Saturday, July 22, 2017

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

As for God, His ways are perfect; the words of the LORD are tried in the fire; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. Psalm 18:31

Today’s ride to Shaqlawa and Raban boya (and btw here is a spot-on blog that describes my month in Erbil so much better than I can) with the rocky sun-beaten fields of olive trees and terraced grape vines and sheep and goats flashing by in the through the open windows of the school bus was about a lot more than a little touristy sightseeing in a beautiful mountain village.

I slid into a conversation between Wissam, the guy with the great physics lesson, and Char, another team member. The ever-so-casual question of What did you do yesterday? turned into a story, as he reached into his phone and showed us.

Wissam and his family lived in Qaraqosh, a predominantly Christian village outside Mosul. And before ISIS there were the roots of ISIS, armed men who bullied Christians in every possible shade of life. For instance, buses would take students from the village to the University of Mosul every day, and everyone knew that the drivers had to pay “fees” in order to protect their passengers. Well, one month the bus driver didn’t pay, so eight students were herded off the bus, one of whom was Wissam’s brother, kidnapped for a ransom of one million dollars. Well, it got lowered to 200,000 dollars. So Wissam and his very extended family had to sell everything and borrow the rest. They got their brother back, unharmed, and spent the next two years pouring all of their energy and time into paying off the loans, even dropping out of school in order to work.

The debt paid, they returned to the university and the bus. Only this time the busses were blown to smithereens. So Wissam decided to study at the University of Erbil. Four days after his final exams, the final cleansing happened and his entire family fled, moving into his dorm room.

Yesterday was the first day he had returned home to the house they had built in 2010. Everything of value had been stolen. Everything left had been slashed and burned. It was clear that some people had been living in the kitchen because of the dishes and hookah left behind. He walked us through the various rooms: Wissam had done all of the wiring and painting of the once beautiful house. Now there were just charred remains of smashed dreams.

And here is the pause for every Christian in Erbil, as they consider returning. Is there any hope of reconciliation and restoration?

In this world, that is.

We pray the Lord’s Prayer together opening each class, and before each meal and at the end of each day and before we climbed up the mountain to the the monks’ cave where the hermits who lived in the tiny cliff caves gathered once a week for mass, starting in 400 AD.

Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.

And of all my students, Wissam is the one who totally gets instruction. He is creative, engaging, and walks right up that old ladder to higher order thinking. And surely he has gone through the fires, the scalding exploding sort. And this is just a bouncy bus ride snippet of his story, just one story.

Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.

His word is a shield. A shield that protects from the flaming darts of fear and hopelessness and despair. A shield that has produced resilience, my answer to Sinan’s question What is your favorite English word, Miss Christy? It is the world I am living in right now, what I see it all around me.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

May I understand.