Today my name is Khawajia. In the past I have had other names - Ferenji, Yoo-Enn, Mizungu, and Gringa to name a few. They all mean the same - that I am a stranger in a strange land, an alien, a foreigner.
Today I am so interesting. You stop and stare at me like I am facinating, marveling at my skin and eyes and hair that each have their own colours. I don't know if the contrast of my body to everyone elses is beautiful or strange, but at times I am self-concious about it. Where I come from, to be pointed at and yelled at and laughed at is very rude, and though I know you aren't trying to be mean sometimes I'm still uncomfortable. But I try not to show it.
Today I spent time with you in the village, and I used every word of your language that I know. Sometimes my brain is so confused mixing up the words of every place I've been. It gets tired easily, but I really really want to communicate with you so I try. I am so thankful for your patience with me, it makes me want to know you even more. I don't come from a patient place, and I know that few of my kinsmen would offer you the grace that you have given to me.
Today we weighed your children and your mothers. This small bit of care we can provide is so little compared to what is available in other parts of the world, but it is something. Deep down, I don't know the best way I can help you - how to balance relief and developement with empowerment for you to grow on your own. This is not Khawaja land, it is yours, and so growing is up to you. I don't always know how to help you to do that but I pray often that our work here will help to make your people strong.
Today I know I am weak. I see your women walk with hundreds of pounds on their heads or pump water at the well. The muscles of your arms and legs are defined like ropes just under your skin, and your will to make your body work is much stronger than mine. It is life for you here. I have also heard the stories of what your mind, your heart, and your body have endured in your exile and I hope to never find out if I am as strong as you are. In my country, I am not weak, but in yours I am. That takes some getting used to.
Today I taught English to your men, and sat and watched them learn about community health care. Someday you will be leaders in your communities, and this study will help you to encourage your people long after I am gone. I want you to know how much potential you have, and I want you to keep trying even when it's boring or hard. But in this culture, I don't know how to do this. You are a man and so our relationship is very structured. But I pray that you will know how proud I am to walk with you for a little while and am sure that you will teach me far more than I teach you. You are taking on a big responsibility, and I know you are able. I pray that you will know this too and step out in confidence and competence.
Today I am torn. I love being here with you, and I love so many in my own country too. I know that if I were to stay here forever, or there forever, or somewhere else, that parts of my heart will remain here, and there, and wherever. Because of you, and others like you, I sometimes think I will be a sojourner forever and I can't quite believe that just one place in the world could ever feel like home.
Today I am thankful. I am glad and I am content to be in the midst of this season, for how many days it lasts. It is a perfect gift from the One who knows how to give perfect gifts. I hope that my time here will be well spent, and that I will bloom in this place I have been planted, for too soon I will have to change my name again. But for today, my name is Khawajia.