Last year my siblings created MySpace accounts. In order to view their pictures and profiles, I decided I would sign up as well in late July. I did not seek friendships among the thousands there, and only added people I already knew or knew about. In early October I was visiting my parents and decided to check my page since I’d not been there in a few days. In the new messages section I was drawn immediately to a simple subject line: “From Damascus.”

First you need to know about me that, for the most part, I love foreigners. I have always been enamored by people different than I am whether they were merely from the Land of Yankees (the Northeastern USA), Latin America or from somewhere much farther away. Maybe this is because I have mostly been around people very similar to me –Southern, white, Baptist, conservative – you get the picture. Or maybe I just enjoy hearing about other places, other cultures, other languages and accents and other people. I don’t know for sure, but I do appreciate the variety in flowers and trees and birds and butterflies. Perhaps this love for variety carries over into people.

Back to the story … Not only was I thrilled to hear from a foreigner, but for someone who counts the Apostle Paul among her favorite authors, the immediate sight of Damascus was thrilling! Wow, I thought, this is from a place mentioned in the Bible! Exciting!

Samer’s message politely challenged what I wrote on my profile page concerning the persecuted church because along with China and North Korea, I mentioned the Middle East. I replied to his message and asked questions of him about his life, culture, religion and even his thoughts of America. I had never met a Muslim or an Arab so this was extra exciting! I felt I had to learn all I could because I never knew when I’d have this kind of opportunity again. Although I have met some friendly foreigners in my past, I cannot remember another time I’ve had a foreigner contact me or speak my language well enough that we could actually learn from one another. That this new contact was from the Middle East … even more thrilling!

Before I met Samer, my view of Arab Muslims was rather suspicious. I’d never met a follower of Islam here so I had nothing to base my thoughts on except what I see of Muslims and Arabs in the media. To me they seemed like people full of anger and hatred who were intolerable towards people of other faiths and beliefs. I never thought of them as rational, friendly, easygoing people. Certainly I never expected to be friends with any of them because who can be friends with angry people who won’t even give you a chance?

I was pleasantly surprised when this erroneous view of Arab Muslims was shattered by my new friend! Not only did I find someone tolerant of my views as an American and a Christian, I found out how similar both of us are in many ways. Yes, we have a lot of major differences, but also we have many similar values. I have been greatly amused many times when Samer and I have been talking and he’s replied to my statements with “you sound like a Muslim when you say that.”

I not only found Samer tolerant and similar to me in many ways, I also found a tenderhearted person with exceptional compassion and understanding for those hurting. As an American, I have not experienced the kind of heartache many in the Middle East have experienced all their lives. I have not endured the terrible media images shown nearly every day. Thankfully Samer has shared his burden with me and given me a more tender heart towards those suffering. Through Samer, God has shown me that there is great worth in everyone. Whereas without even realizing it I may have written off the Muslims and Arabs as not worth my time (because they are, afterall, my “enemies”), God has used Samer to prove to me how loved His creation is to Him. As my Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” God did not exclude Arabs. “The world” includes all men and women and children, and I believe God loved us all so much that He gave us all the opportunity for salvation through the blood of His precious Son, Jesus Christ.

I thank God for giving me a loving heart towards Arabs, and I’m grateful He used one of the “enemies” to perform this miracle in my life.