Last Night in Erbil: A Message from Father Chris
My dear friends,
I am writing on my last night in Erbil. I am hoping you have been able to get a glimpse of the exciting and important nature of this mission to our friends and partners in the Middle East from these posts. It has been a very moving experience, in both directions that word implies.
In our own small way, with our efforts we have touched some lives, hopefully in a positive way, and we have formed new bonds of friendship with amazing and committed people who we will know and work with in the future.
We have been able to build caravan homes for 8 families, protecting them from the harsh extremities of the Kurdistan climate, through the help of our partner Hanna and in new partnership with International Christian Concern (ICC), a U.S.-based organization dedicated to assisting and supporting persecuted Christian communities throughout the world.
We have been able to contribute to the extraordinary work the Etuti Institute, and its remarkable founder Savina Dawood, is doing with young people. And in the process, we met her wonderful and generous co-founder Ninos Haddad, building toward a lasting relationship.
Through Hanna, today we helped Ashur, a man terrorized and driven from his home in Baghdad by militias, to begin a new copy shop business in his home to support his family here in Erbil.
But also we have been able to form new relationships and bonds. We spent time with Fr. Tyari Aweshalem, the priest at the Assyrian Church of St. John the Baptist in Ainkawa, and hope to form a new partnership with this great historic church.
We had the great pleasure to again meet with a friend, Fr. Faiz Jerjees, the extraordinary Anglican priest of St. George’s Church in Baghdad. We had an earnest discussion of a deepening relationship, and ways of participating together in efforts to care for and support the beleaguered and inspiring Christians in that war-torn city.
In short, this journey did more than we could have hoped for, but also left Quint and me wishing, as I have always felt leaving here, that we could have done more.
Which brings me to my last exhausted thought before falling into a blessed sleep, where I can dream of being with my dear wife Amanda again, on Saturday. Picture this:
I am with the kindergarteners at the Ashti camp for IDPs. I am filming the children—a bunch of camera hounds which would put any Hollywood star to shame!—and I am moving my tripod around to different places to capture the things the children are doing on their make-shift playground.
Every time I move the camera I have to come back to get the plastic chair that I sit in because my camera is set low to be at child-level. I do this about 3 times. I move the camera once again, and turn to get the chair and I can’t believe my eyes. A little boy, maybe 4 years old, has picked up my plastic chair, which is much bigger than he is, and is carrying it over to help me. I don’t ask him, he just spontaneously does it.
I smile and thank him, “Shukrah!,” and shake his hand, which he returns earnestly. I film for a little while from this new position. I stand up, move the camera, turn to get the chair and he’s doing it again! And he continues to do this, while all the other children swing and slide and play on the little merry-go-round, until his class is called to watch a cartoon, dubbed in English with Aramaic subtitles.
After the last move, and he has to go, I kneel down and take his hand and thank him in my atrocious pronunciation of the only word in Aramaic I know, “Shukra!,” and he says to me in this small voice, “Shukron,” which is actually the proper pronunciation of the word.
I love that little boy for all I’m worth, and his one generous, beautiful, unbidden gesture of the heart made the whole journey worth it, and made me know our work here has only begun.
God bless you all. Good night.