I opened up the door to the lobby and greeted the next patients back. The greeting, however, was not like my usual one. “Marhaba, Kiifkum ilyawm (Hello, how are you today?)?” The husband and wife both met me with smiles! The husband laughed and repeated a joke he said the last time we met, "Hah, this guy knows Arabic. We cannot speak bad about him because he will know what we are saying!" We laughed as we walked back to the patient's room to get checked to see the doctor.
The wife was the patient that day, and her husband was there to help translate for her. This time, the interaction between the patient and me was different. She made more eye contact and started to speak with me in Arabic about how nice the weather was outside. My Arabic is very basic, and I asked her to teach me what word she uses for "weather." She told me the word she uses, and I told them what word I know for "weather." They approved of my vocabulary, and we continued on with the appointment. Throughout the conversation, there seemed to be more comfortability between me and the couple. We joked, laughed, and parted in a friendly matter.
This is one of many interactions I have working with Arabic-speaking patients. I've seen God move when I’ve attempted to speak Arabic to patients and show them I am trying to learn their language. Since living and working in Dearborn, a respect and desire to learn more about different cultures and languages has grown in me. And, even though I work full-time as a nurse, I am still able to connect with and bless the diaspora community.
The willingness to learn another language, such as Arabic, and understand another culture, has been a meaningful way to connect with this people group. There is an openness from patients when I am able to use their native language. Asking questions like the origin of their name or if they speak Arabic has sparked unique conversations with patients in a setting they might not always expect, a doctor's office. The Lord has used the opportunity to learn a new language to bridge the gap between cultures. I have learned so much from the stories of the patients I come in contact with. My eyes have been opened, and I now recognize that I have the ability to impact a community, even in my workplace.
Learning a language is a simple way that God has been able to use me in my work setting to connect to the diaspora. Sometimes it can be overwhelming when we want to serve, but our time is very limited. The reality is, we all have an opportunity to connect with the diaspora if we choose to live intentionally. A simple way you can build a bridge is by learning a language, discovering a culture, asking questions, and hearing stories. Being limited by time, opportunity, or resources does not need to keep you from impacting a community. Imagine the kind of transformation that can come from those moments of impact. My hope is that this might be an encouragement to those who want to reach out but feel limited by their current job, location, or circumstance. Know that God has put you in the place you are for a reason, and everyone has the ability to positively impact a community for Christ.