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Posts Tagged ‘ministering in multicultural areas of Sydney’

I had just finished speaking at a meeting and was chatting with an old friend as we ate lunch. We had not seen each other for some time and were reminiscing about the years when he and his wife used to run a cafe in a very multicultural area of Sydney. I had met them in that period and was so impressed at their heart to reach out to the people who came across their path on a daily basis in that cafe. As we chatted, he told me a story from those times I had never heard before. He shared with me how one day, his wife (let’s call her Marie) was unable to come to work alongside him at the cafe as she normally did. But over time, Marie had befriended a Muslim lady (let’s call her Sara) from Somalia who, when she heard about this, offered to help them out for the day.

‘I will be Marie today!’ she declared—and she meant it.

Sara set to work and, not long after, saw an elderly lady outside the shop having difficulty walking, despite having a walking frame. Now knowing how her friend Marie, who has such a warm, caring, friendly manner, would act, she rushed out to help this older lady.

‘Are you all right? Would you like to sit down for a while? Would you like a cup of coffee? Or can I get you a taxi home?’

But the older lady, seeing her Good Samaritan was a Muslim woman, turned on her.

‘No—I don’t like Muslims!’ she replied with vigour.

Sara bit her tongue but did not retaliate. After all, she was Marie that day—she had promised to act just as Marie would. She continued graciously helping the older lady, who did at last allow herself to be helped into a taxi.

The following day, my friend who ran the cafe received a phone call.

‘Do you have a Muslim woman working in your coffee shop?’ the voice demanded.

‘Yes, I do,’ my friend replied, wondering what was to come next.

‘Well, I have something for her. I will see it gets delivered to your shop today, so if you could pass it onto her …’

The parcel duly arrived and when my friend next saw Sara, he handed it to her.

‘What is it?’ Sara asked a little fearfully.

‘I’ve no idea,’ my friend responded, ‘but you might as well open it.’

When she did, inside was a wonderful pamper pack of perfume, bath salts and skin care products, just right for her—a peace offering par excellence. And Sara accepted the gift with grace.

What a challenge this story was to me on several levels! But above all, how well it shows us that we can choose how we respond to others. We can respond with anger and defensiveness, which often worsens the situation. Or we can respond with grace and forbearance, like Sara did. As a result, barriers were broken down in an amazing way. And all because Sara chose to act as she knew her friend Marie would.

I was humbled by this story. How about you?

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Eph 4:32

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