My life has changed a lot since a month ago. My language school was shut down, along with a number of other schools and businesses. I was forced to leave a country that I had come to love, that had become home…one where I wanted to stay….and still do. An large number of us have left. Some remain, but the exodus continues. My experience was kind of traumatic. Along with being forced to leave, I was taken in by security for several days. I was questioned (in Arabic), my passport, phone, and school book were taken. (My phone returned after 2.5 weeks and my passport returned on the day I left. They refused to give back my language school book). I was followed, under surveillance, never knowing if or when they would show up to search my house. (I was also staying alone for over a week during this time). I was escorted home more than once my high ranking security men. I was stuck in an office with them and talked about in a language that I understood. We were offered no explanation. Things changed quickly and all the time. Information we were being given was also inconsistent. People told to leave by a certain day would have their passports confiscated again at the airport, missed flights and were further delayed. I was not physically harmed, but I know of some who were and are. There are lots and theories about what is going on, but no one knows. Just that this land of sand needs a lot of prayer.
In the coming weeks I’ll give a little rewind of this last month or so. What I shared above is probably the most detailed I can be about certain sensitive things. But in my last few weeks there, I had some of the best times with the boys at the centers. I’ll share those things because they were wonderful.
Let’s start with the Christmas celebration for the boys centers. That was on Monday, Dec 17th. It was a super fun day. I got there in the late morning to help decorate and such. I brought tape and a stapler and things, because I figured they would need them and not have them. This was exactly the case.
I did get a phone call that the school director and four of the students were taken into security. This was somewhat alarming, but thankfully I was at the celebration and had lots of things to occupy my mind away from worry. It was fun chatting with the boys and teachers; feeling like a little part of their world. The program was good, but long. The boys got their end-of-term school reports. All of them got presents, and were wearing the new outfits they picked out at the market. Teachers were given a bag of presents; something for each kid in the family. Different groups got up to sing. The younger and older boys each had a little drama. Lots of thank yous and such. I got called up to share something special with everyone.
See…a new hobby of mine is writing little poems and limericks in Arabic. They’re mostly silly, but its good Arabic practice and something I enjoy. I shared one of these little ones with one of the teachers. He thought it was funny and promptly made me say it for any and every one at the center. Then he told me that since he was leading the Christmas celebration I would have to say it then. I knew that he was serious. So instead of being embarrassed with a silly pointless poem, I decided to write one about Christmas–be embarrassed about one that is at least about the proper subject. So in the 2 weeks prior I worked on this poem and enlisted a little help with the grammar and such.
When he called me up the paper was shaking in my hands. I don’t love being in front of groups. There is even more pressure when it’s in your second language and you’re reciting a poem that you wrote that very well might be terrible. I made it through all six stanzas. People started clapping while I was halfway through and continued to until I was done. It was a relief to get it over with. People said I did a really good job, but like I’ve said before folks here are either really difficult or really easy to please. This crowd is one that is pretty easy to please.
As I spent that day chatting with people I love, watching the boys sing and strut around in their new clothes I couldn’t help but think about the news I got that morning, the dark clouds looming on the horizon, and just prayed for more time. For this door to stay open somehow. I want the time I’ve invested there to be a beginning and not just a two year stint.
But I absolutely am trusting God in all of this. He uses evil for good all the time. He loves these boys more than I do and is more than capable to look after them. We are praying, we are waiting. Things are happening. God is on the move.
“There’s a passage in Exodus–God tells Moses, ‘No one can see my face, but I will protect you with My hand until I have passed by you, and then I will remove my hand and you will see My back.’ Well, I always thought that was a physical metaphor..but you know-I wonder now if it really isn’t about time? Maybe that was God’s way of telling us that we can never know His intentions, but as time goes on…we’ll understand. We’ll see where He was: We’ll see His back.” Mary Doria Russell
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 I have learned this to be true in new and very real ways!