« Previous   |   Main   |   Next »

Acte de Naissance

A poem by Raleigh,* RMM worker in North Africa

Morning and a new way to walk in an old city.

I interrupt men’s unholy reveries with a friendly greeting; their eyes snap to me instead, and they smile as they respond.

Here is an inviting entrance to a market with the tell-tale signs: odds and ends, vegetables and fruit, push cart men waiting nearby, steps leading up into a mystery of more. I promise myself to return here with the ones I love.

Finally I find the Mukata, people everywhere. Which line should I insinuate myself into? Okay, this one; the others will let me know. Amazing how there is a mysterious and beautiful order to this chaotic gathering of souls. I find that I begin to understand it, or at least to be at peace as I enter the fun challenge. Yes, I sense the order more than I see it—in their peaceful faces and demeanors. All is as it should be, even this foreigner fumbling through his papers again before he arrives at the window hoping to accomplish another cross-cultural task.

Acte de naissance?

He says wrong line, she says wrong office, I try again.

My spirit desires a salve while walking in the hotter sun. A brief interlude with an English-speaking comrade who crosses my path astride a bicycle does the trick, and then I am in search of the ubiquitous colored taxi, heading in the right direction.

Another office, sure to be the right one. Wrong room, go that way.

Didn’t quite catch that. Will meander.

An older, grim-faced gentleman makes eye contact, gives me a hard time, makes me feel stupid before finally gruffing me to go over there.

The man behind the computer is all business with his unusual and hilarious high-pitched voice, but he becomes friendly as I share personal bits of my story while we wait for the man who can actually help me. The latter is, of course, still out to lunch, though it is nearly 3pm.

Will he return? My friend is unsure; he is usually back by this time. But make yourself comfortable in his office, there, sit in that chair.

I sit, alone in my mystery man’s office, in awe at the trust which has just been placed in me to be surrounded by over-sized official books of what would be considered sensitive and personal information in my other country.

Finally he arrives, a cheery, tall, exuberant man. My high-pitched friend has warned him of my presence and of my ability to speak his language, and this new man welcomes me very warmly into the process of obtaining what I long for: acte de naissance for my little Beth, 2 weeks new.

Together, we have the joyful task of deciding how to spell the name in its closest equivalent letters in Arabic. We debate a few of the letters and enjoy the challenge. Here and there we break to ask each other personal questions and he laughs when I say the correct blessings over his own little daughter and we discover that we have the same age and same wedding ring.

Act de naissance will be ready tomorrow. First name, middle name, middle name, LAST. 4 copies and without cost because you are one of us.
I leave, buoyed in spirit on the top of a beautiful, murky sea.

And Beth? She is an alert, light-loving and peaceful baby. I am that baby too.


Raleigh and Opal* moved with their children to North Africa in September of 2015 to bring the light and love of Jesus to those who do not yet know him. In the last year they have experienced all of the joys and pains of learning a new language, establishing new friendships, and participating in a new culture. In August they brought a new baby girl into the world, Beth. To receive more updates and find out ways to pray for this family, email info@rmmoffice.org.

*Names changed for security