I recently heard a quote and of course I can’t remember who it is attributed to, but it rings true for me,
I am careful when I go around corners for I never know when I might meet Messiah.
Today, a man in his mid to late 50’s walked around the corner and into the door of the church along with the shuffle of homeless making their way into the weekly meal. He asked to see the pastor, I said, “I’m the pastor.” He looked at me for a moment and said meekly, “I’ve never seen a female pastor before.” I was in a chompy mood and so I said, “Have you been living under a rock?” To which he earnestly replied, “Yes, yes I am here from Iraq!” I said, a bit more slowly and deliberately “no, I asked you if you had been living under a rock.” His face was blank.
If I had suffered from the desensitizing that comes with the office, he certainly brought me back to my senses. “Did you know they just killed 52 Christians in Iraq?” He exclaimed. “My church was bombed, we had to get out.” “You’ve heard of the war, right?” He kept reminding me that he had been a professor in Baghdad, teaching civil engineering and had maintained a comfortable life for his family. It was his mantra.
Fortunately, in the basement of my church, a wonderful organization exists (www.nationsministrycenter.org/) that aids refugees when government subsidies have ceased, sometime around the eight month mark. His eighth month was coming and he was freaking out all over again. It was all still so fresh.
I asked him to sit down and tell me his story. He picked up a piece of paper and ghost wrote the terms of the “criminal government” – that’s what he called them. He said, “they give you three options: 1. Give them one of your daughters 2. Pay them off 3. Vacate your home and let them have it. The alternative is death.” They got the heck out of dodge by way of a connection with the U.S. Army which led to a connection which led to a connection. Two weeks after, they were on a plane, all of their belongings sold for cheap. Flying out of hell.
I think I began tearing up when he said, “they force you to give away your daughters.” We know what happens to the daughters, it’s a terror I cannot fathom.
The scars carry in them all the daughters and the persecuted and the bombed out country that once resembled home. I understand that his scars are also mine, we are connected, here is my brother in shock, in pain, in disbelief.
I have a role to play and I must play it. I keep a church going that keeps a community of agencies going by offering space and support and radical hospitality. Within these agencies specialized people reach out to communities of refugees, hungry, poor, imprisoned, homeless, sick and needy. I can’t do all of these things but I can play my part as pastor, though some days I may be a bit bedraggled, chompy and insensitive, I am at least wise enough to know when it’s time sit at the feet of a stranger who is my teacher and listen.
We have a role to play as Christians on behalf of the disposable daughters and the dispossessed world. That role has to do with reclaiming unity, realizing that we are connected to those we may consider enemy through the command to love them. Our only real hope lies in our ability to embrace love at any cost.
I am careful when I go around corners, for I never know when I may meet Messiah.