[Gen 21:16 ] Then Hagar went and sat down opposite Ishmael a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.

This is the story I was pondering early Wednesday morning before my ESL class. I had read it many times before, but never really thought deeply about Hagar and her pain. This morning was different.

That morning in English class was set aside to register all the ladies for the semester and establish the dynamic of the class. I had five ladies who regularly attended my class last semester, so I was expecting that registering those same ladies plus a few more might take most of the class time.

I walked into the class and saw only one woman—Dahlia. We had never had personal conversation—although I’d been kissed on both cheeks by her many times! We greeted each other Middle-Eastern style, and I sat down next to her preparing my papers and waiting for everyone else to stroll in. After 15 minutes passed, I began using broken English (and my Arabic dictionary) to converse and get to know Dahlia a bit better. I wanted to know if she had a job, how long she’d been in the country, was she married? She wanted to see a picture of my children. We realized we were the same age and married the same year. It wasn’t hard to find something to connect over.

Then something happened that I was not prepared for. She began sharing about her children. She told me each year they were born—by C-section—all four deceased. And two more miscarried. And then she began to weep, and through her tears she shared that she had a very good husband. A very good husband.

And as she allowed me to move closer to her and comfort her, God brought forth that image of Hagar before me. He made the connection for me, and He had prepared me for more than English lessons that day. He had prepared me to love and comfort and care for this refugee woman, to hear her story and weep with her. And I pray this for Dahlia:

“…Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.” Gen 21:19

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