Category Archives: English Posts

My cousin, Salam

Category : English Posts , Short Story

My Cousin

My cousin, Salam, was born in 1994, the third son in my uncle’s family. The family’s oldest son was born in 1989, and his name is Samer. The second son was born in 1991 and his name is Maher. In keeping with custom, my uncle was supposed to name his third son a name which complements the names of his other sons, Samer and Maher. For no particular reason, my uncle named his third boy Salam, which means peace in the Arabic language. I don’t know why my uncle decided to name his child that instead of following the custom; perhaps he was hoping to have peace in the family, but their life and Salam’s did not follow that path.

My uncle’s life took a drastic turn when he was 18; with the beginning of the war with Iran in 1980. He served in the army for most of his adult life. The 1980s were very hard on all Iraqi people; many families lost their sons during that time. Sadness and fear were unavoidably prominent on people’s faces and in their conversations. Women were especially affected by this great sadness. For this reason they mainly wore black colors, representing the grief that they felt. I remember, as an eight-year-old girl, seeing the pictures of martyrs hung upon walls in the homes of our friends and relatives.

Some families had lost a son in that war, others lost two sons, and some had lost both father and son. As a child, while looking at portraits of families that I knew, it was hard for me to distinguish between the still living and the dead; both were in deep silence. What else would a child my age have thought? I prayed to God, along with the rest of my family, to bring my uncle back safely from that war which lasted eight long years. We spent most of that time in fear and anxiety of losing our loved ones.

In 1988, the war ended, and we thanked God for bringing my uncle back safely. After a few months, he married. I remember that day very well. The harmony of song and the sound of dancing was amazing. Everyone in that party struggled with their own painful memories, but everyone tried to let go and start over. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to experience happiness and joy because only two years later, my country became involved with yet another war. This war against our neighboring country, Kuwait, began in 1990. Many youth, elderly people, and women and children died in that war.

drinking-tea-iraqThe war finally ended two years later, and my uncle had his third beautiful boy named Salam. Since his birth, my country was under political and economic sanctions placed by the United Nations and the United States. Many families sent their children to work; Salam at eight years old was one of these children. The children didn’t have a choice or even the ability to choose the kind of life they wanted to live. Salam couldn’t go to school to get an education. Instead, he went to work just as his brothers did. My uncle sent Salam to work with our cousins who owned their own restaurant because he thought that would be a safe haven for his youngest child. Salam spent his childhood cleaning the floor and tables, and delivering food. He did not deliver by car or by bicycle, as he did not have access to either one, but rather by foot.

Iraq was suffering horribly from schisms between the Shiites and Sunnis. The situation didn’t get better as we had hoped after the United States army took control over Iraq, in February of 2003. There was no official Iraqi government that could control the country at that time, which enabled many evil people inside and outside of Iraq to take advantage of the general chaos all over the country. Thousands of innocent people were killed, all in the name of God. Then the unthinkable happened; a terrorist entered my cousins’ restaurant wearing a belt loaded with explosives. Fifty people were killed during that explosion, including two of my cousins. My uncle’s desire to preserve his son’s life, by sending him to that “safe restaurant”, was tragically cut short by a terrorist’s bomb.

The restaurant employees had been serving customers who had simply stopped into the restaurant to enjoy a nice meal. Salam, the nine year old, was also there. Because of the bomb, Salam’s body flew, along with his dreams, which he never had a chance to live out. His body flew, and the toys which he did not have time to play with were left untouched. The peace of heart and mind that my uncle had yearned for his family and his country at Salam’s birth; that longing for a peaceful life did not last for long, when Salam’s body came back not in peace but in many pieces.

Our Twentieth Anniversary

Category : Articles , English Posts

We are celebrating our twentieth anniversary and reflecting on how good God has been to us through all these years. Our journey has not been the easiest, however it has been and still is more vibrant and adventure-filled than what we could imagine or even plan. Together we experienced what it means to be truly committed to each other. Our marriage is far from perfect, but we both believe that we would not be what God wanted us to be without each other’s love and encouragement. Together we learned to practice grace toward one another when we faced judgment from the outside. We learned how to see the God-given potential in each other and not to be discouraged by life’s barriers. We have learned to be a shoulder to lean on and cry when we encounter devastating situations. We stand by each other’s side and believe we have the ability to accomplish our objectives even while facing life’s discouragement.

Together we traveled the globe, lived in many countries, and have been exposed to people from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds that enriched our way of thinking. Some of them have changed our perspective on what we used to consider normal or the expected thing to do. Through the last twenty years of our marriage, we have moved to so many houses to the point that we stopped counting them. For example, in one year we counted how many times we changed the place we lived by how many mattresses we slept on in that year (25 of them!).

We dreamed of having a stable life, which we define like most people as having a place to call home. A place where we would be able to pull out our personal belongings from the storage we have used in Jordan for more than fifteen years. To be able to start a family. For a long time, this desire for having a house somewhere was very intense. We felt we were strangers and temporary residents in whatever city or country we found ourselves. Together we left our jobs as full time Christian workers and took a huge step of faith, leaving behind all that was “secure and safe,” according to the people around us. We started to pursue our dreams and to learn about God’s call on our life.

We went to the land of freedom and opportunities. We arrived in the U.S. with hearts full of hurts and hopes; the hope of what God might have in-store for us and a heart full of hurts when we looked back at all the years we invested in relationships that we now had to leave behind.  While we made many sacrifices to minister to people, we thought that all we did was in vain and pointless. Soon God revealed to us the value of our service because He sees from above and His ways and thoughts are much higher than ours. God opened the gates of heaven and earth and poured blessings into our life. He rewarded us and gave us beauty instead of ashes. He blessed us with many friends who not only believed in us but also considered it a privilege to support our vision and the ministry that God placed in our hearts for our people. Our initial plan upon moving to the U.S was to accomplish three goals. To pursue advanced education, adopt a baby and start a new model of ministry.

Now as we approach our twentieth anniversary we are opening a new chapter of our life. This chapter happens to be in New Zealand, the fascinating island with more than two hundred ethnic groups and nationalities. We cannot help being in awe of God with hearts full of appreciation and gratefulness. After all these many years of being away from family, God gave us the chance to be close to them. Most of my family lives in New Zealand, while a few live further away, as I have a large family.

I do not know how long George and I will live and continue to celebrate our anniversaries together before death separates us, but I surely know that God has been faithful to us throughout all of the past twenty years.  I also know that the same God who started a good work in us is able to bring it to completion. So our desire is not only for our marriage to continue to thrive but also to be a hope for others.

Greetings from the land of Pharaohs

Category : English Posts , Short Story

I left Cincinnati with all types of mixed emotions. My heart was very heavy after having lived there for eight years. This was the longest time that George and I had lived in one particular city since we got married. When we first arrived in 2009, we came on a student visa knowing that would only allow us to stay there temporarily. That was not a big deal for us because we lived previously as missionaries in five different countries with the mentality that our stay in each country would be relatively short, to the point that I felt that I was destined to live this way throughout my life, even though that was not my desire.

In Cincinnati, God blessed us beyond what we could ask or even imagine. He opened many doors for us and enriched our lives in all respects. He gave us favor in people’s eyes, with those who have become lifelong friends, mentors, supporters and even people who treated us like their own children whom we literally call mom and dad.

In Cincinnati our dreams were not just fulfilled, but also gave birth to new dreams. We first came with specific hopes and desires. However, God called us to be more courageous to ask, seek and knock in order to receive and enjoy His promises, because His promises are real for those who believe in Him. He opened our eyes and hearts to understand His grace. Through grace, we learned and are still learning more of who He is and what it means to get closer to Him. Knowing Him deeply is the only path we want to walk in. Being in His presence is what we really need in order to hear His voice and to be used by Him so we can glorify His name as we cry out to be like Him.

In Cincinnati, we had six going away parties for different groups of people. Each one of these parties assured us how much God loves us by surrounding us with the great love of many people who accepted us as we are and believed in our ministry. We were emotionally overwhelmed by the love and kindness of so many friends. I am so thankful for the advanced technology we have in these days because it makes it possible to stay in touch with people and not have to say goodbye but rather “see you later.” We were sent off with a lot of love and prayers to Cairo, Egypt, as we closed this chapter of our lives and started a new endeavor.

Now, it has been four weeks since we landed in Cairo. In a blink of an eye, everything was different. The weather, the language, food, the scenery, neighbors, friends and even our plans have changed. Our initial plan was to spend 90% of our time in preparing for our first annual conference. This included recruiting a number of individuals to receive our training on how to use media and how to serve in youth ministry. That plan was dramatically changed, not by our own desires or decision but by the One who sees from above. We found ourselves more involved with being peacemakers to resolve some old issues with old friends and brethren. We had to wear our counseling hats most of the time.

As much as we love to help and counsel people dear to our hearts, we felt what was happening was slowing us down and distracting us from our ultimate purpose in being in Cairo. Reading the Celebration of Discipline was and still is very helpful in helping me to trust in Him to give me peace of mind and heart in the process of trying to understand His purposes behind focusing on peacemaking and counseling others. God’s words in Rom 8:28 that all things work together for those who love God and are called by Him, is very true in everything that has happened and will happen in our life. Whether we see it clear from the beginning or see it after struggling or debating with God about the timing and the details, He wants us to experience in the process.  God is still in control, However, our brains want to remember this verse as “all things work together for good now” in the way we see it fit the situation.

As we chose to live in a nice and “quiet” area, it did not take us much time to discover that living in a quiet neighborhood was only a myth. At least this is what we are experiencing right now. Noise and crowds are the main ingredients in the recipe of “life with the absence of peace and calmness.”

The first type of discipline I am exploring is the discipline of meditation. Although I consider myself as someone who already practices that, I found it very hard to meditate on God’s word since I arrived in Cairo. This city of 22 million in population, with high buildings and narrow streets. Is not conducive to peace and quiet. In most places, the first floor of the buildings are usually owned by small business owners, in which there are many different kind of businesses represented. Almost everywhere in the minor and major streets, a lot of private cars and cabs and very loud motorcycles add to the general noise level. The motorists constantly blow their horns for seemingly no reason at all. Although sometimes they are trying to avoid hitting children who usually play football in the streets. On top of all that, I just heard an upset donkey passing through while I was writing this blog. Believe me that is not a joke.

Despite all the distractions I faced in the beginning, I see God’s hand in changing my perspective about the need for quietness and calm. Reaching quietness and calmness comes from within and that is a work He only can do. Yes, it is hard not to get distracted by all the noise around me; however, it is sweeter to me to learn how to hear His voice in the midst of all that noise.  I can say now that what I previously knew about contemplation is just the starting point.

High school years – Part 2

Category : English Posts , Short Story

In the summer of 1988, on August eight, the Iraqi government declared the end of the war between Iraq and Iran. That date is firmly entrenched in the minds of all who lived through the war. Iraqi citizens were happy to once again live in peace and could begin to hope for a better future for their children. People everywhere celebrated that day, and in fact the celebrations lasted for weeks. Musical bands were performing on the streets in every corner, and people were dancing in groups and singing national songs.

Everyone was happy over the end of the war, including families who lost their loved ones. While those families celebrated victory along with everyone else, their grief would not end in a day. These families had gone through a lot, their grieving would not end in a day or months or even years. I believe that the war between the two nations was over only at the geographical borders. The ramifications of that war for both nations would remain ghostlike, chasing both the oppressed and the oppressor. Both sides felt that their actions were meant to protect their own people. Nevertheless, what they did only resulted in destroying everything good in their people’s lives.

Saddam Hussein’s policy toward the families of martyrs was very generous. He gave them many material privileges including a residential plot, monthly salaries and great opportunities in departments and institutions. Sadam controlled everything and everyone in Iraq. As minorities, we felt much safer during the years he was in control. Most people, including the Shiites, felt safer during Hussein’s regime. As Iraqis, we have a saying, which states that, a “thief you know is better than a thief you don’t know.”

Yes, the former regime, along with the help of the Baath party, ruled the country with an iron fist, and yes we lived as prisoners for many years, but at least we were treated fairly inside that prison. We had free education, free health care, and safety whereby no harm would come to innocent people, especially to the minorities unless they were ordered to do so from the “high chief”. We would go to sleep many times without locking our doors; no one would feel the need to carry a gun or keep a gun in their home for safety reasons.

Iraq used to be one of the top five crude oil producers. The economy has flourished for decades because of the oil production, which Iraq is highly dependent upon. Other natural resources owned by Iraq include valuable metals such as sulfur and phosphate. Plentiful livestock also contribute to its wealth. Due to the country’s prosperity, most Iraqis enjoyed a high standard of living for many years. Iraq was and still is the center of attention for greedy countries looking for excuses to occupy the country under the name and the pretext of democracy and freedom.

After the intervention of the United States into Iraq, we were released from being prisoners under one dictator to be free under the ascendancy and domination of many parties, which cared about nothing more than to steal and destroy as much as possible before their time ran out. Most Iraqis were celebrating America’s successful involvement in getting rid of the former regime. Although, soon thereafter, Iraqi people realized that by getting rid of the “Godfather” that would allow the rest of the mafia to take control and then the results would surely be catastrophic.

Singing and Writing Plays – Part 2

Category : English Posts , Short Story

After settling into our new life, new neighborhood and house, my parents began searching for good schools for me and for my siblings. The good thing about living in the old section of the city was the ability to find a variety of schools within walking distance, especially for the elementary schools. This gave my parents them one less thing to worry about while they were trying to adjust to our new adventure.

Attending church was and still is a big part of my people’s way of life. Church for most Christians was more than a place to worship; it was almost the only way to be connected socially and to be part of the community. Growing up in a Muslim country caused the minorities to hold on tightly to their beliefs. The Christian population used to be numbered at ten percent under Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party regime. Nowadays the Christian population has shrunk to less than one percent.

People who were not involved in politics used to have a comfortable life and felt a sense of security. The life of individuals would only be threatened when they decided to rebel against the government. People would be arrested immediately whenever they expressed their feelings of dissatisfaction with the government or if they dared to share their political opinion about things they did not like. The Baath party had a stronghold under Saddam’s regime. The former president was expert at training the most intelligent surveillance network possible to keep tight controls on everyone.

Living in a war torn nation for many years did not prevent us from pursuing life and trying our best to enjoy our time and not worry about what tomorrow might bring. We literally lived out what the Bible teaches in Matthew 6:34 “therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”. I should admit that we did not choose to live by faith at that time as a personal decision. We did not have any knowledge of the Bible. What we lived or experienced was a traditional version of Christianity, although we were committed to attending church on a weekly basis. However, that in and of itself did not qualify us to be committed Christians with a personal relationship with Jesus.

I am not sharing this to judge or minimize anyone’s relationship with God, because I truly believe that we acted upon what we knew at the time. I participated in the life of the church, by singing in the choir since the age of nine. I loved the fact that I was deeply involved in special religious occasions held at the church that I attended. However, my soul felt empty and I used to have several questions about the Bible, but did not know whom to ask.

I felt that God was a distant God, the one who judged the entire universe from afar. I had no understanding that He is a personal God who has a great plan for my life. He showed himself to me several times. He protected me from the devil, but I was too stubborn to listen to His voice. I had no room in my life for anyone but myself. I only cared about what I wanted and desired. After being a committed Christian for many years now, I can recall how many times He tried to reach out to me, but I turned my back on Him. I appeased my conscience by going to church and committed to performing the religious rituals, which gave me the image of godliness, but did not change me internally.

The story of Jonah in the Bible continually inspires me to believe that God has great love and compassion for the Middle East, Iraq and Mosul, which is located in ancient Nineveh. Jonah 1:1 states “now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.” Two things in these verses do show God’s heart toward the people of Nineveh; first, that He cares about people, and desired to give them a chance to know Him. He also describes Nineveh as a great city, not just one time but actually three times.



Singing and Writing Plays – Part I

Category : English Posts , Short Story

Despite all of the hardships we experienced and the confusion during the war years, there still laid a very thin line of hope in a fresh beginning. As a child, I was thrilled with the idea of writing and directing a play or a movie. In my small world as a child, I believed in my ability to influence my friends and some of my cousins to become part of the crew. They were excited about being on the team even though I only needed a few performers while I took on the role of the director. Whenever my parents would take us to visit our neighbors or our relatives, I would start pulling them aside to explain my idea. Then I would assign roles to my “Beginner actors.” Then as a team, we would look for a location where our movie or play would take place. Usually we would go to find an empty room but sometimes we would go to the roof of the house and then start to arrange the area. We gathered what was possible as far as furniture or clothes to use as part of the show. Once the stage was set, I called “Action” to begin filming. I created my own safe haven where I could let my imagination take me to a better place, where I could enjoy a peaceful life and have fun. I believed that was my way to cope with the stress during wartime.

Three years after my brother was born, my parents desire to have another boy was still strong. The seventh child that was born was a girl. My dad wanted no more children so he suggested that we name my sister Nihaya which in Arabic means “the end”. My dad was satisfied with six daughters and could not look forward to the possibility of having more daughters. That was his logic in choosing the name Nihaya. Again, my mom would not let that happen, because she was still hoping to become pregnant with a second son. Therefore, my parents agreed to name my sister Eman, which means faith. Neighbors and relatives would felt sorry for my parents, and they would often say, “Poor Luke, he has six girls.”

During that time, my parents felt the necessity to move closer to the area, where most of my aunts and uncles were living. My parent’s destination this time was the city of Mosul in Nineveh province. This city is located in the northwestern part of the country, on the west bank of the Tigris River. It is the second largest city in Iraq, around two million in population. The city’s history dates back to more than three thousand years. Mosul has the largest culturally diverse population made up mostly of Sunni Arabs. Many other minorities, such as Yazidis, Turkmen, Kurds and Christians also live in Mosel. The entire fabric of this great city, its culture and its history was torn and destroyed when some radical Muslim groups invaded Iraq and Syria in 2014.

I was in third grade when we moved to Mosul. I had mixed emotions at that time, feeling sad about leaving some of my cousins and friends at my school in Baghdad, but also feeling excited about moving closer to our roots. This made the possibility of visiting the different villages my siblings and I were born and lived in much higher. My parents attempted to make the move easy on us and calm us down by choosing to move by train to Mosul. The excitement over taking the train for the first time in our lives helped us to forget about the sadness of leaving our friends in school, our neighbors, cousins and all the memories we had in living in Baghdad for many years. My parents rented a house in the old part of the city, called Maydan, which was on the east side of the Tigris River. Some of the houses were built near the river; we used to see people go fishing in the early morning on our way to school.

Maydan is about four hundred years old and was originally built during the Ottoman Empire. The old-style architecture was characterized by adjoining houses by a shared wall from one or both sides of the neighbor’s house. It might seem that there was little privacy in living in this type of structure but the wall between neighbors was very high which provided the privacy needed for each family. In the neighborhood we lived in, we had the greatest population diversity imaginable. People came from different religions, spoke different languages, and belonged to different sect groups, such as the Kurds, Chaldeans, Turkmen, Yazidis, and Arabs. However, we used to live a relatively peaceful life in comparison with what is currently happening in the whole country under the name of democracy.

The Outbreak of the Iraq-Iran War – Part II

Category : English Posts , Short Story

The news constantly reported the Iraqi military victories and the number of the dead soldiers and prisoners of the Iranian army. The policy of the press was to cover up the defeats and the losses of the Iraqi army. However, the government could not fool the Iraqi people for long. For several years, there were massive casualties to soldiers and civilians in both countries and destruction to the military equipment and infrastructure. Many women lost a son or two, or even had been widowed at a young age. I personally lost several cousins to that war. We were, as children, surrounded by terror, grief, and confusion, which certainly damaged our childhood. That environment forced us to change rapidly from innocent children who were supposed to care mostly about playing and having fun to a confused version of childhood, we were lost between two worlds – the world of childhood and the world of adulthood.

My dad worked two jobs as a teacher. He worked mornings at the elementary school and evenings at a literacy school for both men and women. The education system in Iraq was very strong. President Saddam Hussein ordered that the illiteracy rate in Iraq be eradicated. Anybody who disagreed with his plan to eliminate illiteracy could lose their jobs. At the very least, they would not advance or be promoted, even if they were the most qualified candidate.

My dad used to travel a long distance to get to his work at the literacy school. These types of schools were not located in the center of Baghdad, but in remote areas which lacked public transportation. That alone was a very time consuming and exhausting daily process for him. In addition, my dad was required to participate in military training on using weapons. In case of a national emergency, he and his colleagues would be expected to join the war effort against Iran.

It was not easy for my mother to take responsibility for the whole family, with my father gone such long hours. Sometimes my dad would join us for lunch in between his two jobs. We would gather around him and want to talk and play with him. My siblings and I did not like it when he would get ready to leave. He would tolerate us asking why he had to leave. However, he would feel aggravated whenever we asked him why he had to wear the army uniform. We begged my dad to stay longer with us. He would smile and promise to come back soon. But that did not satisfy us unless he would promise us he would bring cookies with him.

The psychological effect of the war on us as children was more than we could comprehend at that early age. Yes, we still used to get together with our cousins and neighbors to play. Nevertheless, most of the time we would go to one of our unoccupied rooms, to be alone to play. We pretended that we were singing in a choir. The songs we used to sing mostly were the patriotic songs. I remember us shedding tears while we were singing. How would a child be able to pretend being sad the sadness to the point of crying? I believe that was our only way to express all these suppressed feelings of anxiety, fear, and instability we experienced under the war.

The Outbreak of the Iraq-Iran War – Part I

Category : English Posts , Short Story

My parent’s happiness in having their first boy was troubled and interrupted with the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in the beginning of 1980. Their anxiety over providing a safe environment and the necessary financial support for six children was increasing. My parents’ savings were decreased little by little because the living expenses in Baghdad were much higher in comparison to living in a small village in northern Iraq. For many years, my dad’s salary was plenty not only to cover all of our needs, but we also had the luxury of traveling for vacation during the summer months throughout his early years of working as a teacher. Gradually, that lifestyle began to shrink as the years went by.

My parents and the majority of other people managed financially was by sending their children to public schools which was paid for by the government. In addition, for many years most of the elementary schools would distribute breakfast to students and teachers alike at no charge. Great emphasis was placed on the importance of a strong Iraqi educational system, in the sixties, seventies, eighties and the early nineties. Families from all over the Arab world sent their children to study at the Iraqi colleges, especially to the universities of Baghdad and Mosul, which is the second largest city in Iraq.

I remember waking up in the early hours and feeling excited about going to school with my younger sister, walking with my dad and holding his hand. We were students at the elementary school where my dad taught. That put extra pressure on me to behave in a way that brought pride and honor to my dad. Every time before we went to our class, he would say, “Girls you better listen to your teacher and don’t make trouble.” I used to pay extra attention to my teacher’s instructions and always completed my homework assignment on time. One reason was to please my dad and hear him say, “Well done,” or “good job.” That meant the whole world to me, even though my understanding of the whole world was yet so simple and limited.
My younger sister and I loved the school, and we were treated nicely, not just because we were good students, but because we were teacher Luke’s daughters. He was well known and respected by all the other teachers and students. Most of my memories as a child were peaceful, except when the war with Iran began. Hearing the warning siren was terrifying for us as children especially when we were away from home. Most children at the school would cry and want to be with their parents. Some of them would wet their pants because of their fear, but in our case, we would feel so much relief when my dad would show up and tell us, “Don’t be afraid, it’s going to be alright.”

The city of Baghdad, where we lived at that time, was far from the battlefield and we were fairly safe, mainly in the beginning of the war. However, as children we could not distinguish between more dangerous and less dangerous areas of fighting. We knew something terrible was about to take place. Most of what we heard from the television or the radio was related to the war update. The television was constantly playing patriotic songs. The adults talked about the war all the time. They would express their agony and anxiety over the future of our country and our way of life. We could sense their fear when they talked about the war and we even sensed their anxiety more when they tried to hide their thoughts and feeling.

The Coming Messiah – Part II

Category : English Posts , Short Story

My parents wanted to have the biggest party ever to celebrate my brother’s birth. Why not? Is not that what they were praying and hoping for through many years? They were no longer considered to be the abnormal family. The son they had now had changed their status to a “normal family”. After all, he is the one who will carry on the family name. As this little child would grow, he would become more familiar, not just with his privileges, but also his responsibilities as a first-born son. Let us not get distracted and worried about the future of this little boy. Let us first celebrate his birth which brought hundreds of people to the party that evening. In reality, even my parents told me the number of guests attending did not exceed a hundred people, but I did not want to change the number in my recollection of this event, because, for my understanding as a child, hundreds was any number larger than ten. At least it felt this way to me at that time.

All of my cousins, relatives and friends were invited to join us to celebrate my brother’s birth. There were many people attending that day. AS children, Most of them we did not know. In fact, our guests knew that my dad, teacher Luke, had a bunch of girls, but finally God had granted him a boy who would carry on his father’s name. At the celebration, some people were dancing. Children were playing, and men were playing games and having fun. The women were cooking and preparing all kinds of delicious foods. My four sisters and I were allowed to eat and do whatever we liked since we had not had this kind of gathering for many years. Everyone was super happy. All the men and women were dancing the traditional Chaldean dance, with loud music playing.

Months and years went by while this little boy grew. We needed to take care of him and protect him, so when he grew up he would provide for us what we could not provide for ourselves. Not because we were incapable, but simply because we were girls. That in itself should communicate a lot about our culture and the way we were raised. We loved this boy so much, we wanted to be around him continually. We would dress him up in our dresses and we sometimes put makeup on him. My mother would laugh at the way we were entertaining and interacting with my brother. However, she would rebuke us for not behaving. It was her fear of raising a spoiled child. She wanted him to be a type of child who would be prepared for the task, which was assigned to him as an older son.

Culturally speaking, when someone has a son, people refer to the parents as the father or the mother of their oldest son. Therefore, my dad was called Abu Ammar and my mother was called Oum Ammar, which refer to the father and the mother of Ammar. Ammar is my brother’s name. For almost ten years prior to my brother’s birth, my parents were called by the name of my oldest sister. That kind of privilege was taken from my oldest sister without even having a discussion with her about it. I remember hearing some neighbors talking to my parents about their decision to automatically change their name. They were saying that is not fair. For our neighbors it did not make any sense to be called by my brother’s name, just because he is a boy. Honoring the tradition was more important than evaluating the ramifications of these traditions than to see which could have negative consequences.

My parents were super thrilled about having a son. However, they got anxious too. They felt they needed to have another son to help with their family responsibility. Here they were again putting themselves under the same kind of stress they had experienced for many years, while they were waiting for their first baby boy to be born.

The complete number of children my parents had was nine living children not counting the two babies who died at an early age and the one baby my mom miscarried. What are the genders of the three children who would be joining this family and thus make my parents feel satisfied with what God has blessed them with? That is what we will find out through this journey.

The Coming Messiah – Part I

Category : English Posts , Short Story

As a family we were all longing and expecting a victorious birth of a son to come into our lives, to satisfy our needs and fulfill our dreams. The child who would bring hope and joy, and give us a purposeful life, as Jesus did for all humanity. The birth of a son into Arabic culture brought with it the expectations of a “savior”, the one who would protect, carry on the family name and provide for our needs.

In the summer of 1979, my mom was expecting to give birth to her sixth child. She was feeling extremely different this time. She was positive that she would have a boy. Her doctor, however, could not confirm her feeling of being pregnant with a boy, even though, Baghdad was the best place for people to have access to modern technology. But still, the sonar device to detect the sex of the fetus had not been invented yet. Wouldn’t it be great for my mom and many other women at that time, to be able to know for sure the gender of their babies previously?
The colors of my mother’s feelings had to stay neutral just as it was for her baby’s clothes colors, all also neutral. Although she had plenty of pink colored clothes, she dreamed of buying clothes in blue colors, just for one time in her life. My mom had to preserve her hopes and the excitement of having a boy to herself only. She also needed to be satisfied and fully prepared to have her sixth daughter.

In the middle of that night, my mother felt it was the time to deliver her baby. My dad hurried to ask our neighbor to meet him at the hospital. They then rented a taxi. When they arrived at the hospital, my mom was taken immediately into the labor and delivery room. The only person who would be allowed to join her was her neighbor. My dad had to wait in the outer corridor.

Every hour of that day felt like a year for my dad while he was waiting anxiously, thinking about my mother’s health condition and what she might bring to him, the first son or the sixth daughter. His level of excitement and fear was interrupted by every sound he heard. The seven hours he waited outside that labor room, forced him to pray and pray and also to promise God that he would do this and that, if He would grant him with a boy. Finally, the smiling face and the excited gestures of our neighbor were enough to release all the emotions my dad had at that time. He could not believe his neighbor saying to him “It is a boy, it is a boy, congratulations, and it is a boy.” Since our neighbor was the first one who brought the good news of having a boy to my dad, she would definitely deserve a very precious gift. My parents later joyfully gave her a golden ring as part consistent with our traditions and customs.

Now the whole family was waiting for the “coming savior “to be born, which in this case was my brother. The joy we had as a family and the preparation my parents had to welcome this child, felt like celebrating Jesus’ birth– the one who would rebuild the family reputation and give honor to his mother. Without him, my mother was not a complete woman. In fact, she would stay in shame for not being able to become pregnant with a boy. Now my father could go to spend some time and have fun with his friends and cousins at the coffee shop with his chin held high, feeling a sense of pride.

For us, the five sisters, we felt safe. Why? Because we had a brother who could protect us. I remember us sitting around my little brother waiting for him to wake up so we could play with him. The sense of joy he brought to our family was beyond any words. At our early age we did not fully understand why everyone was happy, but we felt the burden fall off my parent’s shoulders. They were more joyful to be around and the whole home was more peaceful.

“He is smiling.” “He is yawning.” “Mom, he is hungry” and ‘he wants to eat,”
Mom is yelling from the kitchen. “Girls leave your brother alone. He just had his bath and he needs to sleep.” How could anyone see this most beautiful baby and not be around him all the time? He was chunky and very cute. My mother’s attempts to get us distracted by asking for our help to take care of the household chores was not successful. She was definitely happy for us and wanted to give us our space and time to enjoy being with our brother. However, she was running out of patience. She had to use another method in order for us to listen and complete our chores and get things done. My mother had to pull out her assistant stick and the outcome was helpful to scatter us so that my brother could sleep in peace.

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