Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Smuggling My Daughters ‘Pearl’ through Iraq: A story about travelling fast, light and above suspicion

Note: This story is a dramatized version of events that is based on stories and experiences that Open Doors staff and contacts have seen and heard firsthand in Iraq.
“I am not sure it is wise to pack this,” a father says to his daughter. “But it is the only thing I want to take with me! It is the only valuable item I have, more valuable than dolls or perfume,” she replies.The man’s eyebrows are frowning and he is deep in thought. “You know that the road we’ll take is quite dangerous with many checkpoints. When the soldiers check our luggage and find your treasure, what will happen to us?! This can bring us big trouble.” The girl is upset and starts crying: “Well, but I use it almost every evening and I read from it for mum, since she is a bad reader….”
Travel light
Many of us have taken a trip and understand what is involved. Some people plan a business trip and want to travel as light as possible. Others go with their car and caravan and take as much as they can. Those with children know what it’s like to travel with them, and all age groups require special attention. Children usually want to take additional belongings with them, like toys, books, games, and electronic gadgets. Sometimes an extra suitcase is needed for your child to carry all these things! But there are countries in the world where traveling is not so easy and convenient. Sometimes traveling means running and escaping from situations and circumstances as quickly as possible without much luggage. Traveling light has a completely different meaning then, and when you have children, it is even more complicated. How do you decide what to take with you and what not? And what do you tell your children to take with them and what not? Imagine if you cannot take anything with you, since you have to run for your life…
Travel fast
Iraq is a country in despair and many Iraqis are on the move. Many Muslims and Christians have been forced to leave their houses in cities like Baghdad and Mosul, and they were forced to say goodbye to their property and to their belongings. Many Christian Iraqis were threatened and had to leave their hometowns, their houses and their cities, often with only 24-hours notice. Then these Iraqis had to determine quickly where to go to and what to take with them. There is often not much time to think about a destination or belongings to take when terrorists only allow Christians 24 hours to leave the house. When facing all the emotions and frustrations of this situation, what can be packed in 24 hours?
Travel by car
All who flee have to go by car initially, as it’s impossible to take a plane or boat from one of the big cities. Roads in cities like Baghdad and Mosul have many checkpoints and many obstacles. Guards at checkpoints like to know your destination and they like to see what you are carrying with you. Suitcases will be opened and checked through, even more thoroughly and more often than security personnel do at an airport. Every 10 kilometers, the searches continue on the road, a frustrating and time consuming process. Then if the guards find something they consider suspicious in your luggage, you are trapped and interrogated for hours, and it’s possible they will not allow you to continue on your journey.
Travel by faith
“We have 24 hours to leave the house; otherwise they will bomb it with us in it,” said Yusuf after reading a letter which was on his doorpost earlier that morning. Yusuf has already walked a few times through his house, observing what is going on. He will miss this house, since he was born and raised here. It belonged to his father and grandfather, and now he and his family are being forced to leave everything behind. How can he do this?In the meantime, Muna, his wife, and Manal and Kahlan, his daughters, are packing some suitcases and making difficult decisions about what to take and what to leave. Suddenly Manal starts shouting and crying to her mother: “I want this with me.” Yusuf runs to the sleeping room and sees his wife in great doubt and his daughter in panic. “Daddy, I want to take this colored Children’s Bible with me. I am willing to leave all my toys, games and clothes at home, but this Bible goes with me. It is the Word of God with pictures and I am even reading it to mum, who has problems with reading. Why is it so difficult for us to take it with us? It is a special gift from our friends, so we should take care of it.”Yusuf is puzzled and he does not know what to do. Taking a Bible, even a Children’s Bible, with you on a journey in this dangerous country is not so wise. Why can every Muslim take a Quran with him without any danger, and why is it dangerous for him as a Christian to have God’s Word in his luggage? This Children’s Bible, which has so much value for his daughter, could be risky to have with them when their suitcases are searched at checkpoints, but maybe he should give it a try. What can he lose anyway? If Manal loses her Bible, hopefully another one will be available at the end of the journey. “Okay, Manal,” Yusuf says, “You can pack this Bible, but pray while packing that God will protect your Bible and us, especially in the checkpoints. Now our traveling will be more and more a journey of faith, hope and trust.”
Please Pray:
*That violence and disunion will cease among Mangar and the late Thakur’s family. (Psalm 133:1)
*That Mangar and his family will seek the truth of Jesus Christ from their Christian family members. (Psalm 25:5)
*That God will provide for all the needs of the displaced Iraqi families. (Philippians 4:19)
*For the Christian Iraqis who boldly make a choice to travel with their Bibles. (2 Corinthians 3:12)
*That there are more opportunities for Open Doors to distribute Bibles to the Iraqi people. (2 Samuel 22:31)

As in the days of Noah...

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