It was the sharp inhale. Then it was the ripple of chills folding through my back, planting my feet where I stood. I was afraid. The arid breeze rustled the ends of their burqas. At twelve years old, I had only seen Middle Eastern culture displayed on TV in the context of terrorism, so the sight of the two women frightened me, but it was a sight that would illicit a great change in my life.
I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Egypt with my family the summer before my seventh grade year. My father had been traveling there, off and on, for the previous two years setting up the country’s mortgage system. That summer, my mom, brother, and I were fortunate enough to join him. Sitting on the plane over the Atlantic, my excitement was only for the Pyramids of Giza, but little did I know, it was the women I encountered in front of the Grand Pyramids that would change my life.
I gave my life to Christ at the young age of six. One could argue that was my first step in growing up, and in many ways, it was, but I believe I grew up when I learned how to be a Christian. Discovering true devotion was what enabled my development.
One of our nights in Egypt, while eating dinner with my father’s closest business partner from Cairo, we had the opportunity to discuss our diverse faiths. I brought up the women I had seen at the Pyramids and his wife and daughter explained to us the message behind the veils. Once I was able to see the burqa as a devout symbol of Islamic faith, I was moved and reflected on my own devotion to Christianity. The burqa was their outward expression of faith whereas I had to find another way to express my faith. They have to wear it; I have to live it. Respect replaced fear. Revering their faith did not change my own beliefs, but strengthened them. I realized that I had to follow Jesus’ footsteps by loving and accepting everyone, despite different beliefs.
My broadened perspective has been extremely beneficial to my outlook on life and I cherish the opportunity it has provided me to be there for others. When I think back on the day I saw those two women, I can’t help but smile. It is because of them that I learned how to be a Christian. It’s not about judging people for the way they live their lives, it’s about loving them regardless and accepting them for who they are. It’s about creating relationships with people and allowing yourself to learn from their presence in your life.
I applied for the Global Engagement Fellowship Program because of this desire to see the world and learn what it has to teach me. I’m majoring in International Studies and I am glad this program will help give me real life experience in dealing with International communities before I even graduate. I cannot wait to see how this program will change me, develop my interests, and challenge my perspective.