I never saw it coming, this unlikely friendship with a girl named Nee.
A few weeks ago, I was babysitting for a friend's little girl and we decided to get our nails done to pass the time on a rainy afternoon. Nee gave me the most perfect french manicure, and as we sat together, we talked. Her whole face lit up when I mentioned I had visited Viet Nam to teach English and I thought her country was beautiful. She asked if I could teach her English, or at least help her practice. I gave her my phone number, but wasn't sure I'd hear anything.
A couple of days ago, Nee texted me and asked for my help getting to an immigration office she wasn't sure how to find. So yesterday morning, I hopped in my car, headed for Nee's apartment, picked her up, and we drove to the other side of town to the immigration office for her appointment.
Our conversation to start was difficult at best with long periods of silence as I tried to formulate more simple questions. With a language barrier and little in common, it's hard to know where to start.
"Do you miss your family?"
"Do you like living in the States?"
I quickly realized I should stay away from yes or no questions to stimulate the conversation a little more. When we finally pulled up to the immigration office, Nee was nervous. I tried to ease the tension and joked that we were a funny pair: her with half my name and half my size. She had hope in her eyes, though. This was a first big step toward a dream that began a long time ago for her - her dream to become an American. She headed straight to her appointment and I sat in a chair in the waiting room. As I looked around, I found myself to be the minority. I saw immigrants from what I assume to be India, China, and Mexico. I pulled out my phone to pass the time when I was startled by the gruff voice of the guard about 20 feet away:
"Ma'am, no cell phones allowed. [Then louder] Please put your cell phone away. [Then even louder] Do you speak English?"
I tucked my phone quickly back into my purse and had to keep from smiling. I didn't want to give it away that I was actually as American as they come.
Nee took care of what she needed to and we then headed to yet another part of town so I could introduce her to her first burrito (at the little piece of Heaven I call Chipotle, of course). Over lunch, I told her a little about my life with Shawn, how happy and in love we are, how we're trying to pursue our dreams by going to school and working hard.
Tonight, I spent some time reading her citizenship study guide into a recorder so she can hear my American accent and study for her upcoming test. She has lots to learn: checks and balances, the judicial system, what year the Civil War began.
As I slowly read the questions and answers into the recorder, I pray for Nee. I pray that she will hear much more in my voice than how laws are made and how old you have to be to vote. I pray she'll hear Jesus speaking to her. Drawing her. That she will recognize a difference in me that can only be Him. I pray that she will find freedom that doesn't come from citizenship in this great country of ours, but eternal freedom with Christ as her Savior.