ready to eat and to stop being in transit, and so ready to have clean hair again. Though I had made the long journey to attend a spiritual retreat with Christian young adults from around the world, it was my bodily needs that cried out for attention, and an encounter with God simply did not seem possible until those needs were met.
As Nader, a young adult from a Coptic church near the airport, drove me though the unfamiliar cityscape of outer Cairo, past tall apartment buildings and billboards, I wondered how the rest of my evening would unfold. One of the retreat organizers had made arrangements for me to stay the night at the home of Abouna (Father) Youssef Kosman, a Coptic priest, and his family, and I hoped that I could make a good impression despite feeling so disheveled.
Upon arrival at Abouna Youssef’s building, Abouna led me up to his apartment where his wife and two children were waiting. While I don’t remember the exact greetings we exchanged, these words capture how that moment was recorded in my mind: “Welcome! We are so glad to have you. Please, enter and be our guest. Eat, rest, and feel at home.”
Eat, indeed, was the first thing we did. With the table already set, Abouna Youssef invited me to say grace, and it was a dear moment. I felt honored to lift my voice to God on behalf of those of us gathered, especially since Abouna Youssef knew so little about me. Sure, grace before meals may seem low on the prayer hierarchy—a perfunctory step before digging into food—but it’s still prayer, and I was a foreigner, a
Catholic, a traveler cognitively impaired by jetlag. Nonetheless, my words were welcome, and I was welcome, not just on a surface level but onthe level of the spirit.
A shower and bed followed soon after dinner, but only after Abouna Youssef’s daughter, Mariam, and I had a chance to watch the video from her ballet recital at school. As a fellow dancer, I was happy to oblige, and then I hit the hay.
Unfortunately, sleep was a fitful, and there was no sleeping through the 4 a.m. call to prayer that issued from the minaret of the mosque next door. I woke up several times, and each time I felt kind of strange. Despite having been so warmly welcomed and told to make myself at home, there was no denying that I was not at home. I was thousands of miles away from D.C., outside my home culture, and not adapted to the right time zone.
And yet, I felt home enough—enough to help me realize how loved and cared for I was. Sometimes, we need the care of other people to make God’s care explicit, and that night in Abouna Youssef’s home was one of those times for me.
Moments like these are what our Advent blog series is all about.
As you follow the stories of welcome and hospitality, shared by FMS missioners, volunteers, staff, board members, alumni missioners, alumni volunteers, and FMS supporters, we hope that warm memories well up in your heart and mind, rekindling a special experience of hospitality in your own life. We hope, too, that you will share this warmth with others because that it what we, at FMS, are all about.
Reflection question: When was a time you felt God’s love through the care of someone you didn’t know?