Abuna! Abuna! (Holy Father, Holy Father!)
Canon Andrew White was greeted with great anticipation by a small clan of Iraqi refugees that live in Jordan.
They waited as he made his way up the staircase assisted by his faithful companion and partner in CAWRM, Hanna. They entered the small, dimly lit apartment greeted by the matriarch of the family. Kisses of greeting, as is the custom, were exchanged.
Canon Andrew quickly takes a seat in the middle of the largest sofa. Back lite bythe sunlight coming through the window directly behind. He was framed in a soft glow. The room was sparsely furnished and the only decorations seemed to be the pattern of peeling plaster on the wall.
Abuna (Father) Andrew was quickly surrounded by the children of the home. Kissing his hand in the greatest form of honor. They sat as close to him as possible snuggled up under his arm. They truly feel safe with this man.
Andrew’s booming voice rang across the room as he said “Come here” to one of the smallest boys. Shyly he came to Andrew, smiling sweetly up at him. Andrew’s giant hand engulfed the top of the little boys head as he tosseled his hair and pulled him in for a giant hug. You see, Andrew has a lovely way of finding the ‘least of these’ and making them feel valued.
The father of the family sat in the corner smiling, happy and content. He said over and over again “Abuna” (Father, we are so grateful for all that you do for us) and the Grandmother said “Father, please, you are welcome here anytime. We wait for you. We have missed you being here this is the only time that we get to have communion”
The family quickly made preparation with the sweetest of hospitality. Tea and chocolates were served. I felt we were honored like Kings and a Queen that day. As the tea and sweets were cleared from the table Reverend Canon Andrew White prepared himself for communion. Hanna, by his side, preparing the Holy Communion table.
Reverend Canon Andrew stood, towering above the rest and he started to pray The Father’s Prayer. He administered communion one by one blessing each person in the room. Each person kissed the cross in reverence. The room was filled with Holy silence. Tears flowed.
I do believe in that moment the room was filled with a light that wasn’t there before. I could barely lift my hand to take a photo as not to disturb the sanctity of the moment, the holiness. I selfishly didn’t want to miss a moment of what was happening.
Holiness and a reverence from these people who have fled from Mozul. One of the oldest Christian cities in the world. Ran over by ISIS … they now barely exist in Jordan. Not allowed to work in Jordan and there is no school for the children in this city. The children ask about the school that Andrew built and want to know when they too will have a school? Will they be too old when it happens?
We all sit down and we talk about their needs. Needs too many to list here … but then Hanna asked the little ones “What do you want for Christmas?” … the littlest boy who name translates to “MERCY” said a remote control motorcycle. The next brother, rather shy, after much prompting said a remote control. We came to the eldest boy and he said a PlayStation. We all laughed… and said we didn’t know if that would be possible.
We visited a little longer and lingered as we gave our last goodbyes for the evening but one more moment… Grandmother wanted to lay hands on Canon Andrew White. You see, silver and gold she has none, but what she has she freely gives and that is her heart in prayer. She laid hands on Andrew and softly prayed for his ministry and his health. Tears once again flowed in the room. They asked that he doesn’t stay away so long again… please come back.
We leave … they follow us… we sit in the car and they stand on the steps of their home and watch us drive away waiving…
My heart broke… and was overwhelmed with God’s faithfulness. My heart broke and tears dripped from my face not because I felt ‘sorry’ for them in that moment .. but I felt so unworthy. Would I have been able to make the same dangerous journey that they have? Would I have been able to stay faithful to a God in Heaven that allowed my family and friends to be persecuted? Would I have been able to love a God in Heaven who allowed me to run away from my home as it was invaded by ISIS? Would I be able to stay faithful to a God who allowed the rest of the world to forget about me and my people?
Iraqi refugees… a faithful people.
Iraqi refugees ….a people after God’s own heart.
Do not have pity on them for they are warriors but do not FORGET THEM!