We live in Clarkston, a postage stamp “town” on the ragged edges of urban Atlanta. Time magazine called Clarkston “the most diverse square mile in America.” Our little zip code is home to people from over 40 countries, most of them the most war-torn, hungry, and destitute places on the planet. We are definitely not slumming (come visit us and see for yourself), but we do feel strategically placed to be neighbors here.
One week after we moved in our friend, Dianne, brought Amina to our house. When they left, I asked the Lord if he would arrange it so that Amina and I could be friends. And, simply because God made sure our paths crossed again… and again and again, we are.
Amina is a rarity among Somalians, both here and in her country. Not only is she royalty – the granddaughter of a Somali king – she is one of only .5% Christians from a predominately Muslim nation. About eight years ago Amina and her family (her husband and ten children) were attacked in their home. She remembers only fragments of that night, pieces of the torture that has left scars on her body and in her heart. Her entire family was slaughtered, including her youngest—fourteen-year-old twin daughters—and she was left for dead. An aide worker in the mortuary noticed that Amina had a pulse. She was moved, still in a coma, to Kenya and then to Burundi where she says dead bodies littered the streets. There is much, much more to Amina’s pre-America story. But I want to tell you what it’s like to know her now.
Amina leaves her apartment most mornings by 7:00 am. She never has a plan, except to offer her waking hours to the Lord for his use. So if you call her, say, to ask her to meet you at your Congolese friend’s apartment to translate (she speaks eight languages), you might get detoured to the home of a Bhutanese family who needs help hauling away seven carloads of garbage to the dumpster in your car because they don’t have one. She might call you from the Department of Labor to say, “Come quickly. We need your help,” and you go because the same Holy Spirit who inhabits Amina lives in you and helps you see that your cancelled appointment is an open door. And after you help a young Sudanese woman who speaks no English but beams so beautifully with gratitude that you love her immediately, and then you fill out the same paperwork for an Indian man who is a good bit less grateful… after all of this Amina takes you to the grocery store to meet her Egyptian friends, friends she met while you were filling out forms. Amina might stop by your house to rest or to eat dinner or to tell you another story of God’s intervention, which might be in the near future and involve you.
Amina wanders into impromptu prayer and, more often, praise more than anyone I’ve ever met. She loves to say God is good. This is, as you may imagine, no shallow sentiment. The other night she mentioned that two families in Clarkston had lost husbands/fathers to suicide and that she had called three churches to help them, but no one would take her call. We saw disappointment flicker across her face, anger even, and then she closed her eyes and said, “Thank you, God, that you always take my call. You are perfect, we are not. You never slumber or sleep. You always tenderly care for us.” (Yes, she talks like that) To which we said, Amen.