Day One–October ’15 Iraq Trip
Heart is full
Hectic rush to airport after getting runaround from Dr. iPhone who didn’t have my Mac ready—good thing I brought my old HP just in case.. Heavy traffic. Gave my cabbie a big tip and a gourmet candy bar from the stash I brought for the families here. Long lines In Passport Control and security, hot and humid, finally a feeling of rest in my seat. Young businessman next to me offers me a stay at one of his hotels—got to share with him my work & my passion
Hectic start to the trip, but once I get to Erbil I feel at ease—Elmarie and I always experience this—it takes coming to this “dangerous” and chaotic place to get away from the hecticness. This country has a hold on our hearts.
Get through passport control with no problem—Kurds love Americans. Take the bus to the welcome-station-which is away-from-the-terminal-in-case-you-welcome-us-with-a-bomb. Smart thinking. The security here is very good and they actually treat you well.
My friend Adnan is there waiting for me. Kisses on the cheek. Drive into Kirkuk. Good conversation but limited with the language.
Meet with Pastor H. at the Presbyterian Church. I’m feeling good about the trip and working with him. This will be my home base—I’ll sleep in his office and have meals with the families that live here—about 16 families, just under 70 people.
Sounds like I will be able to be with the Syriac folks in Duhok next week.
Pastor H. got me a translator—Sandy—a young college-age Muslim guy, cut off from family, Pastor H has come alongside of him; Sandy and I hit it off; Pastor H leaves the two of us to talk and have a simple dinner of Lahmeh (lamb) paste on bread. Simple but tasty. Good old Iraqi street food.
Sandy goes to meet with Pastor H. I change and go outside: the church campus consists of a few buildings surrounded by walls and guarded by Iraqi Police. In the center is a “courtyard area” where the families hang out.
I pull out my Frisbee and start finding a few of the teen guys to play with. We’re having a blast; Sandi joins us. Bringing a Frisbee is always a good idea with Middle Eastern youth because chances are they’ve never played, and so it is one sport that I actually appear to rock at.
Frisbee’s a hit; A few of the families bring out chairs, invite me to sit; invite me to coffee; more people gather.
There’s about ten to twelve people there, ages nine to ninety, all from one of the villages in the Mosul area.
I ask them about the experience of a year ago.
The Matriarch says: “Hamdallah (Thank God)—we are here and we are alive.”
I share how much it means to hear that—they have much to teach the Church in America. It would be hard for one of us to experience what they are and say “Hamdallah”
The Patriarch then shares his faith—“Hamdallah—God is everything”
The younger people ask me about America; I share the mixed bag
They ask about me, my wife, kids.
I share my gifts: chocolate, finger puppets, kazoos; the adults LOVE the kazoos.
Sandy wants to take me outside the gated campus to see a bit of the neighborhood; gets Haitham’s permission for a limited walk—It’s dark and my skin and hair are light.
We leave the gate and I can still hear the kazoos.
Sandi and I walk around a bit;
I ask Sandy about him being Muslim AND being baptized.
He identifies himself as Muslim, just interested in what all religions offer.
We talk about Hamdallah—that it’s ok to also be honest with God when it’s hard to say it.
Just as it’s getting interesting—vendors and food and shops and people out—Sandy says we’ve already gone too far for safety. Maybe tomorrow when it’s light.
Time for bed. They’ve put a bed into Pastor H’s office for me. There’s a bit of the Lahmeh and bread left—even good cold. No internet tonight, well something’s gotta teach me about suffering.
Hamdallah. Thank you, God.
Thank you, Jesus.