Sharing the journey
At times things have felt overwhelming as I continue to be the primary caregiver for a dear friend with cancer. I have learned much about what it means to be a caregiver and about love, patience and the need for support from Suzan’s family, from friends and from God.
At times things have felt overwhelming as I continue to be the primary caregiver for a dear friend with cancer. I have learned much about what it means to be a caregiver and about love, patience and the need for support from Suzan’s family, from friends and from God.God often speaks through people in our lives. For example a few weeks ago when I was feeling down and hopeless, a Jewish friend gave me a lesson on hope by reminding me that it was God who was in control. The Muslims who are sharing this journey with me are also giving me examples of hope. We all are sharing prayers together and I truly believe that praying across religious traditions is very powerful and healing. It has brought us closer together as well as giving Suzan encouragement.
In November during one of Suzan’s hospital stays, we were visited by Father Tarcey who is a Franciscan priest from India who has been assigned care of the House of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus (Selcuk). The House of the Virgin Mary is on top of a hill surrounded by beautiful, peaceful forests. It has become a pilgrimage site for both Christians and Muslims and has developed a reputation as a place of healing. Father Tarcey is a wonderful model for me of a Christian. He is selfless and caring, emitting an aura of genuine love and concern. He knows Suzan’s mother and came to be a presence of love and prayer for the day. What a wonderful gift to share with people of all faiths. He shares, listens and prayers and is a great presence for all the pilgrims to the House of the Virgin Mary as he was to us that day. He does not get into this Christian God versus Muslim God polemic.
Turkey is particularly concerned with what is occurring in Iraq and with the recent election process. Turkey would like to see a democracy that in particular would include a voice for the Turcoman community in northern Iraq, an area dominated by Kurds. A number of years ago a woman named Insaf fled Iraq with her family. Until migrating to Canada a few years ago she was one of the spiritual leaders of the Iraqi church here in Istanbul. We were prayer partners for a period of time and I grew to care a great deal for her. She still has family in Iraq and I quote parts of her recent letter written February 1.
“How do I begin to share with you my heart over all that has been happening in my country of Iraq? Yet, I know that many of you share this same heart. Sunday was a bittersweet day for us. We followed closely the elections in Iraq and were so moved by the courage of the Iraqis who boldly went out in great numbers to vote. They knew the very real danger to them but despite the constant threats their desire to see a free and democratic Iraq was their dream. My father’s cousin and his eldest son were two of the thousands upon thousands who left to vote on Sunday morning. However, these two were never to return home that day. As they were walking out of the polling station, having cast their vote hoping toward a new Iraq for their yet unborn grandson and son and future generations of Iraqis, a suicide bomber threw him on them. They had courageously done their part, they had contributed to a new and free Iraq but they would not see it.
Muaayyed and Firas leave behind them three woman, Alia, wife and mother of the men, Fanar, daughter and sister and Firas’ wife who is pregnant with their son. They had been married for only six months. While I would ask for continued prayer for my country as the election process and the sorting and counting continues, I would also ask specifically for prayer for these three ladies as they grieve, try and make sense out of their loss and as they face the future without father, husband and brother.
I pray that they would find Christ able to meet their deepest loneliness and grief that they would find him to be a ‘father to the fatherless and a defense to the widow’. May they also find him the Good Shepherd who does truly ‘gently guide those who have young’? We are so thankful that we can bring this to you as partners in Christ and before our great High Priest who intercedes for us. Thank you for standing beside us through this. Because of Calvary, Insaf Safou”
In times of joy and in times of sorrow, through prayer we share our hearts and our souls with our Creator who has promised to walk with us on our journey through life.
Shalom / Selam
May the Peace of God be with you.
Alison Stendahl serves as a missionary with the Near East Mission, Istanbul, Turkey. She is Academic Dean of and a math teacher at Uskudar American Academy in Istanbul Turkey.