O death where is your sting?
I pray this year finds you very well and brings you Shalom. I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Sometimes this love creates great dissonance inside us. On Christmas morning I found myself relaxed and happy, enjoying a well-deserved break after a hard year’s work. As the duck was roasting and the lamb was simmering in a unique English-Italian culinary fusion, my heart was filled with gratitude for the gift of Jesus – and quite a lot of chocolate.
As we eagerly awaited our meal, my friend offered a prayer of thanks for the year past, but also for the children of Aleppo, and my eyes welled up with tears and my heart was filled with pain and sorrow. I put on a brave face, and kept smiling on the outside but could not stop crying on the inside. For me, Aleppo was not a burning city in the news. It was a place of pain for the children I had come to know and love.
On one of my recent trips to Greece, I reconnected with “Generosity”, a 15-year-old boy I met on a previous trip. We took him and his friend bowling, playing games. Over dinner, he told us his story.
I was nine when the war started and now I have images in my head I can’t get rid of. One day I was late for school and my mum was screaming for me to hurry up. As I was approaching the school I saw a bomb coming down and the whole school was destroyed. I saw body parts everywhere, but I was unhurt. 32 of my friends were killed that day. You have no idea what it was like. I was sick. I could not eat. I could not sleep. I could not make sense of it. More images flash into my mind. Four people beheaded in front of me. Others shot in the head. Every time a bomb hit a house, we all went out to see if everyone was still alive. Two years ago a bomb hit a family friend. Five children, parents and grandparents. I went in and checked. Dead. Dead. Dead. Only the father was alive. I tried to pull him from the rubble, but only half his body came out. He died immediately. I was scared. I ran out. I didn’t know what to do. I was very ill. I could not eat. I could not sleep. I could not do this anymore. So I left Syria to go to Turkey. I was 13. Shortly after this, I heard my house was burned. My dad was injured and fled. Now it’s only my mum and 6-year-old brother left behind.
He burst out crying, wiping his tears with his sleeve. Me and two friends were trying to put on a brave face, but we couldn’t stop the tears escaping. The boys carried on saying ‘What you have done for us today we will never forget. We will carry it in our hearts. Nobody has done anything like this. We are just refugees. We’ve never been bowling before. In a long time, we’ve never been this happy.’ We are still in touch via Messenger, but from time to time he calls me when he is sad. Just before Christmas, he called me to say the last of his relatives had been killed, and his mum and little brother were missing. In one call, he was concerned about me. ‘I’m really sorry Rezi. You have such a happy life. I don’t want to be a burden. I’m only telling you because you asked.’ I gave him Psalm 63:1-8 to read.
Please pray for this wonderful boy that he will get to go to Germany or UK and have a future.