Haifa, Love, and This Lenten Journey

Embrace for the Journey

Embrace for the Journey

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

I keep thinking about Haifa*, a young woman who I met at church in north Minneapolis last Summer. Born in West Africa, abandoned by her mother at birth, raised by her Catholic grandmother and Muslim father in different periods of life, at 18 years of age she has had an incredible journey thus far.

Her story keeps bringing me into the mystery of my own Lenten journey, and how I hear God calling me in my life.

Last week Haifa text messaged me a note of distress.  At her “end,” she wrote she was “going crazy” and didn’t know where to turn.

Driving across town during rush hour to connect with Haifa, I found myself praying. I kept asking, “What do you want me to do here, God?” I kept seeing the Visitation Sisters answering their doorbell, open and present to the stories and circumstances of their neighbors who seek and find (and give) so much by knocking. I kept feeling washed over by grace, calm, a kind of surrendering energy that told me: All Shall Be Well.

Kicked out of her house four months ago, Haifa had gone off my radar, as she disappeared from our faith community at Sunday mass. I knew I had to call her or visit with her in person when the text message arrived on my phone. I heard her say she was out of work, about to be kicked out of her current residence if she didn’t come up with the rent, and in need of some resources to help bridge the gap between her needs and current resources. I got in my car to go to meet her, and thought of who else to call or how I could be of any service to this young woman.

It’s hard to describe what happens in my heart, mind, whole being when I encounter young people (any people) in such circumstances in their lives. Driving across town during rush hour to connect with Haifa, I found myself praying. I kept asking, “What do you want me to do here, God?” I kept seeing the Visitation Sisters answering their doorbell, open and present to the stories and circumstances of their neighbors who seek and find (and give) so much by knocking. I kept feeling washed over by grace, calm, a kind of surrendering energy that told me: All Shall Be Well.

I reached a friend employed at our parish who was familiar with Haifa’s situation, and I learned in short order that the church would be able to help Haifa with her rent. I breathed a deep sigh of relief and gratitude and turned the corner into downtown Minneapolis to connect with this dear woman.

Haifa came for dinner. We cooked together, prayed, laughed, ate and told one another stories. I had a chance to hear her tale about navigating life in the past few months outside the realm of her father’s home, and beyond the reach and full knowledge of her grandmother. And my heart cracked wide open in the process –with love, awe, hope, uncertainty, concern, the blessings and grace of God.

A week later, and Haifa has found a job, paid her rent, and is going about her life. And I think of her daily. And I wonder how this informs my walk toward Easter. I pray as I turn this relationship over to God, alongside my own notions of well-being, of Love, of resources, of how life should look for an 18 year old girl. I pray. And I ask to see Christ in my journey — His love, mercy, justice, hope, suffering, and redemption. I ask for your prayers, too, for Haifa, for me, for what’s next in any of our walks with Love.

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*Name changed

2 Responses

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  1. For Hafia love! Thank you for sharing her, your story here!

  2. Your story resonated with a new song we (I) learned this morning:

    “… if you share your bread with the hungry, give protection to the lost; give a shelter to the homeless, clothe the naked in your midst, then your light shall break forth like the dawn.”

    “Come seek the tender faithfulness of God.”

    Lent. Awareness.

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