Muhammad became my special friend during our recent work project in Morocco. He was the consummate host, a great helper and encourager. We clicked despite the cultural and linguistic gaps, which are significant. I discovered near week’s end that we were the same age. Wow. That surprised me but as I learned more about his life it didn’t. Muhammad took special interest in my well being during the project. Maybe because he felt that geezers need to stick together. As I seemed to be wilting under the afternoon heat he would find a shady place under a tree and lay out a mat for me to rest on. That was cool. We did not speak each other’s language but in a way we did…if that makes sense. He was very kind, helped us learn a few expressions, crushed fresh almonds for us to eat, poured mint tea and was overall the elder host of our team.
One afternoon he saw me actively taking pictures of the area and asked me to take a walk with him. I wasn’t sure what he wanted at first. Remember the language barrier. In our limited way, we communicated. I valued him, was interested in his life, his family and culture. He saw me as a friendly guest, someone who had come to help his family and people. As we walked he took my arm and said, “Ma-rock, Americk,” then flashed me a big smile and two thumbs up. Occasionally, well actually every other minute, we would reach the end of our verbal lexicon and just laugh.
On the second to last day, it was apparent that my stomach had succumbed to the new germ environment. I was losing energy quick and also worried about where to escape when necessary. Muhammad once again laid me down under a tree. Soon after that he motioned me to follow him on another little walk. I was very curious, maybe a little nervous. Here I was in a strange country, taking another walk with a man I just met, whose language I did not speak. We wandered off the beaten path on that little hill in rural Morocco. It was a place that had kind of become home for a week.
We stopped at one point on our walk. Muhammad reached down and picked some plants, dusted them off, and looked at me. He then rubbed his stomach to suggest that the plant he was holding would relieve my sickness. What to do? Could this be safe for me to ingest? Will I get sicker? What was in that dust that he shook off the plant? I was aware that many animals roamed freely over this same patch of land. Here they don’t talk about “free range” animals as a marketing scheme. It is just their reality. Who has money to build a fence? Why would you want to anyway? I paused for a moment, then just said inside, OK Lord. I trust this man. Muhammad took the plant back to his little home, boiled some water and made me a special tea. I drank it with the faith that I would be fine. Maybe I would even get better.
When I got back to my bunk, I still took some Imodium and pain relievers. But who knows what did the trick.
My 10 days in Morocco were nearing the end. I survived, even thrived. I got sick and then got a little better. I enjoyed working with our diverse team of people from Ireland, Arizona, Washington and most of all–Morocco. Muhammad was my new friend and caregiver. And somehow this is all part of the joy of serving in the Kingdom and doing what Christ calls me to. I can hardly wait to return.