“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” (Matthew 5: 3-4 – The Message)
I had to pose the question: “What was your journey with God like in the midst of all this?” Janan, a Chaldean Iraqi who started life anew over a year ago in El Cajon, San Diego, had been talking freely about his life all morning. This was not the first instance we had spent time together, yet I was deeply touched by both his openness and willingness to share, and by the hard life he had led at only 19 years of age. His peace and wisdom throughout led me to bring up matters of faith and, quite truly, I should not have been too surprised by his simple yet heart-felt answer: “Nothing is too hard for God. He can do everything. You do all you can do, and then you wait. My journey brought me closer to God.”
Perhaps it is the academic in me that expected us to talk about faith for longer and in more complex terms, but it was his child-like faith that left the biggest impact, a mere reminder that God is in control, always, and there is not much more that one ought to ponder on.
Janan and his family left their village in the North of Iraq two years ago after his father was kidnapped while travelling across the country. It was the last straw. His family had received threat notes and life had gotten worse after the insurgence. Things during Saddam Hussein’s reign were hard, and little was earned with much toil. A hope for change was birthed with his death, but religious conflict and violence soon dampened this hope. It was time to run for even the unknown was safer and so, together with his mother and brothers, Janan crossed the northern border over to Turkey and did life as best as they could before they were granted asylum in the United States. Janan’s hope for a better life, one of peace and freedom, had been dampened but not quite lost. News of the release of his father reached his family soon after their arrival in the United States and they are now waiting for him to join them in El Cajon. Janan’s unceasing efforts to grasp a good command of English are driven by his dream to go to college and eventually qualify as an X-ray Technician. In his own words, work is secure with such a career choice. Finding a job, any job, has been hard for Janan and he yearns for the security in building a professional career.
God’s favor and protection over Janan and his family is evident. The large majority of his extended family escaped Iraq unscratched and has now resettled in the West. Considering the odds against them, this speaks of a heavenly blessing, and Janan sees and recognizes this. Rooted in that blessing, he knows that his Father in Heaven has many good things for him and his future, and that cannot but instill joy and peace as he chooses to look onwards and upwards.
In 2009 the number of Iraqi refugees resettled in the United States was shy of 20,000, with San Diego County taking more recent refugees than anywhere else in the United States. Building friendships with these refugees has been a joy and a strong testimony to my heart; eating, fellowshipping, worshipping, and celebrating with them a reminder of why God has put the Middle East and refugees on my heart.
This post was written by my amazing girl-friend Nathalie. Nathalie is going to be in the Middle East this summer working with Iraqi Refugees.