“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)

In American culture we generally expect to receive a few gifts around certain holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, but, to me, gifts are more special when they arrive for no obvious reason.  No birthday, no wedding anniversary, no holiday or graduation from school or college.  One of those “just because” gifts that make us feel loved or appreciated by the giver because he or she was thinking about us and decided to bless us with something thoughtful.  For many people, a gift’s value isn’t determined as much by the cost as the thought behind it.

One year ago today, I was given such a gift.  Well, my gift is both valuable and full of thought.  One year ago today — 9 October 2007 — I was at my parents’ house with my nephew when I decided to check MySpace to see if I had any new comments or messages.  What a surprise to see a note from a young Arab college student from Damascus, Syria!  Who knew by answering this simple message, my life would change so drastically?  Ha, ha……probably the One Who sent me this special gift!

I never would have thought replying to Samer’s message that I would come to have more of an understanding and love for Arabs and Muslims.  Those were two groups I really didn’t know much about or cared for very much. I just didn’t know any.  None.  And I didn’t care to understand them. It just never occurred to me that I should care since I never crossed paths with them.  Ahhh, but the Lord had different plans!  He wanted me to “cross paths” with some Arab Muslims. Apparently He wanted me to learn some things, to broaden my perspective and understand their views and struggles.

I thank God for Samer and the other young Arab friends that I have met as a result of him.  I praise God for my Shami, Latakian and Palestinian friends — Amer, Basheer, Sami, Louai, Hassan and Ahmad (aka Jake). God has given me such wonderful opportunities to learn from them this past year.  They are my unexpected gifts!  I am so very thankful for each of them and the way they have impacted my life.  Definitely I can no longer hear “Arab” or “Muslim” or “Syrian” or “Palestinian” and dismiss them as before. Now when I hear those words, I think “FRIENDS.”

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3)