Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 15, 2016

Do You Fear the Wind?

A highlight of my week is meeting with my Band of Fathers core group. We are a group of dads who desire to grow in our relationship with our Heavenly Father and our sons through shared study, shared mission, and shared adventure. While we have great study time together, we want to go beyond merely studying.

Band of Fathers Logo 2In a day when too many people spend too much time indoors, protected from the wind and the rain, we believe it’s important to get outdoors — and to take our boys along. Whether that means serving others in need by spreading mulch, swinging a hammer, or hiking or biking down a trail, it’s all good.

IMG_4998
We also believe that if we work our muscles, then God will build our hearts and strengthen our bonds with one another. He has been doing just that. We work our muscles by participating in shared missions initiatives and shared outdoor adventures.

A couple of years ago I wrote about Nature Deficit Disorder, a condition that afflicts those who spend too much time indoors. It’s much easier to watch Bear Grylls have adventures than to have adventures of our own. For us, however, any outdoor adventure we can have, no matter how modest, trumps watching Bear Grylls.

Speaking of staying indoors — the Tuareg people of Niger are a nomadic group who traverse the sands of the Sahara. These nomads value their freedom of movement so much that they fear houses. Why? Because they believe houses are the graves of the living. They have a point!

McKittrick Grotto Group
In our current study of “The Book of Man” by William J. Bennett, my guys and I came across an excellent poem entitled “Do You Fear the Wind?” by American poet and writer Hamlin Garland (1860-1940). This little poem speaks for itself.

Do you fear the force of the wind,
The slash of the rain?
Go face them and fight them,
Be savage again.
Go hungry and cold like the wolf,
Go wade like the crane.
The palm of your hands will thicken,
The skin of your forehead tan —
You’ll be rugged and swarthy and weary
But — you’ll walk like a man.

John Eldridge captured the essence of this message in his excellent book, “Wild at Heart.” There is indeed something in us that longs for adventure. And the context for adventure is outside in “the force of the wind” and “the slash of the rain.”

bbsp-ride
So, if you have one foot in the grave — break free! Get outdoors. Connect with God in His magnificent creation. Serve others. Play hard. Feel the force of the wind. It will do you a world of good.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 31, 2016

Like Mother Teresa

I first served the least of these at Mother Teresa’s homes in Kolkata in 2009 — an experience that changed my life. Although I had visited many of the world’s worst humanitarian crises before then, nothing prepared me for what God would do in my heart in Kolkata. Serving at Mother Teresa’s homes forced me to close the distance between myself and suffering humanity in a way I had never experienced before.

Over the years since then, I have served in Mother Teresa’s homes several times, read numerous books about her life, and talked with several who knew her personally. Without question, she was one incredible little woman with a huge heart overflowing with compassion for the least of these. Mother Teresa lived simply — a decision that enabled her to serve others without hesitation or reservation.

Distressing Disguise
Three things, in particular, about Mother Teresa’s life continue to inspire and motivate me.

First, Mother Teresa was madly, wildly, crazy in love with Jesus. From the moment she sensed Jesus’ call to leave her cloistered life to venture into the streets of Kolkata, she lived to quench His thirst. Her obedience grew out of her love for Jesus. She once said that she would never touch a leper for any amount of money, but would willingly do so for Jesus. And, so she did.

Mother Teresa Tomb
Second, because she was so in love with Jesus, Mother Teresa did what Jesus would do. Her mission was clear — go out into the lonely, narrow, and dark places and look for Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. And then, do for that individual what Jesus would do. Feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the prisoner. This is what she and her Missionaries of Charity dedicated their lives to do every day.

Finally, Mother Teresa said, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” She understood the value of allowing God to write a beautiful narrative through her life. And, so He did. Through Mother Teresa, God left His divine signature in the lives of untold thousands of people who had never before experienced such compassion, care, and love.

Mother Teresa
There is so much that we can and should learn from the diminutive nun who showed the world what it means to love and live like Jesus.

Imagine what God might do through each of us if, like Mother Teresa, we fell wildly and madly in love with Jesus, served our fellow-man as Jesus would, and allowed God to write a love letter through our lives. These simple acts would transform the troubled world we live in — a world writhing in pain and racked daily by unspeakable acts of extreme violence.

 I am thankful for Mother Teresa’s life and legacy and for leaving the world an example truly worthy of imitation.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 22, 2016

The Sanctity of Childhood

ISIS is the prime suspect in the recent deadly suicide attack that claimed the lives of more than fifty people at a Kurdish wedding in Turkey. No big surprise. Leave it to these radical jihadists to show up at one of life’s most joyous events to introduce chaos, mayhem, and murder. This is what they do best.

We have become accustomed, almost desensitized, to the steady stream of reports about senseless acts of violence. Shootings, stabbings, bombings, and beheadings are all part of the new normal. And after the smoke clears, the only thing that remains is debris and carnage — the hallmark of ISIS and their ilk.

What is, perhaps, most disturbing about the recent suicide attack in Turkey is that authorities believe the perpetrator may have been as young as twelve years old. Think about that for a minute — twelve years old. A twelve year old kid may be at the center of the deadliest terror attack in Turkey so far this year.

Isis Child Soldier
This is not the first time that groups like ISIS have recruited kids to do their dirty, make that deadly, work. Sending kids into harm’s way is normal operating procedure for jihadist groups. According to a study by the Combating Terrorism Center, “Child soldiers are seemingly treated no differently than adult soldiers.” Kids are as expendable as adults.

What is even sadder is that many of these kids who are recruited and indoctrinated to hate will go to their deaths with their parents blessing. As a parent, it is absolutely counterintuitive to me for any parent to knowingly send their kid into a situation where they will be killed and or take the lives of the unsuspecting, like the guests at the wedding in Turkey.

And yet, that is the world of the jihadists — a world with an impoverished view of the sanctity of human life and a world in which even childhood is not sacred. Nelson Mandela wisely observed,“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.” The events of the past days have given the world yet one more glimpse into the dark and rotten soul of ISIS.

The child who strapped on the suicide vest in Turkey will never know the full extent of his heinous act. That child took the lives of more than fifty others, including twenty-two children, and injured almost seventy more. But what is sadder still is that all of the children involved are now forever robbed of their childhood — all because of a theology of hate.

As for me, I will continue to give children opportunities to love and serve their fellow human beings. I am proud of our kids at Kingsland. This summer they raised funds to build two clinics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — an initiative that will result in many lives saved.

I often remind our kids that they don’t have to wait until they grow up to change the world. God can use our kids to make our world a better place today. How sad, though, that so many children in other parts of the world have fallen victim to an ideology of hate that uses kids to steal, kill, and destroy. And how sad that there are parents and militants who have no regard for the sanctity of childhood and knowingly send children to their deaths.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 13, 2016

Among the Poor of Kawempe

Kampala, Uganda

He is the consummate Ugandan gentleman, a pastor, a visionary, a valued ministry partner, and a dear friend. But perhaps the best description of Robert Nabulere is hope bringer. I met Pastor Robert and his dear wife Rose years ago in Kampala when he invited me to preach at his church, Miracle Center Kawempe. Since then, I have preached on numerous occasions at Miracle Center, which I consider to be my home church in Uganda.

Pastor Robert Nabulere
Miracle Center is no ordinary church. Pastor Robert has led the people of Miracle Center to go into the highways and byways to look for Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. They live out what it means to be Jesus with skin on in dark and desperate places. Their strategic initiatives among the poor of Kawempe, a division of Kampala, are making a difference. Among other challenges, Kawempe is littered with brothels that are driving the HIV scourge in Kampala. It is a dangerous place for kids.

Kawempe Woman
But that is exactly why Pastor Robert is there. Because that is where Jesus would be. Kawempe is a place where hope is scarce and despair rules the day. Pastor Robert understands that even the smallest light shines brightest in the darkest places. He knows that God has called him to this desperate outpost to bring the hope of the gospel.

Miracle School Boy
In 2008 Pastor Robert led his church to start a bold initiative among the poor — a school for kids that otherwise would have no access to a good education. Since the tenuous start of Miracle Destiny School, God has made provision for its growth and expansion. What has happened in Kawempe is nothing short of miraculous. Their primary and elementary school is teeming with uniform-clad kids who are excelling at their studies.

Rose in Miracle School Classroom
The school has now added grades for older kids on a sprawling 15-acre campus — yet another story of God’s miraculous provision. Our missions ministry has contributed to the school and its outreach to the poor and recently gave a gift toward the construction of more classrooms for the expanding older grades. My team and I visited every single class on both campuses. Impressive does not begin to describe what we saw.

Naomi Praying w Poor
We also visited in the homes of some of the students in the slums of Kawempe. All of the kids come from the poorest families, many living in tiny adobe homes with no electricity or running water. What a privilege it was for us to encourage parents or grandparents to keep their kids in school and then to pray in each home. These family members understand that getting an education will be a game changer for their kids.

Robert and Rose Nabulere
I love the fact that Pastor Robert and Rose are famous among the poor of Kawempe. The poor regard this sweet couple as friends and respect them as those who exemplify what it means to be a Christ-follower. Their footsteps are oriented toward the least of these where they are sowing seeds of hope by inviting families to find true fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Pastor Robert and his wife Rose are indeed making a difference and changing the future for the people of Kawempe, one home at time.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 12, 2016

The Ranks of Champions

Kampala, Uganda

The belief that human life is sacred is tightly woven into the theological fabric of the Christian worldview. As Christ-followers, we believe that all human life is of equal worth and immeasurable value, from conception to the grave, because we are made in the image of God. Wherever human life is regarded as anything less than sacred, the fabric begins to unravel and, ultimately, no one is safe inside or outside the womb.

I have written much over the years about the danger of being a girl in India. At its core, the problem in India is fueled by a worldview that lacks any regard for the sanctity of human life. A worldview that believes that people are not created equal and that some are better than others because of their caste creates the perfect storm for the abuse of human beings that are poorer, weaker, or just happen to be female.

ISIS is another case in point. Wherever Muslims are radicalized we can expect to see the death toll rise — in the most barbaric of ways. We are collectively outraged every time we hear of another beheading or suicide bombing that takes the lives of innocent people. And we are frightened. We are frightened because these beheadings and killings are a chilling example of what life would be like under a worldview that does not hold life as sacred.

SOHL Training Uganda
Yesterday, my team and I traveled from Kampala to the Buikwe District on the northern shores of Lake Victoria to meet with church leaders. We spent the entire day addressing the sanctity of human life, talking about biblical sexuality, fetal development, sexually transmitted infections, and the violent ways in which abortion ends a life in the womb. Our teaching sessions and discussion was sobering for the people of this district with an unusually high number of teen pregnancies.

SOHL Uganda Chris Atkins
SOHL Uganda Tara Hall
I was especially impressed by the determination of those in attendance to champion the rights of the preborn and to treat all people with respect and dignity. One young lady we met works with teen girls who are pregnant. She counsels them to carry their babies to term while at the same time helping these young girls to stay on track with their education. “I love what I’m doing with my life,” she said. And then she added, “I’m not forced to do it. I want to do it.” Her passion lit up the room.

SOHL Uganda Rosette and Michael
Chris Atkins, one of my new interns, started the day off with a lesson on what the Bible teaches about the sanctity of human life and what God expects of His followers in this arena. Tara Hall taught on biblical sexuality and Mary Whittington covered fetal development and the ugliness of abortion.

SOHL Uganda Art Project
We added two new elements to our sanctity of human life training. First, I asked Naomi Rosato, my other new intern, to incorporate an art project that would challenge participants to distill what they had learned into a piece of art they could display in their homes or churches. This was a hit with those in attendance. Participants stood in a long line to tell the others about their respective pieces of art.

SOHL Uganda Commissioning

SOHL Uganda Baby Feet Pin
Second, we concluded the day with a commissioning service, asking those who were willing to take a pledge to stand as champions for life to come forward. As they stood in line, we pinned a pair of bronze baby feet to their shirts. These little feet are the exact size of a ten-week old baby in the womb. This was a meaningful time for all of us. This simple gesture helped everyone to feel the weight of responsibility to speak on behalf of those who have no voice and to uphold the sanctity of human life.

SOHL Uganda Session
At the end of the day nobody wanted to leave. We hung around and had numerous meaningful conversations, answered lots of questions, and prayed with several people. The best part of it all is that the fifty-plus folks in attendance have joined the ranks of those who champion the sanctity of human life. They understand now that unless we embrace a worldview that regards all people as created in the image of God and therefore worthy of respect, then no one will be safe.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 10, 2016

If I Told You My Story

Kampala, Uganda

One of my favorite songs by Big Daddy Weave, a contemporary Christian band, is entitled “My Story.” The lyrics speak to or, better yet, speak for any person who has known despair and found hope in Jesus Christ.

The song begins simply enough — “If I told you my story you would hear Hope that wouldn’t let go. And if I told you my story you would hear Love that never gave up.” Just those lyrics alone speak volumes.

We all have a story. Our lives are, in fact, a collection of stories — personal narratives that define and give context to our lives, that give listeners clues about our existence, frustrations, hopes, and aspirations.

I believe that if you really want to get to know people well then you must listen to their stories. Stories are, after all, the keys that unlock insight. They bring clarity and understanding that would otherwise remain inaccessible to us and without which we would understand others less.

Comforter's Moms
Today was a day of listening to stories. Our team visited The Comforter’s Center, the first pregnancy help center in all of Uganda. Since we helped launch this good work ten years ago with our friends at Life International, more than a thousand babies have been saved from abortion. We met several of those babies and their grateful moms today.

Comforter's Story A
Words can’t describe the feeling of sitting with young mothers holding babies they intended to abort and listening to their personal stories. There are lots of common elements in their stories, like having sex with boys who whispered lies of love and the rejection that followed. And common threads like the shock of an unplanned pregnancy and what to do about it.

Comforter's Mom A
One thread that runs through each story is that of a journey that led each of these frightened young girls to the steps of The Comforter’s Center — a place where they found unconditional love and kindness. And the one place where they were told the truth about the precious life they carried in their wombs.

Each of the young ladies talked about why they chose life for the child in their womb. And they expressed their gratitude for the counsel that led them to do so. They held their babies and introduced them to us. And they thanked us for supporting the work of the center.

Comforter's Mom B
We are now a part of their stories and they are a part of ours as a body of believers who chose to stand for life and champion the rights of the preborn. Had we chosen to do otherwise, every single baby we met today would never have been born nor felt the warm embrace of their mothers.

Comforter's Baby
In the words of Big Daddy Weave: “If I told you my story you would hear victory over the enemy. And if I told you my story you would hear freedom that was won for me. And if I told you my story you would hear Life overcome the grave.”

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 8, 2016

We Stand for Life

Kampala, Uganda

The people of Kingsland serve some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.

Over the years we have ventured to the squatter camps of the Rohingya in South Asia, cared for children in the slums of Kolkata, restored hope to young girls rescued from the brothels of West Bengal, met the needs of unaccompanied Eritrean minors in the displacement camps of northern Ethiopia, wept with Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the Middle East, and much more.

There is, however, one group whose vulnerability far surpass that of any other people at risk on the globe — the child in the womb.

When I arrived at Kingsland eleven years ago, Pastor Alex Kennedy impressed upon me his passion for the sanctity of human life. So, when I approached him about adopting the preborn, the world’s largest hidden and most vulnerable people group, he immediately embraced the idea and affirmed his support.

Uganda 08 Comforter's Dedication
That decision set us on a course to venture to the global mission field created by abortion. We formed a strategic partnership with Kurt Dillinger, President of Life International, and his staff to take the message of life to the nations. The first center to result from our partnership was The Comforter’s Center in Kampala, Uganda.

The Comforter’s Center is a Christ-centered ministry that is committed to the promotion and preservation of life. Jesus taught that the devil is committed to a destructive agenda — one that extends to the womb. As champions for life, we are determined to rescue those in danger and in dangerous places, including the womb.

Uganda 08 Teaching
From the beginning, The Comforter’s Center embraced the mandate to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 1:8). The preborn in danger of being aborted cannot cry out in their own defense. They cannot say, “Please let me live.” They remain hidden, silent, vulnerable and in need of a champion who will speak on their behalf.

Those who find themselves in danger can take steps to seek safety — to flee to a more secure place. However, if a child in the womb is in danger, that child cannot flee to a safer womb. There are no options but to remain at risk, hence the need for a champion.

The Comforter’s Center has faithfully stood as a champion for life in Uganda, fighting the giants that threaten life in the womb. This life-giving center has earned a reputation as a guiding star, orienting young girls and women toward life.

Grateful Young Moms
Ten years later, the success stories are too numerous to tell — stories about women who came to the center and chose life. I never tire of seeing the photos of mothers holding babies they intended to abort. All this because of a decision to take responsibility for the most hidden and vulnerable people group in the world.

Pastor Alex always wanted us to be known as the church that stood for life rather than as the church that was against abortion. We have remained true to that mandate. And we will continue to stand for life. We are fortunate to have a new senior pastor who also cares about the plight of the most vulnerable and the sanctity of human life.

I am grateful for Pastor Alex Kennedy, Pastor Ryan Rush, the people of Kingsland, and Kurt Dillinger and our friends at Life International. Heaven alone will reveal the full impact of our partnership and our continued determination to be champions for the sanctity of human life.

Uganda 2016 Team
I am also happy to be back in Kampala this week. Our team will serve our friends at The Comforter’s Center, teach church leaders about the sanctity of human life, and challenge these leaders to support a new pregnancy help center in Uganda. Thanks for your prayers.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 23, 2016

On the Front Lines

The world is in turmoil, the nations are in an uproar, and many people find themselves in very deep trouble. Over the past several years I have ventured to the front lines of human suffering. In recent years, I have visited hundreds of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Regardless of the circumstances or events that drove them from their respective homes, all of these refugees share several things in common.

Rohingya Lady at Tent
They have suffered the worst.

The one common denominator among the refugee families that I have visited over the years is that they have suffered the worst. Regardless of whether they are Muslim or Christian background, every single family experienced loss on a scale that is hard to comprehend. Their stories are profiles in pain — evidence of the cruelty bestowed on them by other human beings.

Miriam and Janan
They are struggling to make sense of it all.

Suffering causes all people to reflect deeply about the why of it all. Some refugee families suffered because the battle came to them — to their neighborhood. Others suffered because they were Muslim, the wrong kind of Muslim, or a Christian infidel deserving of death. It isn’t difficult for those who place people in categories to justify their acts of cruelty toward those in the wrong category. Someone always suffers at the hands of those who do not regard human life as sacred.

Rohingya Lady Hand Up
They want the best for their families.

Without question, every refugee family I have visited over the years wants the best. They know that life will never be what it was before and that they will never recover what they lost. They all long for a new start — one that will enable them to provide for their families. They wonder if they will be able to find work so that they can put food on their table. And, they are concerned about the welfare of their children and about things like education and medical care.

Bekaa Valley Family
They need help in order to start over.

The challenges of being a refugee in a host country are beyond difficult. None of the families I have visited ever expected that they would leave their ancestral homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Imagine yourself in that situation, without access to the people and places and possessions that define your life and make it meaningful for you. Starting over is hard. Refugee families want and need a hand up — an article of clothing, a sleeping mat, shoes for their kids, access to medical care, and the hope of a place to call home.

Rohingya Kids at Tent
Ultimately, they want and need hope.

The writer of Proverbs put it best, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (13:12). Hope is as vital to our survival as the air we breathe. Without it, we wither away. For those refugee families that find themselves caught in the teeth of a storm, any shred of hope becomes something to cling to, something to keep them afloat a little longer. Hope in the form of humanitarian aid, a visit from someone who cares, a word of encouragement, an unexpected act of kindness — these matter to families in pain.

Our world is indeed in turmoil. As Christ-followers we must be present on the front lines of human suffering. We must be the hands and feet of Jesus and show the world the distinctiveness of our biblical worldview — one that regards human life as sacred and cares about the least of these. We must continue to pray, give, and move in the direction of the suffering. And when we reach them, we must love without condition and serve compassionately without expecting anything in return.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 14, 2016

Our Cultural Excursion

One of the best ways to learn a new language is by immersion. Honestly, there are just some things that you simply can’t learn from reading a book or listening to a lecture. The advantages of being in a setting where you are exposed to the subtle nuances of a language are huge.

Wadi Rum Camel Man
The same holds true for expanding our cultural vocabulary. Cultural vocabulary is that practical wisdom concerning why a particular people do things the way they do and what we should know in order to more effectively communicate with them. After all, effective communication involves more than words.

Taking the time to learn about the things that have shaped the way other people see the world is important. When we spend time in their context, observing how they do things and why, we can begin to make progress toward the kind of understanding that can help us to build bridges of love.

Iraqi Refugees at Home
Over the past couple of weeks our students have been immersed in a culture that is far different from what they are accustomed to. They have removed their shoes when entering homes, they have sat on the floor in a way that does not expose the soles of their feet, they have sipped gallons of tea one tiny cup at a time, and much more.

One cultural distinctive that has impressed our students is Middle Eastern hospitality. Offering hospitality to strangers was a moral imperative and sacred duty in ancient times. That’s because people believed guests were sent to them from God. Abraham, for example, showed this attitude when he entertained three strangers who proved to be angels (Gen. 18).

Wadi Rum Teapot
Hospitality in the Middle East continues to this day. It is ingrained into the cultural DNA of the people here. Every Syrian and Iraqi refugee family we visited extended selfless hospitality to us. They offered us tea and whatever cookies or sweets they had in the home. They invited us to stay for a meal, even though they barely had enough to feed their own families. These are practices that date back to ancient times.

Petra Treasury KSM Students
We ended our time in Jordan by visiting Petra, the magnificent World Heritage Site. Our guide explained the roots of so many of the cultural practices that continue to this day, including extending hospitality to others. From Petra we drove to Wadi Rum to take a desert excursion and watch the sun set over distant hills. Along the way we stopped to enjoy tea with Bedouins who welcomed us with open arms.

Wadi Rum Students

In a few hours we will head for the airport to begin our journey back to the States. We do so knowing that our students have made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of refugees they have met and cared for. And, our students will return home having experienced the kindness of those who are often depicted in less than a positive light in the media.

Wadi Rum Tea

Hopefully, the cultural lessons our students have learned during their time in Jordan will inform their own interaction with the diaspora of nations in our own backyard. Mark Twain wrote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness — all foes to real understanding. Likewise, tolerance, or broad, wholesome charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in our little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Traveling and interacting with people in other places not only helps those who travel, it can also help those they meet to abandon their own prejudices or misinformation about others. I am grateful to have spent the past couple of weeks leading our students to love and serve others in the name of Jesus. There is no question in my mind that every one of us are returning home from our cultural excursion with a better perspective on what it takes to build cultural bridges of love.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 12, 2016

The Signature of Suffering

Statistics can easily anesthetize us to the painful realities experienced by the individual people who make up those statistics. It’s one thing to hear that about the millions of refugees in search of a safer place to live, but it’s another thing to look one of those refugees in the eyes and listen to a personal story of loss and suffering.

While statistics touch our heads, individual stories touch our hearts. Charts and graphs can give us insight into the magnitude of a problem, but a personal story can compel us to become a part of the solution to that problem. Nothing can touch our hearts more than a story shared in the muted and halting cadence of emotion.

Every refugee family we visit in Jordan has a story of personal suffering. I can see in the faces of our students that they are thinking deeply about what they are hearing and seeing. In our evening debriefing time, several sit with tears in their eyes. It’s hard not to weep.

IMG_9690
Today I met a 29-year-old Muslim-background refugee named Hassan, a young man with once-handsome features. His hands and arms bore the distinctive signature of suffering. He invited us into his home where we sat on a single tattered sofa and on the floor. Hassan then took his place on the floor and began to speak.

IMG_9691

His story dates back to the month of March in 2011 when the civil conflict in Syria was ignited in Deraa. He was an officer in President Assad’s army. In the days following the initial spark, his heart turned toward the Arab Spring movement. Eventually he switched loyalties and began to fight with the opposition.

IMG_9692

One day he was caught on video raising the opposition banner. He was soon arrested and imprisoned. His former friends then tortured him mercilessly. The worst of it all was what they did to his hands. Instead of killing him, they decided that his hands would never again raise a flag of opposition.

IMG_9696

And so began a torture designed to maim his hands. They attached electrical cords to his arms and sent waves of electricity through them. And then, they took pliers and crushed his wrist bones. They repeated their torture until his hands no longer functioned. Hassan remained in prison until he was finally freed in a prisoner exchange agreement.

IMG_9698
Disillusioned, he did not know what to do. And then he had the first of four dreams — dreams in which a man in white appeared to him. In those dreams, this man repeatedly told him that He loved him and that He was the way, truth, and life. As a result, Hassan, wanted to know more.

IMG_9693

In time, he crossed paths with one of our partners in Jordan. They sat and talked for hours. Hassan finally understood that Jesus was that man in his dreams. Without being prompted, he told me that he bowed his head and prayed, “Jesus, I want you to be my Savior.” And then, everything changed. He talked about an unexplainable peace.

Today, Hassan’s body still bears the brutal signature of torture and suffering. But, he has the assurance that one day his broken body will be made whole by the One whose own body also bears the signature of suffering. He is passionately devoted to Jesus and now bears a smile and a faith that can never be broken.

Older Posts »

Categories