Most Friday mornings find me volunteering at the Good Neighbor Community Center, a community service agency sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist churches in Lincoln, Nebraska. In the winter, I usually wear my coat inside while I’m working because the back door of the area where donations are received is often open to receive or dispense donations and it gets cold.
One morning I put my car keys in my coat pocket and then set to work in the receiving area sorting clothing and other donated items. Later, I moved to another room where surplus items are set out for clients to take. It was much warmer in that area, and without thinking, I took off my coat as I went about putting shoes and clothing out for the Center’s clients. When it came time to leave, I realized that I did not have my coat with me and went looking for it.
There were many volunteers at the Center that day, some from the immigrant and refugee community and some from a community organization doing a day of service. I thought that perhaps someone had picked up my coat thinking that it was a donation. I searched the area where clothing is hung on racks for clients to take and could not find it. Center staff helped me look, but no one could find my coat with my car keys in the pocket. I searched through rack after rack of clothing, but no coat. I felt foolish about what I had done and thought about praying, but didn’t.
Finally, I called to see if my husband could bring me a second set of keys. He was busy at work and scolded me for leaving my keys in my coat pocket. He wondered why I hadn’t kept them on my person instead of putting them in my pocket. It was an inconvenience for him to leave work, but soon he showed up with another key to my car so that I could drive home. Unfortunately, I kept the keys to both my car and my husband’s on the same ring, so I had lost two sets of keys. They were both the remote-entry type and I knew that replacement would probably be more than $100 for each set.
When I got home, I finally prayed and asked God that whoever had taken the coat would find the keys and that the Holy Spirit would impress that person not to throw away my keys. The next day was Sabbath and during the afternoon, I received an unexpected call from Zainab Al-Baaj who heads the MENA (Middle East North Africa) Hope project at the Good Neighbor Community Center. Zainab is a tireless helper to new immigrants and refugees who need help getting settled in our city. She provides case management services for Arabic speaking immigrants and refugees and is a devout Muslim.
She said, “Carol, I have a surprise for you,” and giggled. At that moment, I had no idea what she was talking about. Zainab went on to tell me that when she heard that my coat and keys were lost, that she prayed about it. Later she received a call from Hawa, a woman who does daycare for the MENA Hope women’s group. Hawa said that she had picked up a coat in the give-away area and when she got home, there were car keys in the pocket. Hawa’s friend told her to throw the keys away, but Hawa refused.
Hawa said that she was going to return the keys in case they belonged to someone. Thoughtful Hawa returned both the coat and the keys. I was very glad to get the news that my keys had been returned. I was equally humbled to realize that when I had not prayed, that my Muslim friend was faithful to do so. I also realized that when I asked for the Spirit to impress the finder, that Hawa, also a Muslim believer, had listened to the Spirit and had not thrown away my keys.
Who answered these prayers and who was listening? I have often been impressed with how easily Zainab speaks of God’s blessings and expresses gratitude to Him, referring to God by His Arabic name, Allah. She faithfully prays and pauses during her workday to do this. Lately, we have heard many messages of prejudice against our Muslim neighbors, but here is a message that we can believe: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” Acts 10; 34-35 NKJV
Written by Carol Leonhardt