Face to face with poverty

August 1, 2015 - 12:00am -- Living City

Face to face with poverty
Being an instrument of God’s providence during a trip

As I boarded the plane at the Dubai airport bound for Nairobi, there was a young Kenyan woman in front of me. I noticed that something was quite unusual. She was holding her passport in her hand and was not carrying a handbag.

I realized that she had the seat next to mine. From Dubai to Nairobi I listened to the woman’s desperate story of being abused by the family she was working for in Qatar, where she had been working as a house maid. She had moved there trying to make money to support her young son and family. I was amazed. She told me that she had arrived at Dubai in the morning and, being exhausted, fell asleep. When she woke up, her handbag and all her money were gone.

At the end of the flight, I gave her some US dollars and my card, and I asked her to email me if she could when she got home to a place called Meru, 250 miles from the airport. I certainly hadn’t expected such an opportunity to love my neighbor during this flight, so it was a special gift from God.

Four days later, I received a beautiful thank-you email asking me to let her know when I was leaving Kenya. I was able to call her as I was leaving the little city of the Focolare, where I had attended an international conference. She told me she was having difficulty finding work there and supporting her son at school.

It came to mind that I could put her in touch with a friend I had met up with in those days from Nairobi. My friend agreed that if the woman made contact, she would respond. I realized I had touched upon a serious face of poverty present in Kenya and all over Africa, and my friend told me that many young women trying to make some money go to Middle Eastern countries, where they are often abused and sometimes sexually — a modern form of slavery.

I thought the story was over, but the hand of God’s providence became evident in a most miraculous way.
When I arrived at Dubai airport to return to Australia, I had about a two-hour wait. So I sat down and offered some crackers to a woman about my age sitting next to me. She was very grateful, and when we started to talk, we realized we were of like mind. She was an entrepreneur with partners in a major social enterprise project including an orphanage and a permaculture initiative — in Meru, the very place where that first young woman came from!

I told this woman the story and the young woman’s desperate need for work, and without hesitation she said that their project was expanding and could look into offering her a job! I was overcome with joy and amazement at the hand of God’s providence, providing exactly what was needed in that moment.

— Lorraine Lipson, Australia