Our eyes can be windows into our inner selves even if we try to hide what is going on in our secret inner world. Such was true for Fatima as she went through her every day life trying to conceal the pain she carried with her; pain from having been rejected by her husband and left to be a single mom, pain of being left by another man who claimed to love her, pain of having to flee her homeland in the Middle East because of violence, and the pain of seeking to make a new life for her and her children in her new country the U.S. with all of the ups and downs. It seemed like mostly downs for her. Sure she would smile, but her smile was an outward mask to prevent others from seeing how vulnerable she felt.
Fatima stopped in at The Harbor for an espresso one day after dropping her kids off at school. As she approached the counter to order her espresso, she avoided eye contact with those sitting at the tables. She looked down at the floor as she walked to the counter and when she was finally first in line, Jessica smiled and let her know, “I will be right with you after I finish this latte.” Feeling shy about speaking English, Fatima forced a smile and nodded averting her eyes in hopes Jessica wouldn’t notice her. Jessica having survived ordeals herself, picked up on Fatima’s forced smile and knew something was wrong. There is a kind of intuition survivors have when it comes to recognizing others who have suffered.
Fatima got to the counter and Jessica asked what she could get her. Fatima avoided eye contact and quietly answered, “I only want an espresso.” Espresso reminded her of the good times in her life when she would drink an espresso with her parents even though the memories were of a distant time and place. Espresso was one of the few times she could feel connected to that far away land and memory. While Fatima was lost in her thoughts about her parents, Jessica made her espresso. Then came the innocent intrusion on Fatima’s brief mental escape, Jessica returned with the espresso and asked, “Is there anything else you need?”
Fatima shook her head no and softly replied, “No Thank you.”
Jessica noticed Fatima’s accent and it reminded of the accent Mary Magdalene had when Jessica had her encounter with Mary, so Jessica gently inquired, “Where are you from? You have a beautiful accent. It reminds me of a woman I met a while back.”
Trust is an issue for survivors and being a refugee only heightened that issue of wondering who she could trust. Fatima simply replied, “I am from the Middle East.” Then without saying another word, she went to a table in the corner of The Harbor Coffee Shop to be out of the way and unnoticed. Her desire was to have a brief respite from her struggles by mentally disappearing into her past before life fell apart.
Jessica sensed something was troubling Fatima, so she asked Ashley to cover the counter for a minute. Jessica quickly found Cindy in the back. Cindy had gotten to know Jessica quite well and could tell there was something pressing Jessica needed to ask. “What is it sweetie?” Cindy asked while reassuring Jessica with a pat on the shoulder. “There is a woman I think we need to pray for. She is sitting by herself and I am sure something is wrong,” Jessica confided. They joined hands and prayed for the welcome stranger.
Fatima was lost in her thoughts when another woman approached her and asked if she could sit with her, “Do you mind if I join you? All the tables are full.” Startled, Fatima looked up to see a woman who looked like she could of come from the same area of the world and also had an accent similar to hers. Fatima hesitated at first, but after looking around and realizing all the tables were full nodded yes and held her hand out to the empty chair at the table to motion for the stranger to have a seat.
Fatima surprised herself by talking with this woman. Feeling free to strike up a conversation was not something a survivor often experiences. Fatima asked the woman where she was from and the woman informed her, “I am from a place called Samaria.”
“Samaria?” Fatima pondered and then inquired further in her broken English, “I not know where Samaria is..”
“Oh, I understand. Samaria is not very well known, and least these days. It is in the part of the world around Israel,” the woman explained.
“So you are Jew?” Fatima asked.
The woman replied, “I used to be a kind of mix of Jewish and other things, but that wasn’t very acceptable in those days. By the way, you can call me Salome. What is your name?”
“My name is Fatima. What do you mean used to be?” Fatima asked.
“One day I met a man who changed my world, my life.” Salome explained.
“Men. I not like men. They only hurt.” Fatima looked down as she reacted to images flooding in her mind of her ex-husband, the boyfriend after him, and the thugs that attacked her village.
“Believe me, I understand. But this man is one we can all trust.” Salome confided.
Fatima was curious now “How do you know we can trust this man?”
Salome could see the moment was right so she went with it, “One day, many years ago, I went to the well. We used to get our water from a well back then. As I approached the well, I saw a man sitting by the well. I was surprised that he was sitting there because at in those days Jewish people would not come through my area of Samaria. They thought it would make them unclean, so they would walk around our whole area, But there he was just sitting there. I went up to the well to draw some water and then he spoke to me. I was startled because he was obviously a rabbi, a teacher, of some kind and he was speaking to me, a Samaritan woman. He asked me for a drink of water.”
Fatima interrupted, “Were you scared? Did you give him water?”
Salome smiled and continued with her story, “We never got to that. I was surprised he would ask me for a drink and told him so. I asked why he was even talking to me. He answered in what seemed a strange way. He told me that if I knew who he was that I would ask and he would give me living water so I would never thirst. I asked him to give me some of his living water but again he responded in a peculiar way that really got my attention. He told me to go get my husband.”
“That is men, only respect men.” Fatima interjected.
Salome wasn’t disturbed because she knew Fatima was following her story. “Actually, he was getting my attention. It didn’t feel like he was judging me. It felt more like like he had something important he wanted to share with me. I told him I didn’t have a husband and he proceeded to let me know that he knew I had been married five times and the man I was with was not my husband. He had my full attention at that point. I talked about the Messiah, the promised one from God because I was wondering if he was the Messiah. He told me he was the Messiah. With that I ran to my village and told the people. We all came back to listen to him.”
“Did he ever give you living water?” Fatima wanted to know.
“Yes, he did, but it wasn’t physical water. He was talking about the Holy Spirit. God gives the Holy Spirit to all who believe in the man I met at the well.” Salome explained.
“Who is this man? Can I meet him? Can I have this living water?” Fatima asked abruptly.
“Yes you can. Anyone can meet him and he will give this living water to anyone who trusts in him. His name is Jesus.” Salome shared.
Fatima looked down at her espresso thoughts swirling around in her mind and then looked back up and into Salome’s eyes. “I think I need learn more about this Jesus.”
Salome touched Fatima’s hand to reassure her sharing, “My time here is about up. I need to go back to heaven now. God wanted me to come talk with you. But don’t worry. A woman named Cindy is going to come over here as soon as I leave. She will share a lot more about Jesus with you. We will meet again someday. If you ever want to read about me, you can read in the Book of John Chapter 4 in the bible. Bye for now my friend.” Salome was gone and Fatima sat there dazed by her chance meeting trying to take it all in.
Cindy came over to greet Fatima, “Hi, my name is Cindy. Welcome to my coffee shop.”
Fatima perked up, “Hi, my name is Fatima. I talked with a woman, Salome. She tell me to talk with you. Can you talk to me about Jesus?
Cindy sat down smiling, “Of course. I would love to talk”