We ordered a pasta dish from the menu and a glass of beer on tap. The mysterious person came with our drink and my curiosity took over as my husband gave me an, Oh no look! It did not deter me from asking him a question, just one.
“Where is your homeland?”
“I’m from Egypt, I am a Coptic Christian.”
“I’ve read about the Coptic church when we got our first computer eons ago. You are Orthodox then.” It surprised me he spoke English so well with only a slight accent. “My dad was Russian Orthodox. Have you been here in the states long?”
“A year or so. I grew up being bi-lingual. That’s why I had no problem with language.”
This was going well. He answered my question before I asked. My husband smiled; he was amused but interested. Our waiter excused himself and went to check on the food.
He returned in a few minutes with the salad and pasta and I asked, “Tell me about the Coptic religion. My husband and I would like to hear more about it.”
“I was raised in the traditional way. Fasting was a major part of our faith. We fasted not only in lent but also during advent and before Our Lady’s Assumption. We hold Her in great esteem as do the Muslims in our country. You must have heard in the news, there is much upheaval in our country. There are factions opposed to one another. But the people just want to live their lives. They love food and festivity and family just as people in this country. It is sad for young people. The cannot marry and have children because unemployment is rampant and though many are highly educated, they find no jobs. It is distressing but there remains our faith and Our Mother.”
Our host talked with us just being interrupted once when we heard a Harley pull in and the fellow came into the bar for a speedy refreshment and left again within minutes of his arrival. (Seemed he came to verify this was a real business.)
The most memorable part of our new found friend’s conversation came when he returned to clear away the dishes and we ordered desert and coffee. With no one else in the place he stayed standing beside our table and asked us a few questions, the usual ones: Where are you from? Where are you going today? And another not often asked: Are you Christian?
After answering those he posed, I felt entitled to one more question for him. “How is it there is such devotion to the Blessed Mother in your country?”
The answer follows in the next and last segment of this story…