Afghanistan Woman Becomes Christian


Nurse Francine listened to my sorrowful sorry calmly, and when I finished, she simply hugged me. Looking me in the eyes, she told me that she had a daughter my age named Danielle who recently married a woman from the Philippines, and although Francine's strong Catholic beliefs led her to disagree with homosexuality, she still loved her daughter and wished her the best. She took a picture from her purse and showed it to me. In the picture I saw a tall, tomboyish young Black woman in a tux standing next to a short, plump Asian woman in a wedding dress, and between them stood an old white man in a Priest's um, uniform, and looking at the happy couple was none other than Francine herself. Wow. I really wasn't expecting that, to tell you the truth.

From my experience, Nigerians, half of whom are Christian, with the other half following Islam, are fiercely conservative as a people. To see a Nigerian Christian mother support her openly gay daughter to this extent was really something else. I looked at Nurse Francine, smiled and shook my head. She smiled at me, and tugged on her crucifix. She told me that God sent His Messenger the Lord Jesus Christ to teach mankind about peace and love, justice and equality, and that anyone who preached hatred over love, whether they call themselves Christian, Jewish or Muslim, they most definitely didn't speak for God. I stared at Nurse Francine. The conviction on her lined yet beautiful face was absolute. I took a deep breath, then asked her to tell me more about her faith.

A few days later, Darwin and Susan Thompson came to get me from the hospital. Susan had some dire news. She'd gone to my house to talk to my mom, and found her in the process of throwing all my stuff out with the trash. Apparently my mom was kicking me out. I didn't have a place to stay. I had exactly two hundred and seventeen dollars on my Bank of Montreal debit card. I was on crutches and wouldn't be able to work for another week or two, according to the doctors best projections. I was straight out of luck. What's a gal to do? Darwin told me I could move in with him. I looked at him and thanked him, but we were still getting to know each other and I wouldn't want to impose. Susan offered me to stay with her until I got my bearings. Darwin seemed a bit saddened when I took Susan up on her offer. I gently touched Darwin's arm, and thanked him again. Then I kissed him. It was my second time kissing him. This time, he pulled me close and kissed me full and deep. Then, in that deep voice of his, he told me he'd be there to help with whatever I needed. I grinned, and told him that I already knew that.

The next few weeks weren't easy, but I slowly got back on my feet. I managed to get caught up on my schoolwork at York University, then I went back to work. There was a bachelor-type apartment not far from Susan's apartment, and it was fully furnished. The owner was offering to rent this bachelor pad for three hundred a month, everything included. I took it, and since I didn't have much in the way of furniture or clothes, it was perfect for me. Darwin and I hung out and he and Susan were there to help me move. Not that moving took all that long, for reasons stated above. While I tried to get my life back on track, and welcomed help and support from both Darwin and Susan, I kept one secret from everyone, including the young woman I loved like a sister and the young man I was falling in love with. I continued to keep in touch with Nurse Francine, and when she invited me to her church in downtown Montreal, I went for a visit.

Even though I'd only been to church a couple of times, to attend the weddings of Christian friends, I knew what to expect. I was still blown away by Francine's church, though. Forty percent of the congregation were a smattering of Nigerians, Jamaicans, Haitians, Congolese, Kenyans, Ethiopians and even some Somali Christians. The rest of the church were Hispanics, French Canadians and other folk of European descent. I even ran into a Lebanese Christian man named Arthur Wahid and his Nigerian-born wife Isabel. This church was truly multicultural and multiethnic, and I heard French, English, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi and Amharic being spoken by the congregation. The ceremony was lively, and the preacher, a stocky black man in his fifties, was louder and more spry than I thought a man his age could be.

At some point, he paused to ask if there was someone visiting the church for the very first time. Francine smiled at me and I took this as my cue to stand up. I stood up, and introduced myself. I, Haifa Uzhmakai of Ghazni, Afghanistan, was happy to be in church with these wonderful and welcoming Christians. Everyone gave me a round of applause, and then I received a collection of hugs and kisses from the ladies ( and men ) sitting next to me. I'd never experienced anything like this in my entire life. At the end of the ceremony, Francine walked me back to my car and asked me if I ever wanted to return, I'd always be welcome. I smiled and hugged her, though at that point, I couldn't promise anything. Francine took a small silver crucifix from her purse, and handed it to me. Just a little something for me to remember her by, she said, and insisted that I was under no obligation to wear it. I took it, and for reasons unknown to me at the time, I kept it.

That Sunday afternoon, I invited Darwin, Susan, and Susan's boyfriend Todd to have dinner with me at this neat little Haitian restaurant called Croissant D'Or. I had just gotten paid, so I was ready to splurge a little. Of the eight hundred and seventy dollars I got from my biweekly check, three hundred went toward next month's rent and one hundred went toward groceries. I still had a good amount. I wore this sinfully sexy red dress, and judging by how Darwin looked at me, it had the effect I wanted. Darwin looked really good in his black silk shirt, dark gray silk pants and Timberland shoes. Susan and Todd came dressed casual as usual. We were having a good time talking before the waitress came with our meals, and before we could eat, I surprised everyone by asking them to pause. Three pairs of eyes stared at me. What was the holdup? I took a deep breath, looked at my friends and told them that I wanted to say Grace.

Had I turned into a green behemoth like in that Avengers movie, my friends wouldn't have been surprised. Susan asked me if I was alright. Todd raised his eyebrows and shook his head. Darwin stared at me without saying anything. I smiled at my friends and took the crucifix that Francine gave me from my purse. I put it around my neck. In a very clear and very calm voice, I told my friends that I was now Christian. I am a Christian woman because I choose to be, because I know Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth and the life. Nobody forced me to do this. And nobody will do anything to me if at some point in time I decide I no longer want to be a Christian. No one on this planet is under any compulsion to follow Jesus Christ. And no Christian will face persecution from other Christians if he or she ceases to be a Christian. Other religions threaten you with death if you leave the faith, or don't follow the rules. Christianity isn't like that. That's why, to me, Christianity is the best religion. I said all that, then waited for their response.

Susan was smiling, and Todd grinned. Darwin stared at me without saying anything. He gently touched my hand and told me that he loved me, but would never ask me to change my faith for him. I smiled and gently kissed him on the lips, then I shared with him and the others the story of my conversion from wayward Muslim chick fed up with the gender-biased rules of Islam to proud Christian woman. God sent me an angel to save me and show me the way, and that angel was Francine, an old Nigerian Christian nurse who showed me more kindness and dare I say motherly concern in my time of need than my own mother ever did, or ever would. I didn't become Christian to please anyone, nor am I running away from anything. I choose my faith because I can, and I know what is right for me. Darwin looked at me with love brimming in his dark brown eyes, and this time, he kissed me. I heard Susan say hallelujah. When Darwin and I came up for air, I smiled at him and he smiled at me. Todd cleared his throat, then told us that I needed to say Grace because we were all hungry. Darwin and I laughed, then we linked hands with Susan and Todd, and said Grace. Amen, thank you Jesus for this food, for this new love I've got in my life, for my new faith and my new life. Hallelujah!

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