Many of my friends know that I spend Friday afternoons with internationals from all over the world.
I love it. It is a highlight of every week.
Today I give #thisiscrazylove2016 to a good friend from Iraq. I will NEVER forget the first words he spoke to me.
"Hi. I'm Saif."
I remember these three little words for two reasons.
Upon further conversation it was clear that these three words were the only words he could speak on English. As a refugee who had traveled from Iraq across the border to Syria he had to escape to survive.
Side note: think about the last few years and all the discussions and news footage and information that has been available with what is going on in Syria. About two years before that was at the level it is now, Saif was seeking refuge in Syria from Iraq.
That brings us to the second reason I will never forget his first words to me.
"Hi. I'm Saif." Saif is pronounced "SAFE."
What powerful words for a refugee who has moved to the United States. I must admit I'm working hard right now not to cry while writing this.
"Hi. I'm Saif."
Over the next few years Saif and I saw each other every week during conversations and his liveliness and zeal for life itself was infectious. His outgoing nature and desire to hear everyone else's story was similar to mine. I felt I had met my Arab twin. In fact, that's what I think of when I think of him. Saif is my brother. I love him so deeply. He is kind. He is friendly. He is a devoted Muslim man who takes his faith very seriously.
He looks to serve others and provide help to anyone who needs it.
Yet, he is also discerning and able to see they not all people who ask for help actually need it.
He played on our soccer team for several years. Each year this Iraqi man played with people from other countries. First he play with the Saudi team I mentioned in yesterday's post. Then he played for the country of Syria with us as we sought to have that country, in the early days of being torn apart, be a part of the tournament.
As an announcement for the tournament we had team members show up at our church the weekend before the competition.
There was Saif, dressed in a suit, an Iraqi man holding a Three Star Syrian Flag.
Saif is all about peace and love.
He is all about people meeting one another and making new friends.
I went to Friday prayer with him once and felt like a celebrity or dignitary as he walked me around and introduced me to everyone there. He was an amazing host at the Mosque wanting me, a Christian, to feel welcomed, appreciated and loved at his house of prayer.
So today, on the day he took his citizenship test, I celebrate Saif because he is more than a friend. He is my brother and I love him deeply.